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Food

WARNING: This is a picture-heavy post.
PART ONE is HERE.

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Arriving late at night and getting hassled by South Korean immigration wasn’t a good start for my semestral break vacation.

Soon after arriving at the hostel, we slept away our stress into the morning.

This is KC all bundled up. It was 11 degrees outside.

Waking up extra early, we were pumped for the day ahead. Chungjeongno Station was only a few steps away (literally) from our hostel, so that was convenient.

Before getting anywhere, first on the agenda was figuring out Seoul’s subway system.

We purchased some T-money cards (Seoul City Pass) at this high-tech vending machine.

Seriously, Japan and South Korea are well ahead of the west when it comes to technology.

On a side note: Yay for stored-money cards! We don’t have to get our hands dirty when fishing for loose change!

The Seoul CityPass even came with some discount coupons (though we never got to use them).

Wonder when the Philippines will keep up with the rest of Asia?

At most subway stations in central Seoul, virtual tourist guides are omnipresent, such as this.

Awesome.

I remember having machines like this in Singapore and Hong Kong as well.

I therefore conclude that MISSHA is the 7/11 of Seoul subway stations.

I think I saw more MISSHA cosmetics stores than actual 7/11s. Hmmm… Only in South Korea! 😀

Oh, and don’t forget the ubiquitous lingerie shops too!

They’re everywhere! And they’re so…….. PINK. Hurts my eyes. (@_@)

Miss Hydrocephalic Head says “안녕하세요!” (Anyong haseyo!)

After about 10 minutes of eventful walking through the station, we finally arrived at the trains.

We didn’t have to wait long.

Although most of Seoul’s subways are old (built in the 70s and 80s), the trains are fast, efficient and on time.

No hassle.

Our first stop: Itaewon.

It’s supposedly the main district of most expatriates, and although we’re far from being expatriates, I figured it would have many English signboards (duh), thereby making the place easy to locate food joints, which in my mind is as good of an orientation to Seoul as it gets.

Crappy justification, I know.

Most of the time, I’m a thrill-seeking foodie in search of exotic (and cheap!) holes-in-the-wall. They make for the most interesting meals.

But I wasn’t feeling too adventurous then, as evidenced by my rumbling tummy. I just wanted to EAT.

With starving stomachs, we finally decided on……. Taco Bell.

LOL. Yeah, I can hear the howls of laughter right about now. 😛

I am sorry for this uber FAIL first Seoul foodie post, but you have to understand, we were hungry and I just wanted to stuff myself silly with comfort food.

Besides, I haven’t had Taco Bell in a while (reasons, reasons…).

My raging appetite was tempted to order the El Grande Burrito Salad, but deferred to the Lite Beef Soft Taco, Taco Supreme and Chicken & Cheese Quesadilla.

Not exactly the best meal ever, but it was soooo darn good on an empty stomach. Yummo!!

They had the nicest staff too!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Koreans look so cute without even trying.

I’m not a fan of most abstract artworks (I find them to be a last resort for people who can’t draw shit), but these were awesome. Light-hearted and fun. My kind of abstracticism. 

These look like something my graphic artist friend, Megg, would do.

After our Taco Bell smorgasbord, we meandered through Itaewon’s cute hilly alleyways and found THIS charming bakery, which (as we found out) is apparently a tete-a-tete joint for foreigners, yuppies and old Korean women catching up on their gossip.

Fascinating.

I love Tartine’s logo.

The 1940s woman is a fitting emblem.

The place is too lovely for words, ‘no?

The bread station.

The dessert selection left me in a tizzy. So many to choose from.

But my eyes were set on the Rhubart Tart.

It was, for lack of better words, absolutely delish! And I’m not just saying that for the sake of patronizing description. See, I have a thing for random spikes of sourness in my food, and this tart had just the right amount of sweet and sour to keep me digging in for more.

KC didn’t enjoy it much as her definition of dessert is sugar overload. All the better I suppose because I devoured the entire thing myself. *burp*

We walked off the Taco Bell + Rhubard Tart calorie-overload around the rest of Itaewon and chanced upon a souvenir shop called “Rainbow Souvenirs.”

Surprisingly, the “rainbow” actually did mean something significant. The two female owners of the shop were a couple! And they were already in their forties! Awww… I think my heart swelled a little bit just by looking at them.

Homosexuality isn’t generally accepted nor is it a common topic for small talk in South Korea. So it was nice seeing two people going at it (so to speak), despite all odds. I was inspired. Go support Rainbow Souvenirs now! 🙂

We walked to the far end of Itaewon and spotted this hot American(?) army chick in camouflage.

