Saturday, March 30, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Cheese Making

Pyeongchang on the map
              Day 5: Nov/21/2012, 2.30 pm: After lunch, it was about 30 minutes journey and our bus arrived at the Uiyaji Wind Village at Pyeongchang for our next itinerary - cheese making. The early winter weather was a chill 3 degree, and we have to bundled up again before make our way down. As usual there is a gift shop that first greeted us on the right as Kent led the way, with his flag waved high in the crisp air, marching us to our next 'battle'.
              Located on the highlands of Pyeongchang county, the Uiyaji Wind Village is a mountain village situated on top of Daegwalleyong, about 800 meters above sea level. Because of its abundant early winter snowfall, it was also one of the first places for skiing in Korea. 
At Uiyaji Wind Village, the activity one can enjoy are the sight of sheep grazing peacefully on the expansive green fields. The area where Samyang Farm and Hanil Farm are located is the site of the nation’s largest grassland. There is also a wind power generation complex that utilizes the wind coming over the hills. This is also where high-altitude, low-temperature agro-farming began in Korea. Produce grown here includes potatoes, Napa cabbage, carrots, and onions. Beside 
Snow Park experience, other activities include candle craft experience, soap craft experience, foam clay mask making, cheese making, etc.
             Similar to Kimchi School the day before, we were assigned a lady host who will teach us the process. Our lady host does not speak Mandarin, so Kent acts as our interpreter. We are assigned as a table for our family and the drum roll begins. The cheese making process are more akin of making tofu, and to the delight of Little M, he got the 'major' tasks of adding ingredients, stirring and deciding what decorative to put on our cheese on the step-by-step cues of our lady host. Little M was all smile and proudly showed off his cheese at the end of the process. We had a good time and we finished off our cheese at the end of the session. 
             Here are some pictures I took cheese-making at Uiyaji Wind farm:

Location: 8, Saburang-gil, Daegwannyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang -gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea. 
Tel: +82-33-336-9812~3 
Middle M leads the way ahead of us toward the blue-roof cheese making building.
We arrived at the wooden building that housed the cheese making demonstration.
Our lady host explaining something in Korean to Kent who then translates it to us.
The main ingredients in the cheese making process. The GDL is the separating agent that separate water from protein and hold the milk protein together.
We were ready, and Little M started to stir as the milk heated up. It was more like science experiment to us.
As in all cooking show, the chef always took a sip of wine or the ingredient at cook. Here the cook, i.e. Little M took a breather and took a sip of his goat milk.
The milk is boiling and almost ready to be poured into a mold. We switched off the fire to stop the boiling.
Little M laid out some flower at the base of the mold before the boiling milk was poured on.
Mummy M helped Little M poured the boiling curd milk into the mold as it was too hot for him to handle.
Mummy M showed off some jam to be taken together with biscuits and our hand made cheese when it was ready.
The cheese were being pressed to squeeze out any excess water, not much different from making soya bean curd or tofu.
Family team work -  the whole family lend their weigh, or I say their hands.

The cheese was ready after much water was squeezed out.
Middle M took over and flipped the pressed cheese over so that it is upside down.
Mummy M helped to remove the muslin cloth to uncover the cheese as it was too hot for Middle M's delicate fingers.
Our cheese came out concave in the center as too much force was applied there, nevertheless this was our first hand made cheese. Yes!
Middle M cut the cheese in smaller portion to eat with the biscuits while Big M looks on.
Chow time - Little M had the first bite and he reached out for more. We finished off the cheese in no time, more for the nostalgic moment rather than the taste.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Mushroom Jeongol

