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Seoul: O’Sulloc Tea House

2 Nov

If you’re looking for a teahouse or a rest stop in Myeongdong after hectic shopping and want something more Korean than Starbucks or Krispy Kreme, O’Sulloc Tea House is a modern Korean Tea House that specialises in green tea and green tea desserts, but also offer a myriad of other teas in a soothing and cosy ambience.

Picture Credit (below): Official Site of Korean Tourism Org

I ordered an Iced Omija Tea, since omija tea is a Korean tea that I have yet to try. According to CNNGo, omija means “five-flavor berry” because you can supposedly taste five flavors – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy – in the berry. And to be honest they really did hit in the nail on the head on naming that berry. It was quite interesting to taste bitter and salty notes in a tea. Served iced, the tea was also super refreshing. But what I really loved were the homemade mini green tea and earl grey sable cookies they served on the side that were deliciously buttery and intense in tea flavours.

The hubs got the Green Tea Tiramisu which is one of their signature desserts. It was okay I guess, am not really a fan of flavoured tiramisus but I guess there will be fans of this, especially if you are a fan of green tea desserts.

I also visited the O’Sulloc Tea Museum in Jeju Island as part of a tour, you can read about it here.

Price: $
Location:  Myeongdong Store – Line 2 Euljiro 1-ga Station  Exit #5, Seoul. Several other locations in Seoul.

Jeju Island: O’Sulloc Tea Museum

2 Nov

As part of our Jeju Island day tour, we visited the O’Sulloc Tea Museum. You may be familiar with the name if you have heard of the O’Sulloc Tea House in Seoul. All the green tea used in the drinks and desserts from O’Sulloc’s tea houses would have came from this very green tea plantation.

They also have a gorgeous cafe and souvenir shop as part of the museum where we had the chance to try more green tea and green tea desserts. It’s an ideal location if you’re looking for a teahouse or cafe to relax in while you’re in Jeju Island.

This was my breakfast, the Green Tea Soft Serve. Mmm, I seldom eat soft serves because of its convenience store image but this artisan version rekindled my faith in them.

We also bought a Green Tea Swiss Roll for afternoon tea – this version came with a very generous serving of airy vanilla cream, as you can see. I can never resist a green tea swiss roll, but I would have personally preferred it with more cake and less cream. It also reminded me of the Matcha Roll from Arinco, in Kyoto, Japan.

Price: $ | Location: Andeok-myeon Seogwangseo-ri 1235-3, Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island | Website:

Jeju Island: What To Eat

2 Nov

While I didn’t find the attractions in Jeju Island particularly spectacular, I found the local cuisine a different story. So if you’re planning to hit Jeju anyway, make it a must to eat well there! I don’t have specific restaurants to recommend as it was really hard to get around the island unless you read, speak Korean and drive, so most of what we ate was either near our hotel in the Tap-dong area, or in Dongmun Market (Ido 1-dong, Jeju-si). Just look out for restaurants packed with people, check the prices on the menu before your enter and you should be fine. Here is a list of some local dishes that you should try when you’re there, and some prices for a gauge.

Black Pork is probably Jeju Island’s most famous dish. It’s supposed to be chewier and more flavourful than the normal types of pork. And in Jeju, it’s not expensive unlike the rep it has in Singapore and Japan. We ate black pig for 3 meals on our 2nd day there and needless to say we were all porked out after that! Don’t be surprised if you find a black hair sticking out on your pork, it’s to ensure that it’s “genuine” instead of the usual pig variety.

We first ate it in a Chilli-Bean Paste Stew for lunch as part of our day tour. This was a restaurant in a hut near the Traditional Folk Village. The pork was tender and had a moreish flavour because of the paste.

Dinner was Barbeque Ogyeopsal (five layered pork) in a stall located within Dongmun market. It was so sinfully fatty but so good! The black pork set was quite cheap, at 13,000W per pax. You can consider having your dinner in the market as they have places where you can also dine in that specialise in different foods like BBQ, seafood, etc. You may have to explore the market to find them as they are quite hidden.