Helloooooo… 🙂

We thought seeing this chick was so awesome. But we soon discovered that military personnel in Itaewon are a-dime-a-dozen.

For what reason, I’m not sure, but I figure it has something to do with the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).

On another note, I wish I’d taken the DMZ tour (but my companions chickened out), so I’ll have to do that another time. More reason to go back to Seoul!

Funny how they’re standing right in front of a Skin Food beauty shop. LOL.

After a few more minutes of walking (best exercise ever!), KC announced that she wanted to do some shopping (which was the most surprising thing I’ve heard all day considering how decidedly unfashionable she/we are).

But with nothing better to do, I conceded.

We hopped on a train and took the MTR to Dongdaemun.

The Dondaemun area is home to South Korea’s largest wholesale and retail fashion malls. And when I say largest, I mean LARGEST. There were no less than 15 mega-buildings in that area alone, all housing shopping complexes with clothes ranging from bargain buys to high-street.

This is the ancient “Gate to Dongdaemun.” Pretty cool.

I literally got cross-eyed just deciding on which building to go into.

That being said, I highly suggest you skip Dongdaemun if you’re not a die-hard fashionista or retailer of Korean-style clothes. This place will wear you out! Save yourselves the hassle.

After about an hour of browsing through racks and racks of merchandise, we started wondering where THE GROCERY was.

We just had lunch of course, but being our usual foodie selves, we were always on the lookout for more chow.

We saw a couple of pojangmachas (small tented restaurants) around the area for hungry shoppers, but there was no sight of any grocery store.

Here’s lola and her pojangmacha.

All plates were wrapped in plastic and overgloves were used at all times. How hygienic. Reminds me of infection control protocols in dental school. Hmmm…

We came and went into about 3 more buildings before realizing that aside from 7/11s, large grocery stores were NON-EXISTENT in Dongdaemun. Say whaaaaat??

Yeah. Apparently the Koreans like to shop for clothes without having to be tempted by fattening shopping sprees at the grocery. HOW SAD.

Well, thank god for random food stalls that made us feel better.

Soon after having our fill of these goodies on sticks, we left Dongdaemun and headed for Seoul Station, where the largest LOTTE Mart (grocery store) in Seoul is (as suggested by a volunteer tourist information guide).

For what it sounded like, we were expecting a pretty big smorgasbord of perishable grocery goods. But we soon found out that South Koreans DO NOT like to eat NOR do they like grocery shopping.

The Seoul Station LOTTE Mart was big, yes, but about 1/3 of its floor space was consumed by cosmetic products (Face Shop, Skin Food, Aritaum, IOPE, Laneige, et al).  Only in Seoul.

KC, who is a chocoholic (understatement), was beyond disappointed at the sheer lack of chocolate and candy selections which didn’t even occupy half of one aisle!

We’ve never seen so little foodstuff in such a big grocery store. Insane.

Personally, I was both amused, and exasperated.

We figured, there’s no use fighting the system. South Koreans are vain, so we might as well hoard all the cheap skin care and cosmetics we can get. Ride the wave, as they say.

By some lucky twist of fate however, KC discovered the BEST moisturizer for her overly-sensitive skin: Laneige.

Now weren’t we just glad South Koreans are SO. DARN. VAIN?!

Later that night, we had our first proper Korean meal at a popular restaurant in Seoul’s University area of Hongdae, which is absolutely picture-perfect at night.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the restaurant’s name because there was no English translation. Sorry.

The place was pretty spartan, but served amazing food. No wonder a lot of people were flocking to it.

Here’s me and my sad, hungry tanga face. (No food on table yet.)

Now this is ME and my happy face (see: glorious food on the table). *drool*

Now, KC and her happy face (…and that big SLAB of meat). Oh daaang.

Enough food to feed a small army.

Enough food to feed our two stomachs.

We are gourmands. Here us RAWRRR.

BEST rice bowl meal everrrr!

The crispy nori strips made all the difference. I still have dreams about it.

With stuffed bellies, we hightailed it back to our hostel for a good night’s sleep.

By the end of the day, we were already making plans of going back. *fingers crossed for promo fare*

Needless to say, Seoul ‘had us at hello.’ 🙂

NEXT UP: Insa-dong, Myeong-dong and more of Hongdae!

 

I’m a big — no, HUGE — fan of pies and pasties. So, being as that my travel buddy and I were in Sydney a couple of months ago, I just HAD to try the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.

After navigating through Google maps, I decided on the Ultimo St. location since I figured it was closest to our hostel at the corner of George and Pitt streets.

We then went off on foot on a rainy Sydney morning, and after walking for what.felt.like.forever (hungerrr is what it was), we came to THIS corner pie shop.

That’s my dorky brother, Shugo, and travel buddy, KC.

Hannah’s?!?!?!

Where the fuck was Harry’s???? I didn’t walk 20 minutes on a rainy day for no Harry’s!

NOOOOO!!!

False alarm.

Apparently, Harry’s goes by the name of Hannah’s too. WUTDAHELL.

Nobody told me I was dealing with a hermaphrodite pie shop!!

Anyhow, I was too starved by then to care about Harry or Hannah and just ordered the most LOADED Pastie & Peas on the menu. *wild boar mode*

Why, hello there. Welcome to my stomach.

It wasn’t as great as I expected (I tend to be unreasonable when I get too excited), but it was quite good  and filling considering my ravenous appetite.

Not content with just something savory, I had to chase it down with something sweet (but of course).

And then came the largest single Custard Tart I’ve ever eaten. Gourmands represent!

The citron notes added just the right amount of tartness (pun unintended) to offset the sweet custard. THIS is how custard pies should be made. Heaven on the lips, pounds on the hips.

My stomach was screaming for a break, but I wasn’t nearly done just yet.

We were heading back to our hostel on George St., passing by Capitol Square, when lo and behold, something caught my one working eye!

HARRYYYYY’S!!!! I could’ve screamed like a shameless fanatic right then and there, but chose not to for fear of puking all the peas I just scarfed down.

I had a cold, but nothing could get between me and my love for (eating) pies.

AAAAAHHH….

….CHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

By this time, I was well aware of how painful of a let-down the famous pies actually were, but I just had to order ‘Harry’s Tiger’ (lean meat pie + mashed potatoes + mushy peas + gravy) and force my gut to surrender to the gluttony — if only for the novelty of it all. So sue me. I’m pie-crazy.

Like the Pasties & Peas I had earlier, the ‘Tiger’ was good, but not exceptional.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s every bit as delicious as it looks, but I’ve tasted better. Blame it on Sovereign Hill’s Hope Bakery, where some of the BEST meat pies in Australia are baked fresh every day. I would go to Ballarat just for those pies. Heaaaaaven.

As I bid goodby to Harry’s, I promised I’d find my way back to Haymarket and have one more ‘farewell pie’ before leaving Sydney.

Sadly, I never did.

Maybe another time.

xoxo

I firmly believe that Oishi’s KIREI Yummy Flakes is the best thing that ever happened to low-end junk foodies of the Philippines (represent!).


As a child of the 90s, Yummy Flakes was a quintessential summer snack. Especially for those of us who couldn’t get our hands on it as often during the rest of the school year (owing to school policies or some other brutal rule against eating junk food).

I enjoy Cheetos Cheddar Jalapeno on occasion (relatively ‘high-end’), and a bit of Piattos Cheese as well (‘mid-range’), BUT nothing gets my taste buds into overdrive as much as a large pack of cheapo Yummy Flaaaakes!

Unlike one medical doctor I know who claims to only enjoy imported Cheetos and Lays (lol, how ghetto), I guess my taste buds just aren’t as “sophisticated” as hers. Hahaha.

 

Christmas is in our midst. And for those of you who are thinking of sending a few goodies my way…

Consider a box full of KIREI Yummy Flakes, good as gold! Happiness 🙂

TGFYM. ❤

*Click on the photos for origins

Siem Reap, Cambodia 03/'06

Note: First Part HERE.

The souvenirs are now a bit worn, and the photo album has already gathered dust on a forlorn shelf. But the vivid memories of seeing Angkor for the first time are still as clear as ever.

Our guide, Thom (who has been the most informative tour guide of all the times I’ve been to Siem Reap), picked us up at about 7 a.m. An hour earlier than most other tour groups. But Thom insisted on this, so we could beat the crowds and get the best view of the temples. One problem: I’ve never been a morning person. So naturally, I woke up late and crammed. And my face got the short end of the stick when I applied too much sunblock in the rush of things. My father pointed out that I looked like I had a kabuki mask on. Yeah, that’s my dad. Ever the sensitive guy.

