Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Seoul Kimchi making

Kimchee, a must have when
visiting Korea
            Day 4, Nov/20/2012, 7.00 am: We start the day early as we are due to get to the airport early to catch a 8.30 am flight back to Seoul. It was familiar sight of Gimpo Airport. After we retrieved our bags, Kent lead us to our bus who then took us to a special school which teaches Korea staple food - Kimchi at Seoul Kimchi School. 
         Kimchi, also spelled kimchee, kim chee or gimchi, is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. It is Korea's national dish, and there are hundreds of varieties made with a main vegetable ingredient such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber. Kimchi is also a main ingredient for many Korean dishes such as kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae), kimchi soup (kimchiguk), and kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap). Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi. The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi. Ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of kimchi being made. The most common seasonings include brine, scallions, spices, ginger, chopped radish, garlic, shrimp sauce (saeujeot ), and fish sauceaekjeot).
           At Kimchi School, we got a first hand experience in Kimchi making session, taught by a Kore an lady in Mandarin. The teacher informed us that kimchi we will be making will be donated out to old folk homes and orphanage homes, a way to do Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) by the school. We were so excited attending our very first culinary class and able to contribute to CSR as well. We were given a bokchoy (Chinese cabbage) each on a plate layered by a plastic sheet, prepared chili paste, an apron and a pair of plastic gloves, in case we make a mess of our self.The teacher demonstrate how to apply the chili paste onto a blanched bokchoy. After watching the teacher's demonstration on making kimchi, it was our turn putting chili paste in between every piece of the cabbage leaves, and then wrapping it around. Once done, we wrapped the plastic sheet around our kimchi. Jeff, our tour lead, help us snapped some pictures. Feeling satisfied we discarded our gloves and the school attendant push in a trolley to collect our kimchi to sent for CSR event. Finally our teacher brought in couple of tray of kimchi and its sauce for us to try. There were assortments of kimchi - cabbage, seaweed, squid and bean curd and everyone got to try on them. I particularly liked the squid. We ended buying a couple packets of kimchi premix sauces to take home.
            Here are some of the pictures we took while having fun in Seoul's Kimchi School:
The entrance to Kimchi School, a nice building with the school at 2nd floor and a Hanbok dress  fitting in 1st floor.
Big earthen jars are being used to cure Kimchi
Many types of Kimchi ingredients.
Ready made kimchi for the tasting.
Another soggy type kimchi. This one looks like curry to me.
Kent pointing out to the many kinds of kimchi found in Korea.
There are more than 100 type of kimchi can be found in Korea. Almost anything edible can be turned into kimchi!
At the start of the kimchi making session. The apron was given in case to prevent us from staining our shirt with the premix chili sauces .
Middle M and Little M deep in the action of rubbing premix chilies onto the blanched bokchoy.
My kimchi being tied up using the last piece of leaf onto itself, just as taught by the teacher. Looks yummy.
My kimchi all tied up and gets ready to sent to be cured and later to be served in old folks home or orphanage as part of the Kimchi school's CSR program. 
After making kimchi for CSR, it is kimchi testing time. This one was cured and ready to eat. The school also promote the sale of its premix kimchi sauces.
We had squid kimchi, cabbage kimchi and tofu to dip into the kimchi sauces. I like the squid kimchi very much.
As evident from this picture, the kimchi served here are really nice.
A poster on Kimchi's nutritional information.
A poster on the Kimchi main ingredients in its sauce.
A poster on seasonal kimchi that are only available on certain time of the year.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Seongsan Ilchulbong