We were told by our guide that opposite the NANTA theatre was a “Noodle Street” that specialises in Gogiguksu (pork with Japanese-style noodles). Hence after our show, we went for supper in a hole-in-a-wall shop run by an elderly couple. Broth was very light compared to the Japanese-style ramen and the pork slices were very fatty! Comfort food for a cold night. This was about 9,000W for a small bowl.

Mackerel was everywhere in Jeju and very cheap (8,000W). The hubs had grilled mackerel with rice twice! The fish had such moist and flaky flesh and crispy skin on the outside. Sea Bream was also a prevalent local fish but it was at least double the price so we didn’t try. Regretting on hindsight!

Seonggeguk (sea urchin soup) was basically sea urchin flesh boiled with seaweed in a soup. I had high expectations since on paper it sounds delicious and I’m a uni fan, but the creaminess and flavour of the uni did not really come through in this, and it became quite hard it was “cooked” by the soup. Perhaps it was just problem with the execution at the restaurant I had it at, but for now I will still prefer my uni raw and fresh anytime! This was about 12,000W.

Haemul-Ttukbaegi (seafood stew) was easily my favourite dish on our Jeju trip. For 10,000W you get two small crayfish, two abalones, some crab and clams. That’s insanely cheap! The soup was delicious and the abalone was tender, and not small at all.

Hwae (raw fish) was sashimi but done Korean style, so forget about the usual suspects like tuna and salmon, instead (from top left clockwise) we had flounder, octopus (I think this was boiled though), munggae (sea squirt) and junbok (abalone).  We had this at one of the seafood restaurants on the coast and it was 10,000W a plate. The sea squirt tasted very vile, like dishwashing liquid! But the octopus was melt in your mouth tender and the raw abalone had crunchy texture.

I suppose Junbokjuk (abalone porridge) is the must-eats for tourists. The abalone is actually chopped up into small pieces and cooked in the porridge. Since abalone doesn’t have much taste in the first place, a lot is dependent on the broth used in the porridge. I liked it so much I had it twice! The first time was somewhere along the touristy seafood street. The greenish broth was very tasty, had a slight charred taste and smelt like the sea! I suspect they actually use bits of the abalone for it (the greenish sac part).

The second time was near our hotel and it had more abalone here (the ajumma chopped two up). But there could be more flavour in the soup. It was only 10,000W though (such a steal, for two abalones)!

Tangerines (gamgyul) were everywhere! On the roadside going at 2,000W for a bag, at the markets and also in the high end souvenir shops for the prettily packaged and higher grade ones. We just bought from the roadside and they were so sweet. Not to be confused with Hallabong which is bigger, more expensive and has a more protruding “stem”.

Rounding up the list would be Baeknyuncho (Palm Cactus). Yes I never knew they were edible until Jeju! In Jeju they make drinks, desserts and ice cream using it a flattened species of cactus that thrives there. My cactus ice cream from a random ice cream shop (3,000W) tasted a bit like strawberries – interesting! Try getting a more gourmet tub from the supermarket if you can!

That’s all folks and happy eating! :D

Seoul: Street Food

2 Nov

Going to Seoul and not sampling its wide array of delicious street food and snacks, is almost akin to going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Here’s a list of what we tried.

Namdaemun area had many of these big Pojangmachas (covered wagons) where you could sit and have a proper meal. Since we had dinner planned that day, we only ordered one dish.

There was a huge variety of food available including meat skewers, seafood, pajeon (green onion pancake) and of course tteokbokki! Most of the diners washed down their food with beer or soju. Apparently they are open 24 hours!

We got a plate of Stir Fried Octopus with Chilli and Onions. The octopus was so soft and the flavours were so good I wished we were eating our dinner there instead!

These Dried Seafood carts were to be found everywhere in Myeongdong, and you will probably smell them before seeing them. After picking the bag you want, the ajumma will press it for you so that it becomes toasty. We tried a mixed bag that came with cuttlefish and octopus. They were umami-flavourful but incredibly chewy until our jaws almost ached.

This was probably one of my favourites, Dakkochi (Grilled Chicken Skewers with Sweet Soya Glaze) which can be found everywhere. The chicken is always a bit fatty and tender. We first tried it at this kind-looking ajosshi’s cart and he offered us cups of hot tea and tissues.

