Friday, December 31, 2010

31 Dec 10 (Fri) - Steamed Egg Custard (炖蛋) and Chocolate Flake Crisp

It's the last day of 2010. Other people would be out on the street shopping or partying while I chose to stay home to spend it quietly and doing the thing I enjoyed most, cooking. Earlier this week, I reflected on what I had done for the past one year. I made a resolution to attend at least one cooking class this year and I did, in fact, I attended more than one and even did some creative cookings on my own, be it main course, desserts, Chinese, Western, Japanese or Korea.

For the coming year, I intend to refine my cooking skills and focus on cooking Chinese desserts with the possibility of exploring Japanese and Korean desserts. With this in mind, I surfed the Internet for recipes on a few Cantonese desserts such as red bean soup with lotus seeds, steamed egg custard (炖蛋), steamed milk custard (炖奶) and so on.

Had wanted to try them out slowly next year but being the impatient type, I decided to try the simplest ones today. So went to NTUC after work to get the ingredients and hurry home. Set the laundry to wash and started with the easiest which was the steamed egg custard.

Looked at the few recipes I had found on the Internet and modified their steps for my version. Just when I was ready to steam the egg, I realised that I had used up the aluminium foil so I used cling wrap instead. It was after a few minutes when I opened the cover to let out some steam that I found out that the cling wrap was torn. Hence quickly removed it and continued with the steaming process. Off the heat after 12mins and the surface of the steamed egg custard (炖蛋) was not as smooth as it was supposed to be and the sides were starting to dry.

Brought it out of the pot and took a few photos before tasting my creation. It wasn't as bad as I thought. The taste was just right and as for the texture... It wasn't watery but yet it wasn't very solid either. I couldn't remember how the texture of steamed egg custard should be like. Anyway, it was my first attempt and I was thinking that perhaps if I had used aluminium foil while steaming, it probably would have turned out right. Shall do that in my next attempt of the steamed egg custard (炖蛋).

Steamed Egg Custard (炖蛋)

1 egg
150ml milk
20g sugar

1.  Beat the egg in a bowl
2.  Warm the milk in the microwave but do not boil it
3.  Add the warm milk into the beaten egg then add sugar and mix well with a fork
4.  Use a spoon to remove the foam on the surface of the egg mixture
5.  Cover the mixture with foil
6.  Steam it for 12mins in a pot with a lid on using medium-high heat
7.  Lift the lid up a bit to release some steam every 4mins
8.  Off the heat after 12mins and serve hot or chilled

After I was done eating, started on the second recipe which was steamed milk custard (炖奶). I found a couple of versions and being lazy, I tried the simplest one that only uses milk and sugar. Followed every step and at the end of it, the recipe said the milk should set after 5-10mins. So while waiting, I tried another recipe on chocolate flakes crisp.

Last month, my younger niece, Lyn, borrowed a cookbook for beginners and we tried one of the recipes in it which was called chocolate flakes crisp. It wasn't successful coz we when we were about to attempt the cooking, we realised that we had run out of maple syrup. We tried to improved by adding sugar instead but it didn't work.

Wasn't happy with the failed attempt so googled for similar recipes on the Internet and modified the steps that I saw from Lyn's cookbook. Instead of first melting the chocolate directly on a saucepan then add margarine and maple syrup, I put the chocolate, margarine and maple syrup in a heatproof bowl and placed it over a saucepan with hot water. The heat from the hot water melted the ingredients nicely and after that, added in the crushed cornflakes and mixed well. Finally, scooped the mixture into cake cases and waited for them to cool before putting them into the fridge.

NTUC Corn Flakes and
Mountain Valley Maple Flavoured Syrup

Van Houten Chocolate Buttons,
Planta Margarine and Cake Cases

Chocolate Flakes Crisp

110g chocolate
25g margarine
1.5 tbsp maple syrup
70g cornflakes

1.  Place chocolate, margarine and maple syrup in a heatproof bowl
2.  Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch the water)
3.  Melt the chocolate, margarine and maple syrup and stir well until smooth
4.  Remove the bowl from the heat and add the cornflakes, 1 handful at a time, stirring until they are thoroughly coated
5.  Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture into each cake case and refrigerate until set

Returned to check on the steamed milk custard (炖奶), it didn't set as stated in the recipe so drank the milk and washed all the stuff before hanging my laundry and settling down to blog about my afternoon. I guess the next attempt on the steamed milk custard, I would have to make use of egg whites as stated in the other two recipes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

26 Dec 10 (Sun) - Red Bean Soup with Lotus Seed (红豆莲子汤)

Went to sis's place on Christmas Eve to spend the weekend. It was fun and enjoyable. I got to open up the presents from my friends at work and from my sis as well as eating Christmas Dinner that consisted of Roasted Beef and Ham with my sis and her family.