[photo via http://discover-indo.tierranet.com%5D

I had a kabuki mask on, but I was rarin’ to go. Good thing that Siem Reap’s located in South East Asia, where there is only one seaon: Summer. It was scorching hot, so the zinc oxide paste on my face melted away after an hour, and blended to my pale skin. But I’m digressing.

Ho hum…

In my experience, the first temple that Angkor tour guides take visitors to is, Ta Prohm. Tomb Raider ring a bell? I’m not sure if it’s because Ta Prohm looks best with the sun just barely out, or if they think everyone is a big fan of Angelina Jolie.

[photo via phuketno1island.wordpress.com]

Back then, Ta Prohm wasn’t the barricaded ruins that it is today. I actually got to touch and enter the individual citadels and its long corridors. Yes, most of Ta Prohm was crumbling to the ground (which prompted the recent restorations). But the winding roots and lush foliage of hundred-years-old trees made the place more interesting than the other much-restored temples. The serpentine roots creeping on age-old stone bricks was living history! Awesome.

Please don’t mind the bayong and awful clothes. I was feeling very Jane Birkin then (peg fail!). This was a time when I was actually larger than my dad. Heh.

I planted my hand on the trunk of one of the oldest trees, in a profound moment of solace. I’m not sure what that was all about. Perhaps I was being melodramatic, but I was most likely just being emo.

Oldest tree, about 800 years.

On our way out, we passed by a group of landmine victims playing handmade musical instruments. The music was lovely, but their broken state overshadowed the uplifting melodies. It was a bittersweet sight. Unfortunate how the Khmer Rouge disfigured such a beautiful country.

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Our second temple visit was going to be a surprise, Thom said. Later on, he disclosed that we were going to visit “his” temple. At the time, I wasn’t sure if he was trying to tell us it was his favorite temple, or I just didn’t understand his particular brand of Khmer-English (which was actually very good). Turns out, it was in fact a joke. As we were nearing the end of a dirt road, I started to make out a row of what seemed like stone gargoyles leading up to a steeple-like entryway. It was freakin’ Angkor Thom! Nice joke.

We stopped by the entrance to take some photos. Papa, who suddenly became so camera-handy, was ready to shoot even before I could position myself beside the giant elephants carved out of – yet again – stone bricks.

I thought I looked so cool (bayong and all). Operative word: thought. Past tense.

Up close.

We then made our way back to the car and drove to the 12th century Buddhist temple, (my favorite) Bayon, built by the Khmer king, Jayavarman VII. The temple’s baroque style is more similar to Ta Prohm (with the individual citadels), than Angkor Wat (as you will see later). But I’m not here to give a history lesson. So let’s move on.

From afar, Bayon’s many towers may appear to be a jumbled mishmash of random faces. But upon closer examination, you will see that each tower is calculatedly configured in relation to the others. This is why there are so many picture-perfect points on Bayon’s upper terraces.

See what I mean?

We moved along to other nearby parts of the complex which included Pre Rup Temple, The Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King, which had an open stadium in front for all kinds of sports competitions in the ancient Khmer kingdom.

After an exhaustive and exhausting (there’s a difference) tour of everything in sight, we made our way back to the car and headed off to the other side of the Angkor Archaeological Park, to where the Angkor Wat is located. I was starving for a proper lunch by then, so we took a break and ate at a no-name, overpriced restaurant on the side of a road. Please note that all restaurants in and around the temples are overpriced, and not necessarily good. However, we lucked out on the first time because despite being overpriced, the food actually tasted nice (unlike the other restaurants on my succeeding visits thereafter).

Here’s Papa (kind of) enjoying his lunch. This was when he still had a head-full of hair and less forehead wrinkles. From what I remember, we had chicken amok, a sweet-and-sour fish dish, fried rice and some sort of potato gratin (far out).

NEXT UP: More of the Angkor Archaeological Park... and Angkor Wat!

Earlier this year, my friend KC and I had THE time of our gastronomic lives at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Supposedly the number one restaurant in Asia, according to the 09/10 Miele Guide.

It’s no secret that we are extreme foodies – gourmands to be precise. We’d scrimp on everything but food, which explains why we always run out of cash at the end of every trip — and why the Robuchon dinner was planned for our last day in Hong Kong.

Finding the place was easy enough, albeit a bit daunting for two young adults (hell, we’re not even out of school yet). The entrance is a carpeted hallway with black marble  walls, which led us to an elevator to the 4th floor, where Robuchon is located. The maitre d’ was gracious, and we were quickly seated at the bar, which was adjacent to the open kitchen. Since we made reservations on the same day, we ran out of proper tables and were resigned to taking bar-side seats. However, this proved to be a blessing because then we had the privilege of front-row seats to the kitchen action of Executive Chef Michel del Burgo and his crew.

