Thursday, February 21, 2013

Movie Review: 김씨 표류기 (Castaway on the Moon)

Somewhat along the same lines as the Hollywood movie, Castaway (2000), Castaway on the Moon (2009) is a Korean take on being castaway on a deserted island. However, don't let this turn you off, this Korean adaptation is pure genius.

Mr. Kim, giving up on life after many failures, decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge into the Han River in Seoul. However, his attempt at taking his on life fails, and he finds himself washed up on a "무인도" (literally "no person island") in the middle of the Han River. As one would expect, he tries with all his might to escape... at first. But after many failed attempts, he finally comes to enjoy his new freedom. He starts to make full use of all the trash that has accumulated on the island to make himself at home. 

No one knows he is there, save for one person: a neurotic shut-in girl in her early twenties who has an obsession with taking close up photos of the moon. From her apartment window across the river, she only allows herself to look at the moon with her telephoto lens camera, but one night she accidentally scans her camera past the island where she sees a message: HELP. In English. She becomes intrigued, and rather than taking photos of the moon, she changes her focus to following the life of Mr. Kim.

This Korean take on Castaway is, in my humble opinion, better than the Hollywood version. The plot is intriguing and the irony that he is alone in the middle of a metropolis is what makes this movie great. He learns to survive using the trash that we think nothing of. This plot line by itself would make for an interesting enough story, but then, the intrigue of the second character, a castaway of a different sort, holed up in her bedroom, afraid of being seen by the rest of the world really makes this movie. The idea that wanting to escape from the world can actually bring two people together is quite moving. Don't worry though, this is no tearjerker, the irony of the entire situation is enough to keep you chuckling throughout the entire movie.

Watching this with subtitles is, of course, best for those who don't speak Korean, but there is very little dialogue since both characters are alone in their own worlds. So, if you happen to pass this while flipping through channels, it may be worth watching even without subtitles. Most situations are pretty self explanatory, especially on the island, and so you may be able to follow the movie quite easily if you have just basic Korean skills.

IMBd Castaway on the Moon

Monday, February 11, 2013

Making homemade mandu (Korean dumplings)

A few weeks ago I was inspired by a blog post written by a Korean mom writing about making Korean dumplings, called mandu (만두). I never thought about this, I always assumed it would be difficult, but after reading the blog I was inspired to try it myself.


Meat Mandu:

만두피 Dumpling skins
부추 Chives
양파 Onion
마늘 Garlic
버섯 Mushroom
두부 Tofu
생강 Ginger: powdered or fresh
수금 Salt
후추가루 Black pepper
당면  Korean vermicelli/ Sweet potato noodles
돼지고기 Ground pork

Kimchi Mandu:

만두피 Dumpling skins 
김치 Kimchi
숙주 Bean sprouts
버섯 Mushroom 
양파 Onion
마늘 Garlic
생강 Ginger: powdered or fresh
두부 Tofu
돼지고기 Ground pork

 Once you've gathered your supplies, it's time to start cooking! I'll explain 고기만두, meat mandu, first.

당면: Sweet potato noodles/ Korean vermicelli

You'll want to start to boiling the 당면, sweet potato noodles as you start preparing. Then, chop your onion, chives, mushroom, and garlic into very small chunks. Mix them together with the meat. Sprinkle in salt, ginger and black pepper. When the noodles are soft, drain them, and cut the noodles into small pieces and add them to the mix.

The tofu must be as dry as possible, so mash the tofu and drain the water. To get more water out of the tofu, put it in the microwave for 30 secs- 1 min. This will suck out more water. Drain the water and add the tofu to the mix.

부추: Chives

Onion, garlic, and pork; finely chopped

Mixing all the ingredients together

Once you've mixed everything together, you'll want to get your 만두피, mandu skins, ready. Here in Korea, you can buy frozen or fresh. I recommend fresh, since you won't have to deal with defrosting. If you live abroad, you may not be able to find fresh dumpling skins, you can buy frozen skins or make your own if you're really good with a rolling pin. I'm not, so I won't attempt at explaining how that works. That's what Google is for.

만두피: Dumpling Skins

There are typically two kinds of 만두피, regular and 왕 (king) size. I went with the smaller ones, because for me, the more dumplings the better! This method will be the same, though, whether you chose the regular or large size.

Putting water around the rim of the mandu skin

First, take your mandu skin and put water around the rim of the skin.

Filling the dumpling

Fill the insides with the mash and press the sides together. If you're talented, you may be able to make some pretty folds when making a half moon shaped dumpling, or you may want to keep it flat, and then curve the ends together to make a round dumpling (see photos below).

