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.

[Korea Summer 2016] Songdo Central Park

Winter has already started in Korea but this is a recap of our trip there in September. That day, we went sightseeing at Chinatown in Incheon which was a total tourist trap and unmemorable. There are rows and rows of shops selling cheap, useless trinkets and majestic looking Chinese restaurants which serve mediocre Korean-Chinese food. To give an idea of how we got ripped off, we paid 50,000 won for 2 people for an “8 course set lunch” which didn’t fill our stomachs.

I also twisted my ankle. Nothing but bad memories. Despite the pain, I insisted on going to Songdo Central Park because it’s where the triplets Daehan, Minguk and Manse from Superman Returns live at. They’re all grown up and not-so-cute anymore, but my husband also wanted to check the place out.

Songdo is built on reclaimed land and is touted as one of Korea’s “smart cities”. It’s a business district as well and there’re quite a number of foreigners residing there. Right smack in the middle is a hanok village hotel which we were unable to access. There are many such hanok villages in Korea which have yet to be demolished (unlike in Singapore where old residential buildings are marked for SERS or flattened to make way for redundant expressways or underground train stations).

There were bicycles for rent. We were with Elise so we decided to rent one of these family bicycles (10,000 won for 30 minutes).

Our very experienced bike driver, preparing to take us around the park.

“I’ve got this, mom”

She was so experienced, she didn’t even need to steer with her hands. I mean, what could go wrong? This little lady had it all under control. The family bicycle requires quite a bit of legwork so both adults have to cycle and while there are three steering wheels, only one is working.

There’s a little river with kayaks, canoes and paddle boats for rent, but we didn’t manage to take them. The river reminds me of Clarke Quay, and my husband also agreed that both places have a lot in common. Since Songdo is newer than Clarke Quay… copycat, kiss the rat, go home let your mother slap -_- I wonder who came up with that nonsensical chant.

We hung out on the top floor of a cafe for a while doing nothing, enjoying the scenery.

As dusk fell, we did a bit of shopping at the nearby Lotte Mart. My husband couldn’t control himself and bought 1 large carton of grapes because they were on sale. They were very tasty but we lugged them back on public transport. We had dinner at the food court. In Korea, you purchase your meal from a main counter and receive a buzzer to collect your meal from the respective stalls.

My dinner was this tonkatsu set which came with chiraishi don and hot udon. The entire set cost S$9 and was chock full of ingredients.

This tonkatsu set with chiraishi don and udon cost 7,800 won (~$9)

After dinner, we strolled around the park and took the subway home. There was another building which reminded me of the Artscience Museum at MBS. The building hosts plays and performances. Overall, I enjoyed that day because it was relatively quiet and we were away from the crowd. It’s quite a distance from Seoul station, so I’m not sure if it’s worth the visit specially for this place.

Reminds me of the Artscience Museum.

Songdo Central Park

Directions
[Subway]
Central Park Station (Incheon 1 Subway Line)

[Bus]
Regular Bus No. 6, 6-1, 8, 909, 780, 91
Red Bus No. 1301, 9000, 9100

The Great Escape

It was a reunion between uni-mates – my husband hadn’t seen his friends in years. We had a feast of chicken, both seasoned and fried, tteokbokki (sticky rice cakes) and sundae (stuffed blood sausages) at his friend’s home after an entire day out in the outskirts of Seoul. 


Gatherings in Korea just do not stop at dinner. It’s common to go for coffee, dessert or more drinks as a “second” round and it’s followed by many other rounds. 


Our plan was to sneak away for a drink and noraebang (karaoke) session when the children were asleep. We coaxed Elise to sleep and everything seemed perfect. My friend’s wife volunteered to watch the children “Just go and have fun. If she wakes up, I’ll call you. Don’t worry”.Closing the door behind us, the four of us strolled along the neighbourhood towards a small watering hole. The cool night breeze, the lights and sounds of the night. I felt like I was 15. We only had time to sit down and browse through the menu – “Should we order the assorted pancakes or the seafood pancakes?” before the call came. 


We rushed back, taking the way we went, this time at an urgent pace. Before we even opened the door, we could hear her wails. The walls of mom-guilt collapsed on me. How could I even think of leaving her in a place unfamiliar to her for a night of fun? 


Her cries were that of fear, her nose was runny and she was inconsolable. My friend’s wife explained that she had been crying for 10 minutes. 


She immediately lurched into my arms, crying and clutching my top with her tiny fingers. Hugging her close to my chest, I felt her racing heart regain its normal beat and her sobs turn into sniffles.  


Sniffy baby being comforted by her dad

I didn’t get to go for my noraebang session, but I learned a lesson that there’s a time for everything. One day, she won’t need me as much as she does now. Until that day, she is my priority.

My husband’s friend, playing with his son