This was a strange late night snack after shopping at Dongdaemun – a hot dog covered with fries. Super sinful and not very yums if you ask me, probably also because it was already cold.

Another delicious snack, Deep Fried Fishcake somewhere in Myeongdong. The make each piece to order so you get yours fresh from the huge wok of hot oil. The paste also has bits of spring onions and carrots and you can add in items like prawns too.

I dedicated an entire post to this, so this was definitely one of the highlights for me – Hotteok (sugar caramel pancake) in Insadong was the best dessert/sweet snack ever!

While I queued for the hotteoks, the hubs went to join a queue at Jilsiru for Tteok (Korean traditional rice cake). This was red bean flavoured but it was very light. They fill you up well and it seemed very popular with the locals but I’m not quite a fan, heh.

If you’re feeling sinful from all that eating, try having some fruits from one of the many fruit trucks doubling as shops around the city to balance out. Don’t miss out the really sweet tangerines that come from Jeju Island.

The persimmons in Seoul were definitely my favourite though. If you haven’t eaten a persimmon, it’s basically like a really sweet tomato, without the sourness at all, and without seeds.

Other popular street food/snacks include – Tteokbokki (rice cakes), Kimbap (Korean version of Sushi), Sundae (blood sausage), Odeng (fish cake in broth), Tornado Potato and the very tall soft serve (the latter two often feature in tourist shots). Most not tried because of personal preference and because there are simply too many good things to eat in Seoul! :) Happy eating!

Seoul: Baekje Samgyetang

2 Nov

I had initially planned to get my Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup) fix at the popular Toksochon near Gyeongbokgung, but due to a change in plans we went to Baekje Samgyetang in Myeongdong instead. Baekje has received good reviews in guidebooks, Chowhound, and is also listed on Seoul’s tourism website.

Their Ginseng Chicken Soup is made with young chickens boiled in onions, leeks, ginseng bark and stuffed with gingko nuts, jujubes and glutinous rice. It was served with 3 types of a kimchi, a small bowl of short grained rice and a shot of Insamju (ginseng liquor). You could choose to down the rather potent shot to warm your body up, or pour it into the soup to add ginseng flavour, which is what I did.

The chicken meat was very tender and tasted even better with the salt and pepper dip. The glutinous rice inside the chicken was infused with the flavour of the soup. But though the soup had a very clean taste, I felt that it was actually a little too light for my liking and I had to rely on the insamju to bring it up one notch. I would have preferred it to have stronger ginseng and chicken flavours.

We also ordered the fancier Ginseng Black Chicken Soup for comparison. The black chicken was noticeably less fatty than the normal chicken, and hence produced a less oily soup. The hubs preferred this but it was almost double the price of the normal one.

Overall, I felt that it was quite good but I can’t say I agree with the stellar reviews. I’ve probably had better ones in Singapore (especially Su in Far East Plaza). Not too sure if the lightness is a more authentic-Korean thing? Perhaps Toksokchon would have been more to my liking as I’ve seen pictures and the broth is actually a milky broth (which I assume is tastier). But if you don’t mind a light soup, then Baekje should do the trick.

Price: $-$$ (~15,000W for the normal chicken soup)
Location: 50-11 Myeong-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (Would advise you to get directions from the tourist guides wearing red as it is very difficult to find on your own)

Seoul: Getting Jjigae With It

31 Oct

We were wandering around Hongdae when we found this random Jjigae (Korean stew) place that seemed quite popular with the young locals, and decided to give it a shot. After all the elaborate meals and copious amount of BBQ meats on our trip, we figured we could do with something simple. Each pair/group would share a gas stove for the huge cast iron pan containing the Jjigae later. and The menu was all in Korean but thankfully there was a friendly waiter who was keen to practise his English with us. It was actually a DIY Jjigae place so you could basically customise your Jjigae with whatever ingredients you wanted.

Most of the people around us were eating what seemed like Budae Jjigae (army stew). Budae Jjigae was popular after the Korean war as food was scarce in Seoul and people would take discarded food like hot dogs and spam from the US Army bases and incorporate them into the traditional Korean soups. But because the hubs doesn’t like eating processed meats such as spam and hot dogs, we opted for something more seafood-ish instead. We ordered mussels, squid, tteok (rice cakes), fishcake, beancurd, cheese and ramyeon (instant noodles).

We were told to wait for the contents to bubble before digging it. Everything looks very red because of the gochujang (red chilli paste) and kimchi! The stew tasted slightly spicy and sweet (because of the cheese) and the instant noodles and soft and chewy tteok were infused with the flavours of the soup. Maybe the taste would have had more depth with the traditional spam and hotdogs because of the saltiness. While it was an interesting experience, it’s not something that I would crave for – it does seem like fast food version of Korean food. Still, it also makes for a very cheap and carbo-filled meal if you’re running out of won after too much shopping in Dongdaemun ;)

Price: $ (<10 SGD per pax)
Location: I’m sorry I don’t have the exactly location but you should be able to spot similar Jjigae joints in Seoul. Do let me know if you have a Budae Jjigae joint in Seoul to recommend and I will put it up here!

Seoul: Sanchon

31 Oct

Sanchon (which means mountain village) in Insadong, came highly recommended on travel guides, blogs and tripadvisor, and I was highly intrigued by the idea of a meal wholly composed of buddhist-temple vegetarian dishes; made from just vegetables, roots, fruits, and barks of trees, seaweeds and cereals with no artificial seasonings.  The proprietor of Sanchon – Mr Kim Yon Shik – was once a Buddhist priest and has been collecting and studying temple cooking since young.

The restaurant was set in a hanok (traditional Korean house) and had a very elegant and traditional setting with dark wood interior. You could choose between normal table seating or on the floor with low tables.

The floor area had many of these pretty pink lotus lanterns, which were although gorgeous and apparently handmade, also made the area quite warm and made me look like a pink panther in all of my photos.

Upon seating, we were given the fixed menu printed on paper with an NYT article on the restaurant on the other side. The menu varies according to season. While temple food does not contain the five stimulants: onions, green onions, baby garlic, green peppers and honggo, they are used in Sanchon unless otherwise requested. It was going to be 20 courses and I was a little daunted as I wasn’t particularly hungry and I usually struggle during the 5th course of a 7th course degustation meal.

The appetisers of red bean porridge, watery plain based kimchi, radish mushrooms and other vegetables wrapped in a thin vermicelli pancake.

Seven wild vegetables, each with its own seasonings. One of them tasted like licorice though, it was the only thing in the meal I could not stomach. I enjoyed being exposed to an assortment of wild mountain vegetables as being in Singapore the concrete jungle, we often only eat the same imported vegetables over and over again.

The rest of the dishes except dessert arrived about the same time (some not pictured). They included kimchi, grilled eggplant, seasoned fresh lettuce, fried kelp, steamed beancurd, jelly, small potatoes glazed with soya sauce and millet syrup, seasoned wild mountain roots, beans, rice, soybean stew with mushroom radish and beancurd, etc. Not all the dishes were from the menu printed so we were a little lost for some dishes. Our favourites included the eggplant, the stew and the leafy vegetables. The bowls and utensils we used were made from the deep reddish wood of the zelkova trees, just like what a monk might have traditionally used (one of the few material possessions they are allowed).

The meal ended with yugwa (puff rice pastry) and some traditional tea (probably grains/cereal based).

Traditional music and dance performances last from 8pm to 845pm, so if you don’t fancy eating in dim blue lighting, you might want to arrive earlier at about 7pm.

Sanchon is definitely not for everyone, i.e. those who need meat at every meal or who are not adventurous with their veggies. Case in point: the hubs was craving for fried chicken after dinner. But I felt that it was a unique and eye-opening experience, that showed me how versatile vegetables could get. It was also a lovely setting that whisked me away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul for a while to somewhere more zen and at peace with nature.

Price: $$ (set menu per pax – lunch 22,000W, dinner 39,600W)
Location: 14 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu 110-300, Seoul (Angguk station). Look out for the map at the tourist information counter at the beginning of Insadong main street.