Found the remaining of the red beans that I used for the Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding previously and decided to finish it by cooking Red Bean Soup. Soaked the red beans with water overnight and started cooking around 9+am on Boxing Day.

I was told that it takes a very long time to cook the red beans and I didn't know how much water to add to the red beans so cooked them using two cups of water on low heat. Stirred the content on and off and after about one hour, added another cup of water to the pot to make sure that the red beans were covered with just enough water all the time.

After another hour, added another cup of water and at the same time pressed the beans to try to make it into paste like. Dug around my sis's kitchen cabinet and found a packet of ready-to-eat sweet lotus seeds so added that into the red bean soup and let it cook for another 20mins.

Finally when the red beans were soften, added sugar to taste. Again I didn't know how much sugar to add so I had to use my taste bud to gauge. When it was about right, turned off the heat before taking my lunch. Ate quickly, then scooped a bowl of the red bean soup with lotus seeds, took a few photos before eating it. Though it wasn't exactly the same as those served in restaurants during wedding dinners, it was close enough.

Red Bean Soup with Lotus Seeds (红豆沙莲子汤)

80g red beans
800ml water
40g fine sugar (or amount to your preference)
80g ready-to-eat sweet lotus seeds

1.  Soak red beans overnight.
2.  Add two cups of water to the red beans and cook for one hour stirring the content occasionally
3.  Add another cup of water to the pot (depends on how much water is left in the pot)
4.  Cook for another one hour, stirring the content occasionally and press the beans
5.  Add another cup of water (depend on how much water is left in the pot), add the lotus seeds
6.  Stir and press the beans for another 20mins, add the sugar and stir till dissolve
7.  Off the heat and served

Saturday, December 18, 2010

18 Dec 10 (Sat) - Rosti

Went for dinner at Marche in Vivo last Sunday with sis and her family. Wanted to order rosti and BIL was already in the queue. He said that he would be ordering two plates to share, therefore I went on to order the Spanish Rice to share with sis. After he got back with the two plates of rosti, one plate went to Ry and the other was left aside coz he needed to go collect other food that he had ordered. So ate some rosti while eating the rice. After BIL came back with more food, he took the plate of rosti and placed it between Lyn and himself which was beyond my reach so didn't get to eat that anymore.

Throughout the week, I was thinking about rosti and how silly it would look if I were to go back to Marche just to eat rosti. Hence, the next alternative would be to try cooking it myself. Surfed the Internet on Monday to look for the recipe and found a few. I like sour cream to go with my rosti so went to hunt for sour cream during lunch the following day at the NTUC but couldn't find it. Googled on where I may be able to find sour cream in Singapore and saw a forum post that mentioned Cold Storage and Market Place.

The following day I was to meet with SWT for a movie at Plaza Singapura and so decided to go check out Carrefour to see if I can find the sour cream. Was so happy to find it and decided to try cooking rosti this weekend. Bought the US Russet Potatoes from NTUC during lunch on Friday, parboiled and peeled one of them at night to be used the following morning.

Bulla Light Sour Cream

Woke up, ate breakfast and started preparing the ingredients. It didn't take very long to prepare coz the only ingredient was just the potato which just needed to be grated. The cooking didn't take very long either, probably about 10mins per rosti.

After I was done cooking, arranged the rosti on a plate, added a scoop of sour cream and took a couple of photos of my creation. Then started eating it and it tasted just like the Marche rosti which I didn't get to eat much last Sunday. While eating, I was thinking if rosti can be modified to be a dessert instead. Probably will require some experimenting.

Rosti with Sour Cream

1 US russet potato
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp sour cream

1.  Boil potato in salt water for 15mins or until tender
2.  Placed potato in cold water, peel the skin and put in the fridge overnight
3.  Grate the potato coarsely into a bowl, add salt and pepper and mix it through
4.  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in frying pan, press the potato into the pan and cover with lid
5.  Cook for 5mins or until the edges are golden
6.  Invert pan onto a plate, add 1 tbsp of oil to the pan then slide rosti back to pan to cook the other side
7.  Cover the lid, cook for another 5mins and turn off the heat
8.  Serve rosti with sour cream

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 Dec 10 (Sun) - Classic Chocolate Cake

Bought a box of Green's classic chocolate cake mix a couple of weeks ago intending to bake it at my sis's place during my previous visit. However, that weekend, my BIL bought the Xbox Kinect and we were all playing with that. Hence, only baked the cake this weekend.

Front View of the Cake Mix 

Back View of the Cake Mix with Instructions 

Borrowed the electric mixer, the 20cm cake tin and baking paper from sis's SIL in the morning and only started baking around 2+pm. Followed the instructions on the box closely such as adding 150ml milk, 60g butter, 2 eggs to the cake mix powder in a mixing bowl, used low power to mix the ingredients for 30secs before turing it to medium power to beat the ingredients for 2mins.

After that, poured the batter into the cake tin and put it into the preheated over to bake at 180 degrees for 45mins. Watched my BIL played Kinect and after about 30mins, went to check on the cake. The top of the cake cracked and quickly used a satay stick to test the middle part which turned out to be still wet. So reduced the temperature of the oven and let it baked till the end of the 45mins.

Took the cake out of the oven and then put it on the cooling rack to cool down while preparing the icing. According to the instructions, I added 20ml milk, 40g butter to the powder and beat it for 2mins before spreading it over the cake. It was a disaster. The icing turned out runny and wouldn't stick on the cake and that reminded me of the same result I had when doing the Steam Moist Chocolate Cake back in February.

Classic Chocolate Cake (Whole)

Sis suggested putting the cake into the fridge and so I did. After a couple of hours, we took it out and still the icing didn't quite stick. Sis cut the cake and it turned out that the cake itself tasted not bad but the icing was rather sweet. Headed out to East Coast Food Center for dinner and then when we came back, sis, sis's SIL and me had a piece of the cake each. Sis commented that it wasn't bad just that icing was a bit too sweet. Her SIL commented that the cake was a bit hard, perhaps was a little too dry. For me, I had the same opinion as my sis. Lyn saw us eating the cake and she asked for a piece and she later asked for another.

Classic Chocolate Cake (Slice)

I guessed I can't say that it was a total success and neither can I conclude that it was a total failure. At least it was edible and the most heartening thing was that even the most fussy gal, Lyn, ate two pieces of the cake.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 Dec 10 (Sun) - Poached Salmon Steak and Vegetables in White Wine with Potato Salad

There was one last piece of salmon steak in the fridge which I had saved to cook as my lunch on Monday. Decided to cook it using the simple, fuss-free method and that was to poach it with white wine coz I had to go watch The Chronicles of Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 3D with SWT in Bugis in the afternoon.

Went to the market early as usual, ate breakfast and went on to start preparing the ingredients for cooking. Cut the carrot, asparagus, shitake mushrooms, lemon, shallots and garlic. Then made some cuts on the salmon steak, placed it in a pot together with shallots, garlic and a few slices of lemon and then filled the pot with water and white wine till it covered half the steak.

Turned on low heat, let it cooked for a few minutes before turning the steak over and cooked for another few minutes. Once the salmon steak was cooked, I drained and placed it on a plate. Threw the other vegetables into the pot and topped it up with more water to poach. After they were cooked, drained and arranged them on the plate with the salmon steak.

Then used the same pot of water to poach the potato. Prepared a bowl of ice water and once the potato was cooked, placed it into the ice water and peeled the skin off. Cut it into pieces, put into a mixing bowl, added salt, pepper and mayonnaise before mixing them up. Arranged them onto the same plate and then took a photo of my creation before packing them into my lunch box.

Soon it was time to go out and got to Bugis 15mins before the meeting time. The movie started at 1:50pm and ended about 4pm. The movie was funny but not as good as the previous two installments. Perhaps because Peter and Susan were no longer in the movie, Edmund and Lucy had grown up, there were no battle scenes and the last straw was that Prince Caspian was spotted with a goatee. Anyway, it was still a good movie overall.

Went to Tiong Bahru Plaza to get some stuff before heading home for the day, rest and get ready for the week ahead.