Curving the mandu to form a round mandu

Pressing the two ends together of the half moon shaped mandu to make a round mandu

Now I'll give the instructions for making kimchi mandu.

Boiling 숙주, bean sprouts

First, boil your 숙주, bean sprouts, while you prepare the other ingredients. Kimchi has a lot of juice, so you'll need to get rid of as much juice as possible. Squeeze the kimchi until you can't get any more liquid out, then chop into small pieces. Mix together finely chopped kimchi, mushroom, onion. Mix with mashed tofu, getting rid of as much water as possible, as in the meat mandu. Drain the bean sprouts and cut them into small pieces. Mix them into the rest of the ingredients.

Chopping our homemade kimchi

Ingredients mixed to make kimchi mandu

Fold your mandu in whichever shape you prefer, or a mix of both like we did.

Finished mandu; half moon shaped and round shaped

The easiest way to cook mandu is by steaming them. Since they contain raw meat, you'll want to steam them for a sufficient amount of time. We steamed them for about 20 minutes which seemed to work well. Putting some cheese cloth under them works well, and prevents them from sticking to the metal steaming plate.

Steaming dumplings

Finally, once the mandu are fully steamed and cooked all the way through, it's time to eat! Make a dipping sauce with soy sauce and 고추가루, red pepper powder and vinegar (or lemon juice). We enjoyed it with a bottle of makkoli. 

I purposely didn't write amounts, because it's totally up to how many dumplings you want to make and your own personal taste. Doing this by yourself may take some time, but I made it with three friends. It went really fast with everyone working together and it was a really fun afternoon activity!

If you have ever made mandu, or are inspired to make your own mandu, and have blogged about the experience, feel free to post your recipes and photos in the comments!

Monday, February 4, 2013

연타발 YeonTaBal: Yang and Daechang (Cow Stomach and intestines)

There's a lot of strange foods in Korea that many foreigners are a little scared to try; strange animal parts probably being high on that list. There probably isn't anything wrong with eating those things, it's just that in our culture we think they're strange, so we're afraid to try.

Last week I was invited to try some 'strange' meat in a popular chain restaurant called 연타발 (YeonTaBal). 연타발 which specializes in beef, particularly cow stomach and large intestines. Usually when I imagine restaurants that serve these things I imagine a hole in the wall (which I mean in the loving sense) restaurant, perhaps with questionable sanitary conditions (for those who worry about such things), however I was quite shocked to find that 연타발 is nothing like that. It's a high class establishment with the best quality meat and waiters and waitresses that do all the cooking for you as your food is grilled in front of you on your table.

Daechang (round meat) and yang (flat meat) before grilling

Our meal started off with 연타발's two specialties: daechang (large intestines) and yang (stomach). Since 연타발 only serves beef, these were of course cow intestines and cow stomach. They were marinated in a really delicious sauce which looks spicy in the photo, but wasn't really at all.

Daechang and yang

Grilling the daechang and yang with whole cloves of garlic

Grilling food on the table is nothing special in Korea, but 연타발 uses a kind of charcoal which burns more evenly, preventing the food from burning badly like sometimes happens at barbeque restaurants. And, on top of that, the waitress does all the grilling for you so you'll never have to lift a finger. The personal attention at this restaurant is really great.

Cutting the daechang and yang before eating

I've had gopchang before, and while it's a little chewy, I decided it wasn't too bad. Of course, that was at a little hole in the wall restaurant near my old home in Hwanghak-dong. It's hard to compare that with what I had at YeonTaBal because it would be something akin to comparing street food to a gourmet restaurant... actually, I take that back... it IS comparing street food to a gourmet restaurant. If the gopchang I had in Hwanghak-dong wasn't too bad, this daechang and yang were downright amazing. Hardly chewy at all and quite nice and well marinated. Besides the scary name of "intestines" and "stomach" there wasn't anything too intimidating about them at all.

Lotus root side dish

Korean Beef Salchisal

Next, they brought over something that looked a little more familiar, some well marbled thinly sliced Korean beef called 살치살, I guess this would be considered loin meat. This was best after just a quick grill, while all the juices and fat still remained. Dipped in a little salt and pepper, it was fantastic.

Our personal waitress doing everything for us

Actually one of my favorite dishes (if you can really choose a favorite, because everything was so good) was something that wasn't even on the menu, but came as 'service' for our table. I didn't get a photo of it because it was put on the grill immediately, but it was  염통, cow heart. I've had chicken heart before at a Chinese restaurant and thought it was a little tough, but decent, but probably because a cow is probably 20 times the size of a chicken, the cow heart was (huge and) tender. That was the biggest surprise of the evening.