Seafood and chicken left 
simmering at the start of 
the mushroom
            Day 5: Nov/21/2012, 12.30 pm: It is lunch time, and this time for lunch we have mushroom Joengol steamboat at a small restaurant which specialized in one. Jeongol is something in-between hot pot (thinly sliced meat and vegetable ingredients are dipped in hot broth) and stew (ingredients are simmered for a long time). Water or stock is added just enough to bring out the flavors of ingredients – usually lots of vegetables in addition to a few main ingredients, which define the name of jeongol from seafood to cow or pig intestines (gopchang) to mushroom.  Its most fun feature is that jeongol is cooked at the table side to be shared with everyone.
           Our mushroom Jeongol starts by sauteed chicken meats and then adding stock. Sliced cabbage leaves are added, along with a variety of mushrooms and other greens. We had many many type of fresh mushrooms - shitake, straw, abalone, oyster, button and enoki mushrooms as feature ingredients.  For the greens, we had scallions, garlic chives and perilla leaves. We also also had a block of tofu and cut to thin slices. Finally for bulk, udon noodles was added to the pot. After a bowl of piping hot mushrooms and udon, we felt all warm and full and happy. As in all Korean jeongol process, the end is always marked with rice. The proprietor reduced the rest of the broth which still have a couple of mushrooms in the pot and added a big handful of finely chopped kimchi.  A bowl of steamed rice then goes in.  Enter eggs, chopped scallions and toasted leaver flakes and finish off with sesame oil, ground pepper and toasted sesame seeds. The end result, every morsel was wiped clean and we came out of the restaurant will full stomach.
           As everyone likes mushroom, we like this Jeongol dish very much as we got to enjoyed the many many types of mushroom in one sitting - Enoki, straw, oyster, abalone and shitake. Here are some pictures I took while busy eating mushroom Jeongol:
The small unassuming restaurant where we had our Jeongol mushroom steamboat for lunch.
A small hotel with windmill motive opposite our restaurant caught my attention. It looks interesting with the windmill.
Kimchi and many type of mushrooms waiting for us. Lets start the steamboat rolling.
Fresh Shitake mushroom also featured in our Jeongol steamboat. As it name indicate, this mushroom was first popularize in Japan, as with many other mushroom as well.
Abalone mushroom - they need to be sliced so that it cook faster. With a little bit of imagination, one can taste the "abalone" meat taste. Well, it looks like one when sliced.
Paddy straw mushroom soaked in yummy soup as it was left simmer in the steamboat. I like them.
Enoki mushroom, yet another mushroom popularize by the Japanese, also known as golden needle mushroom, added to the crunch. This one is Middle M's favorite.

Oyster mushroom, the most cultivated mushroom type, also featured in our mushroom Jeongol.

We had a full stomach coming out from theJeongol mushroom steamboat restaurant.
Souvenir shop below the Jeongol steamboat restaurant. May tourist attractions or tourist restaurants feature souvenir shops.
"Are you guys full yet?", standard Kent's greeting every time we hopped onto the bus to another destination.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Sinheungsa Temple

Sinheungsa Temple as seen
from the cable car on our
way up Ulsanbawi Peak
         Day 5, 21/Nov/2012, 11.30 am: After the tour of Tongil Daebul, we continue down the path to the next attraction down the road, The Sinheungsa Temple, which we saw from the cable car cabin some two three hours ago. This temple is still being use today. Buddhist monks came in and out, and chant their prayers throughout the day. The chanting can be heard resonating throughout the temple, the valley and even up to the cable car up Ulsanbawi that we rode earlier. At the entrance there is a man-made drinking fountain with natural water from the mountain spring. The water was crystal clear, cool and refreshing. We had our fill of water there and even fill up our bottles to take to away. The only issue I noted in drinking the water from that fountain, is as in any fountain, the coins thrown in by visitors. The silver or bronze metal will corrode in H2O, like it or not. I hope the temple management sees the light of this and put up a donation box to collect donations instead of the fountain turns to well wisher dumping ground.
             The temple management had put up a couple of informative signboard in the vicinity, explaining the origin and the use of the buildings. Sinheungsa Temple is situated on the slopes of Seoraksan in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, South Korea. It is located inside Seoraksan National Park, and many tourists hiking Seoraksan up to Ulsanbawi (peak) pass by the temple on the way. Historical accounts vary as to whether this ancient Zen (Seon) temple was first constructed by Jajang in 653, first called Hyangseongsa (Temple of Zen Buddhism), or in 637 following his return from Tang China. It burned to the ground in 699, was rebuilt in 710, burned again in 1645 and was rebuilt in 1648 at its present location by Uisang. This temple is believed to be the oldest Zen (Seon) temple in the world.
          We took some time in visiting the many buildings in the temple, and shot some pictures for memory. Here are the pictures I took at Sinheungsa Temple:
Location: 1137, Seoraksan-ro, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea 
The bridge the link Big Buddha to Sinheungsa Temple, built over a creek. The creek was nearly dry as it was winter time and had less rainfall.
Sinheungsa Temple is built like a fortress and had only a few enter/exit points. To enter Sinheungsa Temple we have to go through this gateway opening immediately after we cross the bridge.
Door gods - these are gods that guard entrance door, typically being portrayed in fierce image to scare away devilish beings.
A monk entering a building to start his morning chanting routine.
Spacious compound in the center of the temple surrounded by buildings. The structure in white at the center doubled as heater in the winter. 
One for the family album in front of the main building in Sinheungsa Temple
Funny caricature of cartoon monk added character to this otherwise religious building. It showed the way to toilet. I must commend that toilet facility is aplenty in Korea.
Intricate design adorn the temple buildings, quite similar to those in Gyeongbukgong Palace that we visited  the second day we arrived in Korea.
Big M scoop up water from the drinking fountain before he gulped it. "Hmm, very cold and refreshing", he commented afterwards.
Note the coins in the fountain - Yuck! Big M rolled up his sleeve and tried to grab a few coins. However the water was too cold for him to immerse his hand in the water for long.
Mr. Cheng filled up his water bottle with the 'blessed' water from Sinheungsa Temple. "Good luck Mr Cheng, in whatever you wish for".
Mummy M with a final picture before we leave the temple.
Colorful leaves wave goodbye to us as we retreated from Sinheungsa Temple. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Tongil Daebul