Poached Salmon Steak and Vegetables in White Wine with Potato Salad

Ingredients A:
1 piece salmon steak
1 local potatoe
1/2 carrot
1 asparagus
3 shitake mushrooms
Poaching Ingredients:
1 shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic, thinly sliced
1-2 slices lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
A dash of salt and pepper

1.  Combine all poaching ingredients in a pan
2.  Put the salmon steak so it is half covered
3.  Bring to boil and reduce heat
4.  After 3-4mins, turn the salmon steak over
5.  After 3-4mins, off the heat and set aside
6.  Boil the carrot, asparagus and shitake mushrooms till cooked and set aside
7.  Cook the potato, skinned it and cut into bite size
8.  Toss the potato with salt, pepper and mayonnaise
9.  Arrange all ingredients on plate and serve

Saturday, December 4, 2010

4 Dec 10 (Sat) - Sukiyaki

Was given two big pieces of salmon steaks last Monday and only get the chance to cook today. Since I had tried Poached Salmon Steak in White Wine & Pan-fried Salmon Steak with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce before so decided to cook something different this time.

Flipped through my recipes and decided to try out the Sukiyaki recipe that I learnt from the SoEZ Cooking Class. Went to the market and bought the vegetables, came back, ate my breakfast, prepared the ingredients and started cooking.

When it was time to eat, heated up the soup and then added in the sliced salmon to the hot soup to cook. Once the salmon slices were cooked, turned off the heat and ready to serve.

Sukiyaki - Sliced Salmon with Vegetables in Soy-based Soup
Ingredients (Sauce):
60ml Mirin
60ml Soyu
60ml Cooking Sake
360ml Water

1.  Put all the ingredients together in a pot and let it cook for 5mins.

1/2 carrot
2 asparagus
5 shitake mushrooms
1/2 canned button mushrooms
1 fresh salmon steak (sliced thinly)

1.  Wash all the vegetables and mushrooms and cut into pieces
2.  Placed all the washed ingredients into a pot
3.  Pour the cooked sauce into the pot
4.  Let it boil
5.  After the ingredients are cooked, placed the sliced salmon in to cook
6.  Off the fire after the salmon slices are cooked

Sunday, November 14, 2010

14 Nov 10 (Sun) - Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding (桂花红豆布丁) & Coconut Candy (椰子糖)

Initially wanted to cook Abok-Abok Sagu (Sago Cake) over the weekend but my sis suggested going to pray to my folks in Mandai and so decided to spend the weekend at her place after praying. Since I was at her place, I decided to try out the Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding (桂花红豆布丁) recipe found in Do What I Like food blog and the Coconut Candy (椰子糖) recipe in one of my cook books.

Started cooking only around 10am coz I wanted to borrow the electronic weighing scale, the vanilla essence and the food coloring from sis's SIL. Didn't manage to borrow the electronic weighing scale coz it was spoiled and discarded. So had to do the Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding (桂花红豆布丁) based on estimation.

Dried Osmanthus Flowers and Red Beans

Swallow Globe Agar-Agar Powder (White) and
Bake King Gelatine

Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding (桂花红豆布丁)

Ingredients (Red Bean Layer):
420g red beans
600ml red bean water
150g fine sugar
30g gelatin powder
12g agar-agar powder

1.  Soak red beans overnight. Cook till soft, drain and reserve 600ml red bean water for use later
2.  Add sugar, agar-agar powder into red bean water and cook till sugar dissolved
3.  Add gelatine powder and drained red beans, stir to mix well
4.  Cool the whole pot of mixture in cold water
5.  Pour cooled mixture into 3 or 4 15cm x 10cm x 6cm container and let it cool futher
6.  Chill in the refrigerator for 30min before topping them with the Osmanthus layer

Ingredients (Osmanthus Layer):
3 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers
450ml water
150g fine sugar
22.5g gelatine powder

1.  Boil water in a pot, add in sugar and dried osmanthus flowers and stir till sugar dissolved
2.  Stir in the gelatine powder till well mixed and leave aside to cool
3.  Pour the osmanthus mixture onto the chilled red bean layer and refrigerate till set

Coconut Candy (椰子糖)

500g grated coconut
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp coloring

1.  Mix coconut with sugar and milk in a pan. Cook over low fire for about 45mins, stirring all the time so the mixture doesn't burn
2.  Once mixture is dry and sticky - you know this when it becomes difficult to continue stirring - add vanilla essence and desired coloring. Stir for another 3-5mins until color is even
3.  Press into a 30cm tray 2-3cm thick and leave to cool. Cut into 3cm or larger squares

The Osmanthus Red Bean Pudding (桂花红豆布丁) didn't turn out too bad though I felt that the red bean layer is too thick while the osmanthus layer is too thin. Also the red bean didn't seem soft enough. Perhaps next time will need to adjust the red bean to osmanthus ratio so that both will be more even and cook the red bean longer. The jelly made using gelatine powder has a softer texture than those made using the konnyaku powder and personally I prefer konnyaku powder which gives a firmer texture. Perhaps next time I can try using konnyaku powder instead.

As for the coconut candy (椰子糖), it wasn't too bad either just that I didn't press the mixture hard enough and so when I cut the candy, some of the coconut actually broke off and crumpled.

----- edited on 16 November 2010 -----

Feedback from my group of tasters:
1.  The red bean layer was too thick and the red bean was not soft enough.
2.  The osmanthus jelly layer was not sweet enough.
3.  The coconut candy was a bit too sweet and dry.
4.  The coconut candy was not compressed hard enough.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 Nov 10 (Mon) - Osmanthus Jelly (桂花糕)

Saw a photo ( posted by a fellow twitter, Victoria, on Osmanthus Jelly (桂花糕) and it looked very nice. Recalled that my secondary school friend mentioned that she would like to make that someday and so did a google on the dessert. Saw a couple of websites with easy-to-follow recipes with very nice photos of the dessert. Felt kind of excited about it and read on to see where to get the dried Osmanthus flowers. One of the authors bought hers from Hong Kong and so immediately sent a text message to my sis who is currently on vacation in Hong Kong to help get the flowers. Read the other website and that author said that she found the flowers in Yu Hua Guo Huo (裕华国货) in Chinatown selling at 100g for S$9.

Planned to get the flowers from Yu Hua sometime soon to make the jelly over the weekend. Emailed my friend, SWT, to remind her about tomorrow's movie date and suddenly had a thought. Asked her if she would like to have jelly as dinner tomorrow and she was equally excited about it. So decided to go to Yu Hua after work to get the Osmanthus flowers and on the way back, drop by the minimart to get the Konnyaku Jelly powder.

After work, took bus 970 to Chinatown area and headed to Yu Hua. Found the flowers on level 3 under the Tea Section on the counter and they were selling at 50g for S$9. Bought it and managed to get on bus 851 to head home. Went to the minimart and was disappointed that they were out of the small packet Konnyaku Jelly powder. Contemplating if I should just drop the idea of making the jelly or catch a bus to Bukit Merah Central to get from the NTUC.

While thinking and walking, bus 132 came along and hopped on it to Bukit Merah Central. Headed straight to the Baking Section and grabbed a packet of the powder, paid up and headed home. Showered, cooked rice for my lunch tomorrow and prepared the ingredients for the jelly.

Dried Osmanthus Flowers and
Red Man Konnyaku Jelly Powder
Osmanthus Jelly (桂花糕)

2.5 tsp dried osmanthus flowers
10g konnyaku jelly power
210g sugar
950ml water
2 tsp wolfberries, soaked for 20min till puffy

1.  Bring water to a boil in a pot, lower heat, add osmanthus flowers and simmer for roughly 2mins
2.  Add konnyaku jelly powder and sugar. Stir until powder and sugar are fully dissolved then off the flame
3.  Add 2-4 wolfberries to each jelly mould, then pour the jelly solution to fill each mould
4.  Let the jelly cool down a bit in room temperature and chill in fridge till the jelly is set

These tiny golden-yellow (when in full bloom) flowers are not just pretty to look at, they are also well known for the superb sweet and pleasant fragrance they impart. There is a Chinese phrase “桂花香”(meaning the fragrance/aroma of osmanthus flowers) which is commonly used in Chinese literature and popular culture to describe sweet aroma or sweet things, both literally and abstractly. The aroma of the flowers is unbelievably distinctive and yet, gentle at the same time. These flowers are usually available for purchase in its dried form.

Common Uses
They are often used to make osmanthus tea (桂花茶) or Chinese desserts such as osmanthus jelly (桂花糕).

Chinese (both simplified and traditional): 桂花
Mandarin Pinyin: guìhuā

Health Benefits & Properties
Some of the many health benefits include promoting beautiful skin, a balanced state of mind, digestion and detoxification. It is also known to relieve fatigue and improve appetite. You should consult a doctor for the suitability of consuming this ingredient if you are pregnant or have a special medical history.

Store flowers (sealed, in an air-tight vessel) in a cool, dry place (such as fridge or freezer section).

Recipe by Noob Cook -
Osmanthus flower information by Noob Cook -

----- edited on 9 November 2010 -----

Feedback from my group of tasters:
1. The osmanthus jelly was very frangrant and not too sweet.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10 Oct 10 (Sun) - Black Glutinious Rice Porridge [Bubur Pulut Hitam] (黑糯米粥)

Was at my sis's place together with M since yesterday to spend the weekend. Couple of weeks ago, I bought a packet of black glutinous rice and a small packet of coconut milk but didn't have the chance to cook. Therefore, I brought them up to my sis's place to make Bubur Pulut Hitam since my sis like that dessert. Only used half the packet which was 100g of black glutinous rice to make a four persons' share coz I don't know if her other family members eat that dessert.

Started cooking around 9am after breakfast. The preparation was fast since it only required washing of the rice. It was the cooking that took a long time. According to the recipe, it should take about 30min to cook but I forgot to check the time or set the timer so I had to check the rice every now and then to prevent it from getting burnt. After it was cooked, added in the gula melaka syrup and off the fire. Drizzled some coconut milk over it and it was ready to serve.

My sis took a big bowl and let M tried some coz she has never eaten that before. After trying, she came into the kitchen and asked for more so gave her the balance which was the equivalent of a rice bowl and the three of us sat around the dining table to enjoy our dessert.
Bubur Pulut Hitam - Black Glutinous Rice Porridge

100g black glutinous rice, washed and drained
5 cups tap water
4 stalks pandan leaves
50g gula melaka
1/2 cup thick coconut milk

1.  Boil black glutinous rice with water and pandan leaves for about 30mins until rice is cooked
2.  Add gula melaka and stir for another 5mins until sugar is dissolved completely
3.  Spoon into individual bowls and drizzle coconut milk over

Friday, October 1, 2010

1 Oct 10 - Day 8 (Seoul)

Morning call at 7am and gathered at the lobby at 8am. Had to travel out for breakfast before going to the Korean Cordyceps Monopoly Showroom where the lady introduced their best selling product - Liver Tonic (护肝宝) instead of the Cordyceps. By the way, their cordyceps were not the black and dried type that we usually see back home. Theirs were fresh and whole stored in a big, transparent container. Good products come with expensive price tags and so again M and I didn't get anything even though M was tempted to get for her dad. The lady said the Liver Tonic is good for people who have been taking Western medications for a long time.

After that, we headed to a place near Incheon Airport where the two levels sell all the Korean local products from food to souvenirs. Because we had limited cash so we had to be careful of what we throw into our shopping baskets. Bought kimchi seaweed to share with M, bamboo salt seaweed for sis's place, three boxes of choco pie, a box of ginseng tea to share with M and some others. After making payment, we went out to have our stuff packed into a big box together with the two bottles of honey that I bought from Jeju. Since we still had time so we went back into the shop to browse again.

Settled our lunch on the third floor and we had dumpling steamboat which was rather nice. After that, we headed to Incheon Airport and we were very early. Only one counter was opened and the counter lady was very strict on our luggage weights where one passenger was entitled to 25kg. The four friends had their limits burst and so Hanna asked us to do them a favor by taking out some of our stuff out to hand carry. So M had to take out her CDs and put inside her new backpack to be carried up to the plane. We were unhappy about it but what could we do? The rest of the group also had to repack their stuff coz most of them had limits burst and some didn’t have the sense to pack their masks into their luggage and thought they could hand carry up the plane. For Christ sake, those masks contained moisture and liquid, of course those were not allowed on board.

Our last meal in Korea, steamboat dumpling

Finally after a long time, all of us had our luggage checked in and then we checked ourselves in after saying goodbye to Hanna. Most of the shops inside the Airport were repetitive and so didn’t bother to explore. Saw the Cultural Centre and there were foreigners inside doing hand painting of paper fans. Checked with the staff how long it would take and was told it would take about 20min. So we sat ourselves down and started painting. The four friends also came to try their hands on it and they managed to finish before we did. After we were done, went to the restroom and waited at the designated gate for boarding and we were on our way back home.

Our hand-painted paper fans

 Bibimbap dinner on the plane

Sunset view from the plane

Thoughts: Those inconsiderate group members should know better than to bust their limits and inconvenient the others. During the trip, found out that the four friends, the two friends and the couple were smokers. After every meal, they would go out to smoke together. And poor us had to endure all the secondhand smoke. Also all the eight of them also couldn’t survive without chili in their food. Those four friends were also big eaters and they eat very fast too which pressurized M.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 Sep 10 - Day 7 (Seoul)

Morning call at 7am and had to gathered at 8am. Saw Hanna and she asked us where we went the night before. Initially told M not to tell the truth but in the end, I ended up telling her that we went to take the cable car up to Namsan Park coz we wanted to see the night view of Seoul. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get up to the N Seoul Tower coz it was past 10:30pm by the time we reached but nevertheless, we still saw part of the night view.

Headed for breakfast outside where we ate Korean-Chinese Buffet style. After we were done, went on to the Ginseng Showroom where the lady there explained the differences between the various types of ginsengs. Apparently, ginsengs were supposed to be pale yellow and those grown in the wild were rare. Red ginsengs were ginseng treated with other herbs. The showroom sells whole ginsengs, yellow and red; ginseng capsules and ginseng essences ranging from S$200+ to S$1,000+. Before my trip, I thought I can buy a little for my aunty in Jurong but the prices were too expensive. Sis and her family don’t take ginseng so no point buying for them either.

Ginseng Showroom

Then we headed to the Amethyst Factory where the manager there told us that the Amethyst in their factory has hardness of 7.8, that of precious stones quality. They have grade A that range from 7.8 – 7.5 and grade B of 7.2 – 7.5. Grade A stones were made into jewelry of 18k gold while Grade B stones were made into jewelry of gold plated on silver. They were having promotions of 40% off sales price and just happened it was the last day the day we went. Handphone accessories made of Amethyst and can be worn as pendent were going at 8,000 Won. After listening to his explanations, we were led into the showroom to browse the selections.

Amethyst cave from the Amethyst Showroom

M and I selected a handphone accessory each and then I asked to look at the rings. They didn’t have pinky rings but the lady told me that they could resize it smaller to fit. Initially thought I would go for simpler design so that it would be cheaper but the lady recommended another which looked rather unique and so in the end got that instead. Asked M if she wanted a ring and she said she has a lot of rings at home. Then asked her about pendent and the lady brought out the latest design which looked pretty nice and so I asked M if she likes it and that I would buy that for her. So in the end, we got two handphone accessories, a ring and a pendent and I charged to my credit card in USD. Apparently in Korea, they charged foreigners in USD for credit card payment.

Then headed for lunch where we had individual portion of shabu shabu with buffet. M and I saw ddok and mini ddok and we took quite an amount of mini ddok. Ate that with my beef shabu shabu and they tasted great together! Took raw sushi, tempura and some others to share with M and drank cinnamon punch and Korean rice punch. This was by far the most enjoyable meal I had during the whole trip. As usual, the couple and the two friends had their soup turned red with kimchi and chili paste and they were so proud of it.

Mini ddok

Next stop was to Namsan Park. We almost didn’t get to go coz the four friends wanted to skip that and head for Myongdong Fashion Street straight. When Hanna asked the group again after lunch, it so happened that M and I were standing in front of her and we said to go so in the end, we went. Our coach could get us right up to Namsan Park coz of the other coaches and so we had to walk up slope for quite a distance. M and i went ahead leaving the rest behind and it was a longer climb than we had the night before.

Nevertheless, M was happy coz she got to see the place where people and couples hang their locks with special messages. Took some pictures and browsed through the various locks. A few of them used bicycle locks and one even used a chopping board to write the message. M brought her own lock but she didn’t bring material to write messages so suggested to her that we could get material from the souvenir shop. So in the end, I bought a magnet, she bought a t-shirt, a packet of hard candy and a heart-shape rubberize thingy to write her message on. Then we found a good spot to hang the heart-shape rubberize thingy with her lock.

The locks from Namsan Park

Then we walked down back to the coach and headed for Myongdong Fashion Street. Got down beside the Shinsegae Departmental Store and Hanna told us that we had to use the underpass to cross over to Myongdong Fashion Street and that Namedaemun Market was just behind the Shinsegae Departmental Store. So went ahead of the rest to Myongdong Fashion Street and looked for Skin Food shop where I bought the rest of the facial products for sis's SIL and myself. After that, crossed over to the opposite shop and headed for second floor where Everysing was. M bought a poster that her friend asked her to and then we went off. Saw Natuur Ice Cream and we bought a cup with Choco Mint flavor to share then walked further, we saw Café Bene.