Even though I was totally full, my hosts insisted that I try some 양밥 yangbap, or cow stomach fried rice. And, of course, because I'm a cheese loving American, they threw some cheese on top as well. This to me tasted like any typical bokkumbap, I didn't think the cow stomach changed the flavor much at all.

Because of location of this branch right in the heart of Jongno, just along the Cheonggyechon, it attracts a wide variety of customers, ranging from loads of tourists on tour groups, to businessmen from nearby offices, to families with children.

The prices here make it a place that most English teachers here wouldn't frequent on a regular basis, but for those who are wanting to try some of Korea's 'stranger' foods in a comfortable, clean environment, then this would be the place to come. Even for those who are too scared to try their two specialties of daechang and yang, there are plenty of other high quality cuts of beef on the menu that will surely satisfy you. This restaurant would be the perfect location to celebrate a special event or to bring parents to when they come to town and want to try some interesting Korean food.

I visited the Jongno branch (see map below and address below), but as this is a chain, there are locations throughout the country, and there may be one near you! See their website to get a list of their locations.

Global Building, B1, 1F, 2F
Gwangcheol-dong 11-10
Jongno-gu, Seoul

서울 종로구 
관철동 11-10 
글로벌 빌딩 1층,2층, 지층1

View YeonTaBal in a larger map

The owners of YeonTaBal have also opened a new restaurant called Blue Fish Restaurant. It's a raw fish restaurant based on a Greek theme. As part of their grand opening promotion, an event started at the beginning of January, and the last day to enter the event is March 31, 2013.  You can fill in a survey either on their website or by visiting the restaurant in person to be entered in a drawing. Our drawing date is April 10, 2013.  The first 1,000 people to stop by the restaurant personally can get a movie ticket to go to any movie theater they wish and the drawing prizes are listed below: 

1st Prize:  One person will be drawn to win a round trip ticket to Santorini, Greece for two!

2nd Prize:  30 People will be drawn to win a 100,000 won gift certificate to Blue Fish restaurant.

3rd Prize:  50 People will be drawn to win a 50,000 won gift certificate to Yeontabal restaurant.
You really can't lose out by entering this drawing! Visit their website (Korean only) to see more information:

**I was invited here by staff of the restaurant with the intent of publishing on my blog. I did receive a free meal for writing this blog post. **

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Puppies for adoption! (AKA adorable puppy photos)

Hello world! The boyfriend's grandmother's dog had three (female) puppies in mid-December and we're looking for good homes for them.

A good home means:
a) A person with enough space for a dog of any size (the mom is a small/medium sized mixed breed, but the father is unknown, so you should be prepared for the worst).
b) Is either a Korean or foreigner who is permanent in Seoul (too many animals get abandoned by foreigners who find the dog too difficult to bring back home).
c) A foreigner who is capable and willing to take the dog back with them when they leave the country. 
d) A person who has the time to take care of and train a puppy. Read here for more info

We got the mother in a shelter, she was in a tiny cage with at least 6 or 7 other dogs. Animal shelters are not nice places for animals and since there are so many people who get animals and can't keep them here, the shelters are overflowing and often need to put the animals down after a short period of time. If you can't be a good dog owner then please, just enjoy the cute pictures, and please don't send an inquiry.

With that said... on to adorableness and puppies to tantalize you into adoption:

Introducing: Brownie, Squeaky and 물개 (mulkae) with their mother, Makkoli (The best family portrait we could get... puppies move around too much)

 Brownie, Squeaky and 물개 at just 3 days old... They look more like hamsters than dogs

3 day old Brownie

Squeaky, Brownie and 물개, after 2 weeks... still not walking yet, but looking more dog-like

물개... does mean seal. We named her after this photo... 

물개 and Brownie

 Three peas in a pod... or dogs in box.. or whatever...



 Squeaky... maybe??

 Sisters portrait at 3 weeks.... they're starting to walk... or more like shuffle... very well

 Brownie and Squeeky now at 5 weeks... eating real food, oh my! 



 Squeaky eating puppy food

 물개 looking happy

 Mother-daughter love

 Sisterly love??

So, if anyone has been tempted to adopt these cuties or know of anyone who might be interested, feel free to contact me at smileyjkl(at)hotmail(dot)com to discuss details. And, before contacting me, first, of course, decide if you fit the criteria at the beginning of this email.  They are, of course, free... but you will need to spay them, and if you live in Seoul, you will need to register them. They were born on Dec. 13th.  Grandmother lives in Yangsuri in Gyeonggido, but we could also bring the dogs to Seoul for adoption.

For more information about keeping a dog in Korea, please see this website: