Go away, COVID-19, nobody likes you

This photo was taken in May 2018 in a sauna. My mother-in-law had been avoiding bathhouses because she had mastectomy done as cancer treatment. In Korea, appearances are important and physical “flaws” can cause major embarrassment. I somehow managed to persuade her by saying that everyone will be focusing on themselves rather than people-watching in the bathhouse.

In the end, the bathhouse turned out to be more terrifying for me than for her. Emmett was a tiny bubba 8 months young, and there were only a few pools with a suitable temperature for him (~37°C). I’m not sure if you’ve encountered Korean ajummas, but their level of entitlement is next level. A bunch of ajummas waded over and wrangled Emmett out of my arms because he was “so cute” and they all wanted to hold him. Years of studying the language and culture of Korea did not prepare me for this.

“So cute”

Two years should be enough to recover from that traumatic experience (kidding, we busted our budget on Japan last year) and so we booked tickets to Korea and Jeju for late April through May. That timing is perfect because it overlaps two Public Holidays here and the Golden Week in Korea. Taking long leave in Korea is unheard of and it was the perfect time for my BIL and SIL to hang out as well. ⁣ ⁣

From the way things are going, I doubt the dust will settle in time for us to visit. We’ve since cancelled the Jeju trip. ⁣
I’ve put in a refund request for our other flight too because nobody can come out alive after 14 days indoors with two kids. Maybe they’ll survive physically, but they’ll be dead inside. 😭

Right now, the only thing that needs to die is C19. Someone once told me that certain gods are mercenary gods – you give them offerings in exchange for things that you want. That’s an idea.

My Korean Mart Purchases

There is a Korean mart that I frequent that’s located at Basement 1 of Northpoint City, aptly named K-Market. I’ve found the items to be reasonably priced compared to other marts with a wider variety. They have a little slip of paper where you get a stamp for every $20 spent and with every 10 stamps, you get $5 off. I’m such a regular that I’ve redeemed at least $15.

Shopping there feels therapeutic and the store manager is so friendly. He resembles Yoo Min Sang, a Korean gagman and I’ve never seen him without a smile. He’s Korean so he can’t speak Chinese.

Every single time I visit, he passes us some items that are nearing expiry for free. It’s similar to the relationship between aunties at the wet market and their favourite fishmonger. We never fail to get Seolleim ice cream when we’re there. It’s this frozen ice cream in a pouch and tastes like heaven.

My purchases are more or less the same and most items are bought to alleviate my husband’s cravings for Korean food.

#1 Convenience Food

Rice Bowls
The two rice bowls were on 1+1 sale and seem to be a healthier alternative to ramyeon. They work the same way – pour boiling water to a level and pour the seasoning packets in.

Cold Noodles/Naengmyeon
The packet on the side is cold noodles/naengmyeon which come with buckwheat noodles, sauce packets and oil. This is nowhere near instant, but cuts out a huge amount of time compared to if you boiled the broth yourself. The noodles have to be boiled, rinsed a few times with running water, dunked in ice water while you mix in the sauce with ice or blended ice. You have to add in the ingredients like meat slices, cucumber and egg yourself.

Togi Spicy Beef Soup
Total cop-out frozen soup from Togi restaurant that I boil straight from frozen. Yes, I’m that lazy, I don’t even defrost it. This has all the ingredients necessary. This costs $12 each. There are other flavours too. The link is to Harinmart, which is a reliable online mart for Korean foodstuff and not under the same company as K-Market.

#2 Frozen Food

These three items were not purchased from K-Market, but are what I usually buy.

Busan Fishcake Slices
Vastly different from the type of fishcakes found in our local fishball noodles, these fishcakes are the type that are used in Korean fishcake soup, tteokbokki and side dishes. We just had some panfried and cut into strips for dinner. This is processed so it’s best not to gorge on it.

Rolled Seaweed Fritters
Kimmari are battered seaweed fritters with noodles inside. It sounds icky, but pop these into an air fryer and dip them in sauce or use them as a tteokbokki ingredient.

Dumplings
These go everywhere – in ramyeon, panfried, steamed… I make a quick sauce using soy sauce, chilli oil and vinegar to dip the fried dumplings in.

#3 Anchovies & Kelp

Now that you know my secret, I’ll have to silence you. This is one of the most commonly used broth bases in Korean cooking. Using broth instead of plain water gives your dishes more flavour.

The other seasoning that many Korean restaurants use is Dashida, or bouillon seasoning. The beef flavour is most commonly used but it’s not easily found locally. There’s clam, anchovy, seafood, mushroom but no beef.

#4 Mixes

Black Bean Powder
Jjajang base. Fry up some meat and chopped vegetables before adding this powder and water to form a sauce that can be poured over noodles or rice.

Frying Mix
I mainly use this to make kimchi or potato pancakes.

#5 Beverages

“Morning Rice” drink/Achimhaetsal
A rice milk drink made from three types of rice – black, white and brown. It tastes like almond milk.

Fruit Vinegars/Hongcho
I ever watched a Korean documentary programme which featured this old man who had fruit vinegar the first thing in the morning as a secret to his longevity. I am… not following his strategy, but I do like the taste of it mixed with iced water. It’s tangy and zingy. There’s a dispenser at K-Market for you to try it out before buying.

Barley Tea, Corn Tea
My husband doesn’t like the taste of plain water. In our household, we drink this in place of water. We boil a huge pot with one teabag which fills three 1L pitchers, an airpot and more. Each week, we boil about three pots or more. The taste is mild and not sweet with a light fragrance.

#6 Snacks

Freebies are called service. Yep. These were given free on my most recent trip where I hauled about 10kg of groceries back with two kids. Loved the macaron cookies. It’s a shame they were individually packed though. So much waste.

Next time, I’ll see if I can show the usual recipes I create at home with these.