Seongsan Ilchulbong in

          Day 3, Nov/19/2012, 4.30 pm: Next stop is Seongsan Ilchulbong, also called ‘Sunrise Peak’. Seongsan is formed by volcanic eruptions upon a shallow seabed about 5,000 years ago. It is situated on the eastern seaboard of Jeju Island, and said to resemble a gigantic ancient castle. The summit is 182 meters high, has a bowl-like crater and displays diverse inner structures resulting from the sea cliff. These features are considered worthy from geological view point, providing information on eruption and deposit processes of past volcano activity of Seongsan Ilchulbong.
          Our bus is parked at a special bus parking destination area and we ascended to the entrance of this famed UNESCO world heritage site. After Kent paid for the entrance fee we started our ascend up Seongsan on uneven tar and cement road. The view up the mountain had been portrayed in many Korean movies. On the right there is an entrepreneur who setup a ride-a-horse for tourist but the horses just go round and round an open field at the foot of the mountain, rather than go up the mountain. As I go higher and look back, the view of Seongsan-ri village at the foot of Seongsan became more spectacular. I was told that sunset view at Seonsan Ilchulbong is worth the 20 minutes climb to the summit, so we hurried along.
         At midpoint to the summit, we stopped at a viewing area. Here the view of Seongsan-ri village is at its best. The breeze from the sea added the chill to the cool weather. After resting for 5 minutes we continued up to the summit. Jagged rocks with forest ring with are found along the way and they were given names by the imaginative kind to add aura of excitement and a jolly good time clicking away. The sides of the mountain plunge vertically into the surf makes it one of Jeju-do most impressive sights. Flora along the way was also identified and labelled by the authority. As we round a final fleet of steep stairs, the ancient crater of Seongsan Ilchulbong come into view at last. A platform had been built, similar like a football stadium platform, for tourists to rest and to view the crater, open sea and sunset. The summit crater is covered with grass, undulating and shaped like a punch bowl, though there’s no crater lake here because the volcanic rock is so porous. We spend some 15 minutes at the summit and before descending down to our bus. On the way down we managed to catch the sight of the sun going down.
         Here are some pictures I took while at Seongsan Ilculbong:
Location: 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea. 
Tel:  +82-64-710-7923, +82-64-783-0959
A plaque at the foot of Seongsan Iichulbong declaring it as an UNESCO world heritage site. 
Another signboard welcoming us to Seongsan. Behind the signboard is a 7-11 convenient store, one of many that dotted whole of Korea.
Entrance fee to Seongsan is 2,000 won per person. Quite cheap considering it is an ENESCO heritage site.
A map about Seongsan to guide tourists from getting lost while at the mountain. 
The ascend road cut through a grassland before  it gave ways to thickets and forest as we go up higher. Here the grass was not green as the season had changed to winter.
Signnboard explaining Seongsan and its surrounding area on the way down. Just a short walk away is Hannyeo activity that cater for tourists.

Going up the mountain using a jagged tar road. It is more suitable for horse than human. However I love  the the cool weather which was just right for the hike.
I took a pause while ascending to snap a photo of Seongsan. It looks high from here.
A nice view of Seongsan-ri Village from the mountain.
A jagged rock with human-like face along the way up the mountain.
 I counted nearly 12 of the jagged rocks along the way. They all in resemblance of something and hence had been given names that are stated on the signboard such as this.
Signboard being put up on identified flora found along the way up Seongsan. 
Seongsan-ri village view at its best from the midpoint up Seongsan. It used to be a fisherman village  but now is also doubled up as a tourist town, thanks to Seongsan as an UNESCO heritage site.

The punch bowl like of Seongsan summit crater, undulating and full of grass with no lake or water as I hope to see. There is not even a wisp of smoke  to remind us it may still alive. It is as dead as a rock.
A platform had been built at the summit for visitors  to relax while taking in the view and to prevent them from trampling onto the crater itself.
Ascending down. The thick vegetation starting to give way to grassland as we neared the mountain foot.
Many tourists were still strutting up along the paved walkway to Seongsan's summit as we walked down. They were hoping the catch the 
sunset view at the summit.
East China Sea as viewed from Seongsan. Here is where the Hannyeo, the famed women diver from Jeju, dived to catch their seafood. It was already late when we arrived at Seongsan, so no Hannyeo at work.
Little M playing with a solar clock dial at the foot of Seongsan, not knowing its significance of the sundial yet.
Finally I had a glimpse of Seongsan Iichulbong's famous sunset view as we neared the end of our journey. Majestic.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Hyeonsater House