Tongil Daebul - 108 ton
            Day 5, Nov/21/2012, 11.00 am: As we make our exit from the cable car, Kent lead us to our next stop - The Great Unification Buddha. Along the way we stop to buy ice-cream. The way they sell ice cream in winter is rather creative. It does not looks like ice cream at all, but more like colorful beads. It does not melt because of the cold weather but it melts once it hit your tongue. After everyone had a cup of ice cream we hurry along to join Kent at a water fountain before the Buddha statue. Everyone are taking pictures with the water fountain as it had a rather unique design.  
          The Buddha statue is a 14.6 meter, 108 ton gilt-bronze Buddha statue, called "Tongil Daebul", sits atop a 4.3 meter high pedestal, of the same material, making the total height 18.9 meter. The lotus pedestal is flanked with 16 delicately engraved panels and the forehead of Tongil Daebul is adorned with eight 8 cm stones of amber, with a single piece of jade in the center that is 10 cm in diameter. Tongil Daebul sits with legs crossed and half-closed eyes in meditation, his lips displaying a perceptible smile. A flowing robe with gentle folds, revealing the right shoulder, drapes the Buddha's robust torso. The hands of Tongil Daebul are positioned in the mudra, symbolizing the "enlightened one." It was said that contained within the hollow statue are three pieces of the Buddha's sari, remains collected after his cremation, donated by the Myanmar government, and the Tripitaka, the original Buddhist scriptures. This statue represents the crucial wish of the Korean people for the reunification of the divided country.
          The maintenance cost of the Buddha statue are funded through donations, either through wishes candles or wishes roof tiles. I took the liberty to had a wishes candle lit and other family members offered some prayers in front of the Buddha statue. May all our wishes come true. Here are the pictures I took at The Great Unification Buddha area.
Location:         Seoraksan-ro, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea

How do one sell ice cream in winter time? A little bit of creativity goes a long way. Here they make it into beads that melt in your mouth. The cold and dry weather freezes the ice cream, but it melt once you put it in your mouth.
A magical fountain that seem to hang in thin air with water seemingly flowing out. Illusion? No. Go and see for yourself.
The gateway to Big Buddha statue and Sinheungsa Temple.
Big Buddha statue, also called Tongil Daebul in Seoraksan National Park up close and personal.
One for the album while admiring the Big Buddha statue up close.
Notice board explaining the Big Buddha statue origin and its historical facts.
Big Buddha is roughly 19 meters tall from the ground and sits on  16 lotus flower petals.
Little M taking off his shoes before paying his respect to Big Buddha.
Candles are being sold in the vicinity as a way to generate fund to maintain the Big Buddha. I donated by buying a candle which we wrote our whole family names' to seek Buddha's blessing. The candles were kept inside a cupboard to prevent wind from putting out the flame.
Offering of bags of rice being place at the foot of Big Buddha by devotees, flanked by 2 prosperity toads.
Big M praying for good result in his pre-U exam.
The offering of bags of rice up close. It signifies abundance and devotees prayed for abundance in life. Make sense.
Another way donation is being collected to fund the maintenance of Big Buddha in Seoraksan National Park - Roofing tiles that one leave his name with good wishes.