Siwhadam 시화담 – more than just fine cuisine

23 Feb 단군신화

Siwhadam, the only restaurant in Korea being a part of a global fellowship Relais & Châteaux, is located on the hills of Kyungnidan in Itaewon*. In Korean, a word Siwhadam consist of three syllables meaning: poetry, painting and story, and the restaurant desribes itself as “a place where poetic verses whisper themselves, colors from state-of-art pieces unfold, and endless stream of delightful stories flows“. Indeed, every dish being served at Siwhadam looks like a piece of art and there’s a story behind each of them.

The restaurant is open only for lunch and dinner and advance reservation at least 1 day ahead is required. If you would like to go there on the weekend, it’s better to make a reservation as early as possible since both options (lunch and dinner) on the weekend usually get fully booked in the middle of a week. While making a reservation, you have to decide on a menu. There are four courses available for lunch, and only three for dinner (B, C, D):

Course A : A Lyric Poem (100,000KRW)
Course B : A Beautiful Painting (150,000KRW)
Course C : Pleasant Story (250,000KRW)
Course D : Banquet for Gourmets (350,000KRW)

You can check the details of each of them by visiting the Siwhadam’s website.

After entering the restaurant, to make your time more pleasant and relaxing, you’ll be offered a cup of traditional tea in the lounge. All items showcased on the ground floor come from collections of Hans J. Wegner and Yin Jin Lee.
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On second floor you will find a private room with a miniature garden and a traditional music performance stage.
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All kitchens are open to the other areas, combining restaurant with a gallery of ceramics.
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In each dining room you will find antique furniture, including a wardrobe where you can leave your belongings.
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Every course menu starts with a snack made of dried seasonal fruits and vegetables. Each plate is decorated with sugar powder. Water served is made of the best quality white lotus flower.
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Every dish comes with an English projection on the wall. The first one in the course I chose was a garlic porridge accompanied with small side dishes, roasted garlic and mugwort tea.
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What comes next is a fresh salad with sliced sirloin.
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And sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf and a lotus petal, served with hot tea brewed with fermented lotus leaves.
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Korean style sandwich – instead of wheat bread and mayonnaise – is made of rice wine cake, bulgogi, vegetables and fine nut’s sauce as it was eaten by ancient scholars. The cucumber pickles are more sour than those usually served at Korean restaurants.
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Probably the most interesting dish was sauted kimchi with squid ink spaghetti in cream cheese sauce. If you’re not a big fan of kimchi, you may change your mind after trying this.
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Influenced by colors used in Henri Matisse’s paintings, this colorful dish made of vegetables, fruits, prawns and pine nuts mustard sauce visualizes a process of making sea salt.
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Just like the previous dishes, “Snow Falling on the Mountain Village” is a real artwork. Mix the ingredients by yourself and enjoy a small bowl of noodles in fish broth.
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The dessert is dedicated to jujube, a Korean date. Every plate comes with a poem and the wine cork is actually a cinnamon cookie.
SAM_4977 SAM_4982If you want to try modern Korean fine dining, Siwhadam is definitely a place you’re looking for.

How to get there:

Zrzut ekranu z 2014-02-23 19:17:11
Address: 5-5 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울 용산구 이태원동 5-5
(Siwhadam is located right across the street from the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines)

Operating hours:
Lunch: 12:00-15:00
Dinner: 18:00-22:00

*Siwhadam has its branch in Insadong. The menu is quite similar, however it is not considered a fine dining restaurant. Serving and restaurant itself varies from the Itaewon branch. Prices start from 28,000KRW for lunch set.

Kimjang (김장) – a time of festive joy

1 Dec IMG_20121124_110704

Kimjang is a longtime kimchi-making tradition taking place in the second half of November, when the temperature is low enough for kimchi to mature well. Korean families get together on the weekend and prepare large quantities of kimchi, enough to last even until next kimjang.

This year I got invited by my friend to go to countryside and take part in the kimjang ritual. I absolutely love experiencing Korean culture, so there was no possibility for me to say no to that!

IMG_20121123_223322IMG_20121124_101651IMG_20121124_100905IMG_20121124_104620IMG_20121124_100752We departured from Seoul very late on Friday evening, and arrived in Dangjin in South Chungcheong Province short after midnight. My friend warned me that her aunt lives in an old house, but still I was surprised when we were driving through narrow dirt roads with just farms on both sides and no street lights. When we reached our destination, I was sure it’s going to be an amazing weekend. Just like in a movie.

Three hundred of cabbage heads were already salted, waiting for the early morning to be washed and cut. Children were already asleep, so we only grabbed a few slices of ttoek, a few mandarins and headed to a different house since there was not enough space for us to sleep with everyone else.

IMG_20121124_094422IMG_20121124_094824Next morning we were late. At 9:00am all the cabbage was ready for seasoning. However, the need of us having breakfast delayed the process. Typical breakfast on kimjang weekend is steamed pork (bossam) and different types of kimchi. It was simply delicious!