Choco Mint Ice Cream from Natuur

Inside Everysing

Hunted for a music shop and found one on level three of a building. So headed up and M bought more CDs, some on behalf of friends, some for herself. After we were done getting our stuff, we looked for Café Bene to have a cuppa and along the way, we saw a street vendor selling the long, long tornado potato and we bought a stick to share. According to M, this was longer than what we have back home. Found Café Bene, ordered a cup of ice cafe mocha and a chocolate cookie to share. While drinking, M’s friend messaged her asking her to help get one auto eyebrow pencil from Etude House. So done drinking, we went to Etude House to get that and I bought more face masks since they cost only 1,000 each.

Café Bene ice cafe mocha and chocolate cookie

Tornado potato

Then went off to Namedaemun Market to take a look and along the way, bought a packet of ginseng jelly. Got to Namedaemun Market, walked through the street vendors and looked at the bags. M found a nice backpack and the first stall quoted us 35,000 Won. It was about the same price back home. So walked further and saw a similar one but the owner was on the phone. Walked on and didn't see anything interesting. As we were press for time, we went back to the second shop to try our luck. The lady was off the phone and she quoted us 15,000 Won for the bag. It was a steal and just before we confirmed our purchase, I asked M again if the lady said 15,000 Won or 50,000 Won. After confirming it was 15,000 Won, we bought a bag each. Happy with our loots, we brisk walked back to the meeting point and most of the group was already there.

During the journey, we were told that Seoul is separated into North and South by a river called Han River or Hangang. The Northern Seoul consisted of older districts and hence the housing arrangements were haphazard. Unlike the North, the Southern Seoul has better housing planning and thus was more orderly and the housing and land prices there were higher. The Government built 30 bridges to join the North and South Seoul as well as a lot of facilities along the Han River for the Public to use, such as swimming pools, fitness corners, etc.

The many highways of Seoul

One of the 30 bridges joining South and North Seoul

The housing in Seoul

Sunset in Seoul

Reached the LotteWorld hotel about 6pm and were told to gather again at 6:20pm to go over to LotteWorld. It was a couple of minutes walk and Hanna told us that we had to get in and out by the South Gate and that we could stay inside till they close around 9+pm. There were indoor and outdoor park connected by an overhead bridge. Went in and we walked around to see some of the rides before stationing ourselves near the place where the parade would take place at 7pm. The parade lasted for half an hour and it was the first time I was so close to a parade. Then walked around trying to find something to play but things looked tame compared to Everland. Went outdoor and it was the same. Was rather disappointed and so went back indoor. Didn’t want to go off without punching a hole on my ticket and so we took the monorail to tour round the premises before going to the foodcourt for dinner. By the time we were done, it was 8+pm and we took a look at the character shop before heading off.

Our tickets

South Gate of Lotte World

Some photos around Lotte World :

Our dinner :

Passed by the Angel-In-Us coffee joint and popped in to take a look. They didn’t have tiramisu for sale but found the chocolate coffee beans that were mentioned in one of the blogs I read. So bought that and another chocolate with almond to share with M. Wanted to check out the LotteWorld Departmental Store but it was already closed. So headed back to our hotel about 10+pm to wash up and do packing as well as taking photos of our loots.

Angel-In-Us Chocolate

My Loots

Thoughts: The lunch was awesome with the cute mini ddok. If only I had more beef to go with the mini ddok that would have really made my day. Going to Namsan Park was fun coz personally I enjoy nature walk and good exercise. Besides, M got to finally see the locks place and put her own lock together with the rest to commemorate her first trip.

Compared to Dongdaemun Market, Myongdong Fashion Street was more like Orchard Road coz the streets were lined with standalone shops. Skin Food, Etude House, The Face Shop and other facial products shops were everywhere together with other clothing shops like Giordano, etc. The things there were more fashionable though but so were the prices and comparing prices were tougher. Didn’t get to cover the whole of Namedaemun Market which was a shame coz we might have been able to eat some fresh seafood or ddok.

LotteWorld was a bit of a letdown. Maybe because we had experienced Everland so LotteWorld seemed mild. Comparatively, LotteWorld was smaller in size too. Nevertheless, the parade was nice and the place had a Disneyland feel in it. Maybe it was a weekday and late at night so the crowd was thinned and hence couldn't really feel the amusement park atmosphere. It was a waste that we didn’t manage to check out the LotteWorld Departmental Store coz I had wanted to check out their supermarket. Usually supermarket had more interesting food stuff.