[photo via winebuzz.hk]

We were the youngest among the diverse mix of yuppies, expats and high-class escorts with their sugar daddies (one of which was obviously a Filipina who kept glancing at us while fidgeting in her seat). Entertainingly enough, we were seated beside two gay men seemingly on their first date. Sweet. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take a picture. Pffft.

A complimentary assortment of breads was served while the menus were presented: À la Carte or Degustation for HKD680 per person, excluding drinks. Needless to say, we picked the latter.

First course: Amuse-bouche of Pumpkin with Bacon-infused Foam. Rich pumpkin base with a light but flavorful bacon foam. Nice tease. A good start. 7/10

KC’s Second Course: White French Asparagus with Sea Urchin in Hollandaise Sauce. The asparagus was well-cooked, but the accompanying hollandaise was a bit bland. The sea Urchin topping was flavorful but didn’t actually compliment the asparagus. Gold foil bits were a nice touch. 4/10

My Second Course: Creamy Spelt Risotto with Escargots in Southern France Flavors. By far, the BEST risotto I have tasted, with just the right texture – not too mushy nor too dry. The snails were chewy and meaty, cooked just right. The flavors blended so richly, I have no words for it. This dish won me over with the first spoonful. 10/10

Third Course: Caramelized and Truffled Turnips Veloute on a Bed of Foie Gras Set Cream. More than a chowder but less than gumbo, is how I would describe this. It has a more robust flavor than the risotto, but lacks texture. If I hadn’t had the risotto before this, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more. Flavor overload, I guess. 8/10

Fourth Course: Broccoli Cream Soup Flavored with Nutmeg and Bacon. Foamy and light with subtle flavors – the perfect foil to previous courses. A half-time break for the taste buds. 7/10

KC’s Fifth Course: Braised “Vallegrain” Pork Belly with Caramelized Roscoff Onions and Black Truffle. I would describe this as a (much) glorified lechon kawali-slash-adobo hybrid. Crisp on the outside, juicy meat on the inside that melts in your mouth. No stringy pork here. Perfection all the way. The glazed black truffle reduction was an excellent compliment to the meat. Can’t say anything bad about it. 10/10

My Fifth Course: Pan-Fried Scallops on a Bed of Shiitake Mushrooms and Ratte Potato. The scallops were fresh and well-cooked, but an otherwise ordinary dish compared to the pork belly. The shiitake mushroom and potato stir-fry tasted like something I could’ve made myself. Well-executed, but not outstanding. 6/10

Sixth Course: Selection of Fine Imported Cheeses. I’m not an expert on fromages, but I love certain types of hard and blue cheeses. I wouldn’t know what a good selection is, however, so I’ll pass on rating this one. It’s interesting though, that one of the cheeses tasted like Durian (a fruit which is unique to a few countries in SEA). The name escapes me now, but I’ve tasted that cheese only twice in my life. The first time in my hometown of Davao City, Philippines and the second time at Robuchon in Hong Kong. Odd. Could they have gotten the cheese from Davao? Hmmm…

KC’s Seventh Course: Creamy Guanaja Chocolate, Cocoa Sorbet, Chocolate Crisps and Caramelized Nuts. Contrary to most people, I am not a chocolate lover – but I enjoyed this dessert. Well, not that it means much anyway since I’m not a die-hard fan of desserts either. Haha. Simply put, anything that’s not too sweet and stays true to its organic flavors is good enough in my book. 8/10

My Seventh Course: Passionfruit, Grapefruit and Roasted Pineapple Medley with Grilled Sesame Wafers in ‘Alfonso’ Mango Coulis. Now THIS is my kind of dessert. Light and refreshing, bursting with organic flavors. To some, the bitterness of the grapefruit may be a contrasting off-put to the other fruits, but that’s just how I like it. I’ve tasted better though. 8/10

Eighth Course: Complimentary Macarons, Madeleines, Chocolate Ganache, Gummy Squares, Easter Egg Candies and Gold-Coated Crispy Chocolate Nonpareils. Let me just say: BEST macarons everrr. The goodies were as delicious as they were eye-candy. KC enjoyed the chocolate ganache the most and actually asked for a second serving (no surprise there). Haha.

Complimentary tea and coffee capped one of the most memorable meals of my life.

An hour later, KC puked in an MTR full of people, on our way back to the hostel. Oh, the shame.

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