Potraits of famous Korean 
actress, Lee Young Ae, had 
been used many a times to
 sell well known places to 
            Day 3, Nov/19/12, 3 pm: Next stop was a Choga (thatched-roof house) of Hyeonsater, a Jeju traditional vllage house. Looking over the black stone fences, the oval-shaped yellow-brownish thatched-roof house comes into sight. At a quick glance, it seems no different from those of the mainland with roof coverings made of rice stalks forming the upside down v-shape. However, the Jeju people spread thatch on the roof instead of making them into coverings and fasten the roof with thatch ropes much like a net. In that way, Jeju traditional thatched-roof houses have a distinctly beautiful oval shape like the oreums (lava hills) that dot the island. The streamlined roof was designed to withstand the strong winds, which Jeju is famous for.
             The outer walls of the traditional thatched-roof house were called chukdam where natural stones are gathered and carefully piled up to build walls. Clay paste mixed with barley stalks is added to the stone walls to chink the small openings between the stones. In this way, the walls can become even stronger and function as windshields. This natural house breathes like a living organism, offering a cool place in the summer and a warm space in the winter. The walls of barley stalks and stones create a rather unpolished but friendly impression with its unique texture that is distinctive from the walls of other regions in Korea. The black stone fences surrounding the house are open to the ollae. Around the house, there is a shemak where cows are raised, a field attached to a house where vegetables are grown, a pigpen outhouse (tongshi) where pigs are raised, a small back garden for the family (andusi) and a neulgup where thatch is stocked. Inside the wall, many essential and functional places are well utilized, reflecting the busy and dynamic life of the Jeju people. From the outside, however, the house and outbuildings hint at a calm and relaxed atmosphere. In harmony with nature, the Jeju thatched-roof house and the walls surrounding it are one of the best symbols of Jeju and the sight of them make Jeju Islanders living away from their hometown feel nostalgic.
               The lady host was very gracious in explaining to us about the Choga, 3 poles gate and its meaning, black pork, water collection method, the way of life in Jeju-do before she starts to market Jeju honey and refreshing tonic. Everyone in our group bought jars and boxes of the honey to take home. Here are some of the pictures I took at the traditional thatched roof house:
Hyeonsater traditional village house, our designated reed house that cater for tourists.
Our lady host explaining Jeju-do lack of door's gate. Surprisingly she spoke good Mandarin, which we learnt later that they took special language course in Mandarin due to large influx of Chinese tourists into Korea with the onset of Fukushima nuclear issue after the big tsunami 
incident in Japan in 2011. 
Our host lady took down the poles to usher us into her hut.
Our lady host showed us the rolling milling stone used to ground barley and rice after harvest time. These grinding stone were usually pulled by the offspring from the Mongolian horses brought in by Kublai Khan's army when they tried to invade Japan  many years ago.
A baby black pig being reared in the village for tourist  to know what it looks like. The black pig also eats human manure too. Yuck!
Subsistence farming like vegetables planting in available  plot surrounding the reed house for human and animal's consumption.
Our lady host graciously showed us how the hardworking Jeju-do womenfolk carrying out their daily house work.
We peered inside a thatched roof house in the village. The roof are made entirely from barley stalks and being changed every season. It can withstand the continuous blows of Jeju-do's wind. It reminds me of the story of the wolf and 3 pigs where one of the pig made a hut out of grass.
Our lady host explained about the goodness of Jeju honey and the prices. This is the government idea to boost the income of these villagers.
A clever way to harvest rain water to water the plants and water for animals. Barley stalks were weaved into a pig-tailed like rope that tied around a tree with its tail dips into the jar to collects rain water.
On the way out of the traditional village, I took pictures of Jeju lack - no door. Here all 3 poles all in place means "Nobody at home, come again some other day".
2 poles in place means "Owner not at home and be out for some while, so come back another time".
1 pole in place means "Children is at home but owner is out for a short moment and will be right back"
No pole in place means "Owner is at home and you are welcome".