IMG_20121124_105541IMG_20121124_104705IMG_20121124_112343IMG_20121124_112831IMG_20121124_115338And then it started… I got an ajumma style clothes to put on what I was wearing, and when I came back to kitchen, I saw a swimming pool-size bowl in the center. Every family has different recipe for kimchi. Ours included sticky rice cooked in a traditional pot fireplace, huge amount of garlic, shrimps and a big bottle of soju. Yes, a big bottle of soju…

IMG_20121124_101911IMG_20121124_102129IMG_20121124_103720IMG_20121124_131954IMG_20121124_154215IMG_20121124_160005We started mixing the ingredients and less than 10 minutes later we were ready for the real fun to begin. Making kimchi is a bonding experience. A lot of talking, and talking, AND talking. However, for me, as for a special guest, after maybe 2 hours the sightseeing began. We took down some fruits from the trees, checked on cows and dogs, and played with kids. We also visited a local store to buy some makkoli for dinner, and spent some time at the lake. We finished our trip in traditional market, and after having mandu, hotteok and hoppang, went back home to find the kimchi done.

IMG_20121124_104638IMG_20121124_110407IMG_20121124_110704IMG_20121124_122734Before dinner landed on the table, we baked sweet potatoes in the pot fireplace and ate the leftovers after cooking sticky rice that turned into a crispy treat.

IMG_20121124_201424Dinner was also amazing – fresh steamed oysters in a companion of soju.

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Next morning was nothing else than dividing kimchi and other foods between five families while watching Korean tv shows. A way back to Seoul was much longer because of the traffic. However, it seems like the traffic jam disappeared after – what Koreans called it – a cafeteria.IMG_20121125_141044

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I consider kimjang not only as a major annual event, but mostly as an incredibly amazing experience. It’s my another step taken to understand Korean culture deeper at its best. If you ever get a chance to join this kind of activity, don’t even hesitate. You will end up being extremely tired but happy. AND nothing tastes better than kimchi made by yourself!

Gyeongbokgung 경복궁 – Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven

11 Nov SAM_4637

Gyeongbokgung Palace 경복궁 is surrounded by 5 meters high and 2,404 meters long walls. They are pierced by four gates: from the east – Geonchunmun 근정문 (in the yin and yang concept, symbolizing spring and wood), south – Gwanghwamun 광화문 (symbolizing summer and fire), west – Yeongchumun 영추문 (symbolizing autumn and metal) and north – Sinmumun 신무문 (symbolizing winter and water). The main gate, Gwanghwamun, has 3 entrances and a 2-story pavilion.

The palace was built in 1395, and was the symbol of national sovereignty. It served as the main palace for more than 500 years before more than 90% of it has been reduced to ashes during the Japanese invasion of 1592. Restoration of Gyeongbokgung to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990. In 2007, restoration of Geoncheonggung has been completed, 3 years later – Gwanghwamun as well.

Yeongjegyo Bridge

Yeongjegyo Bridge

Yeongjegyo Bridge leads to the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung, Geunjeongjeon. It has been restored to its original state in 2001. In the downright corner of the picture you can see an imaginary animal called Seosu.

Geunjeongjeon

Geunjeongjeon, the main throne hall

The name Geunjeongjeon means “all affairs will be properly managed if Your Majesty demonstrates diligence”. All meetings, receptions and coronation ceremony were conducted here.

Sajeongjeon

Sajeongjeon

In Sajeongjeon king held daily morning meetings with the officials. The series of small rooms in front of it were used to store private property of the royal household. Currently, there’s a coffee shop, a souvenir shop and hanbok experience center, where you can try on Korean traditional clothing completely for free, walk around and take pictures.

Gyeonghoeru

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion was where the king threw formal banquets. The three bays at the center of the floor symbolize heaven, earth, and man, and the 12 bays around them the 12 months of the year.

Taewonjeon

Taewonjeon Shrine

Taewonjeon Shrine was built to house the portraits of preceding kings. Later, it was used as a royal coffin hall for deceased queens.

Jangandang

Jangandang

Jangandang is a part of Geongcheonggung, separate living quarters for the king and the qeen, built in 1873 by King Gojong. It was here where Queen Myeongseong was assassinated by the Japanese on October 8, 1895.

Hyangwonjeong

Hyangwonjeong

Hyangwonji is a square pond in the rear garden of the concubines’ quarters. It was created same time as Geongcheonggung.

How to get there:

Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161

Take subway line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (exit 5), or take subway line 5 and get off at Gwanghwamun Station (exit 2).

Operating hours:
March-October: 09:00-18:00
November-February: 09:00-17:00
*Gyeongbokgung is closed every Tuesday

The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony is performed every day except Tuesdays, from 10:00 to 15:00 (6 times a day, on the hour) at the Gwanghwamun and Heungnyemun plazas.

The reason I love Korea…

6 Jun Screen shot 2012-06-06 at 06.26.57

The results of a video contest held by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea are to be announced early next week, so it’s a good moment (as good as any other) to support your friends and other contestants. Below you can find a video recorded by my good friend and class colleague, Taha. I’m glad I could participate in the making of this video cause all the things shown in it are also my reasons for loving Korea!

Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea (2012 여수세계박람회)

21 May SAM_3939

Throughout the years, World Expo has become one of the major international exhibitions. It allows individual countries to present their culture, science and economic development. At the same time, well-organized exhibition raises the prestige of a city undertaking the organization and promotes it as a potential tourist destination. First South Korean city that organized Expo in 1993 was Daejeon. This year’s World Expo is held once again in South Korea – this time in the city located on the southwest coast of the country (South Jeolla Province), Yeosu 여수.

The leading theme of the Expo in Yeosu is “The living ocean and coast”, including following sub-themes: “The protection and sustainable development of ocean and coast”, “New resource technology” and “Creative marine activities”.

The Yeosu Expo officially opened on Saturday, May 12th and will be brimming with exciting shows and performances throughout the entire 93 days, until August 12th.

To some, Yeosu Expo 2012 may be a life changing event. The entire complex looks amazing and futuristic, and all shows and attractions are good for people of all ages. But what’s most important – it’s not only entertainment, it’s an eye-opening experience that outreaches to the world about oceanic issues and has a great impact on education.

The below pictures contain some of the attractions to be seen in Yeosu.

Hanwha Aqua Planet

Doctor Fish, Aqua Forest

Sea Dragon, Aqua Forest

No gravity man

Philippines Pavilion

USA Pavilion

Brunei Pavilion

Cambodia Pavilion

Australia Pavilion

Indonesia Pavilion

Turkey Pavilion

DSME Marine Robots Pavilion

For more information visit: http://eng.expo2012.kr

Havana Express 하바나 익스프레스 – We’re so hot! You’re so cool! 난 핫하게 커피, 넌 쿨하게 폭탄

22 Mar 184CB3334F6920C331D8C7

Over the past few years, coffee culture in Korea rapidly developed. Nowadays, there’s a coffee shop on every street corner. Every! Famous coffee chains, niche coffee houses, wedding cafes (where you can try on a wedding dress and take a picture with your other half), cat and dog cafes (where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in while petting a real animal), bed cafes (where you can just lay down and relax), tarot cafes (where you can get to know your future), teddy bear cafes (where, surrounded by hundreds of teddy bears, you can feel like a kid again), Hello Kitty cafe, and so on… Coffee shops in Korea are definitely on a different level! Korea really is a place for coffee connoisseurs.

Havana Express is a coffee company and barista cooperation placed in Daegu. They own three coffee shops: first, in the heart of the city, Banwoldang 반월당, second located on the subway shopping mall level of Jungangno station 중앙로, and the third one, a newly opened, at Keimyung University’s east gate 계대 동문. But a very good tasting coffee and very low prices is not what makes this place unique. What differs Havana Express from other coffee shops, what makes it so special? The non-coffee menu.

This coffee shop is not only a coffee spot, but also a cocktail bar. Have a cup of Americano, get a bagel… or have a beer, a glass of Jack Daniel’s and enjoy your evening.

Feel the traditional beauty of Korea in Namsangol Hanok Village 남산골 한옥 마을

28 Nov SAM_1766

Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골 한옥 마을) is a folk village located in the Pildong area at the northern side of Namsan Mountain. Originally this place was known as Jeonghakdong (“the land of fairies”) and was one of the most popular summer resorts in Joseon Dynasty era (1392-1910). It has been opened in 1998 after very detailed restoration. The village includes its original houses, five traditional Korean residences moved from all around Seoul that previously belonged to high government officials and an authentic Korean-style garden with its flowing streams and pavilion placed in the woods.

Namsangol Hanok Village gives a chance to see what the lives of the ancestors were like. In order to educate visitors, educational programs on traditional Korean lifestyle and culture are being held, as well as traditional music concerts. You also get a chance to play such games as “yut nori” (윷노리), “neolttwigi” (널뛰기) and “tuho” (투호). On the weekends, Korean traditional weddings are taking place. The ceremonies are prepared in the first house after passing the front entrance, the residence of queen Sunjonghyo. The next house belonged to a princess Younghye’s husband, Park Youngho, and is considered one of the most majestic mansions in pre-modern Seoul. The other houses owners were: a military general in command, Kim Chunyoung and a chief carpenter in the reconstruction of Kyongpok Palace, Yi Seungup. In each of those houses, various events are being arranged, such as traditional way of making tofu, calligraphy, crafts and traditional singing lessons.

Also, Namsan Hanok Village is a place where the Seoul Time Capsule is situated. It was buried in 1994 in order to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the establishment of the metropolitan city of Seoul. The capsule contains 600 different objects representing the city and its residents. It is scheduled be opened on the 1000th anniversary of Seoul, which is November 29, 2394.

The easiest way to get to Namsangol Hanok Village is by taking a subway line 3 or 4 to Chungmuro station (exit 4) and taking a short walk along Hanongmaeul-gil st.

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