Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gangwon-do Delicacy - Makguksu

One of the good things about Singapore is that, we are really a foodie city.  And especially with the rise in interest in Korean culture, the number of Korean restaurants in Singapore have increased significantly.  I recently checked out Singapore's first Handmade Korean Noodles House - Guksu 1945, located at Suntec City and was treated to the variety of guksu options available.

But wait... what is Guksu?  It is essentially the collective term for Korean noodles or colloquially known as myeon eg. ramyeon (Korean instant noodles), naengmyeon (Cold noodles), jjajangmyeon (Korean-Chinese noodles with black bean sauce).

With Korean's long history, many guksu varieties have been created.  The commonly known ones will include gamja guksu (main ingredient for the noodles: potato starch), hobak guksu (main ingredient for the noodles: pumpkin and wheat floor), kong guksu (noodles in cold soybean soup), janchi guksu (noodles cooked in clear anchovy or beef broth).

(Guksu from Jeju - 국수회관, 신제주점)

I had a lasting impression of a bibim naengmyeong (spicy cold noodles) which I had at the Incheon Airport in 2015 and have been searching for a naengmeyon which resembles what I had.

Seeing that naengmyeong was on Guksu 1945's menu, I didn't hesitate to place that order.  But it turned out to be another variety of naengmyeon which comes with ice cubes in the soup and tasted entirely different.

When will we be able to try ALL the guksu varieties?  But one thing for sure, Makguksu (buckwheat noodles serve in cold kimchi broth), is one of the 2 Gangwon-do specialty dishes.  The other dish is Dakgalbi, which I have introduced earlier.  Click on this link if you missed the post.

Makguksu became a Gangwon-do delicacy because buckwheat is the staple crop that is widely cultivated in the province.  This delicacy has come a long way and it has been around since the Koryeo Dynasty.  And now, the go-to place for Makguksu is the Dakgalbi Alley where you can get enjoy both Gangwon-do delicacies at the same time!

Makguksu is similar to naengmyeon with the key difference being in the high concentration of wheat flour used in Makguksu and the greater use of vegetables in this dish.  In terms of taste, it is chilly, spicy, savoury and wheaty.  Doesn't this make the best combination to go with the warmly pan-fried spicy chicken during the cold seasons?!  Go for it!

(source: Korea Herald)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

[Gangwon-do, Korea] The Must-Go Place in Chuncheon

There are many scenic places in Gangwon-do (aka Gangwon Province) such as Nami Island, Seoraksan (Mount Seorak), ski resorts.  Besides the play and fun, there is a famous place in Gangwon to visit for it's specialty food - Chuncheon Dakgalbi!  Dakgalbi is pretty common in Korea but Chuncheon is THE place where the famous dakgalbi restaurants congregate.

Getting to Chuncheon Station (in Gangwon Province) from Seoul is easy with ITX connecting Yongsan / Cheongnyangni stations to the Gyeongchun Line.  Chuncheon station is the last station on the Gyeongchun line and it takes about an hour to travel by ITX.  Fret now that the journey is long and boring, you can enjoy the scenic scenery while travelling or if you prefer to get connected, Olleh wifi is available on the ITX.

The local specialty in the Chuncheon region is that Chuncheong Dakgalbi, a stir-fried marinated chicken dish in chilli pepper paste with vegetables (cabbage, sweet potato, onion, scallion etc) and rice cakes.  For years, the chuncheon region has been famous for its abundance in poultry produce.  This dish started off as a side dish to go with drinks in the early days in the 1960s, it gradually grown to become so popular, so much so that a street has been dedicated to this dish.   There is even an annual festival held in Chuncheon to commemorate this dish.  The festival is known as the Chuncheon Dakgalbi and Makguksu (spicy buckwheat noodles) Festival.  The 2017's festival is happening now from 26 August to 3 September and is held in front of the Chuncheon Station.

Exiting from the station entrance, the most convenient mode of transport would be to take a taxi to the Chuncheon Dakgalbi Street.  When I was there, loads of taxis were lining along the side of the road.  The exact location is Myeongdong.  So, you can simply inform the taxi drive to go to Myeongdong Dakgalbi Golmok (명동닭날비골목).  Golmok means alley or street.  The journey is should not take more than 5 mins.  Alternatively, you can walk to the Dakgalbi street if you have a map on hand and know the way.  It takes about 20 mins by foot.

The taxi should let you alight at this entrance signage.  Follow the directional sign and walk into the alley.  There are approximately 20 dakgalbi restaurants in the alley. 

The dakgalbi restaurants are all rather traditional and require guests to sit on the wooden floor.  Once seated and order has been placed, they would start cooking almost immediately, right on the dining table.  The round flat pan is filled with freshly cut vegetables, topped with richly marinated de-boned chicken chunks that were also cut into bit sizes.  No oil is added in the process.  The moisture from the vegetables and the fats from the meat is sufficient for the cooking.  Generally, this is a rather healthy dish since white meat is generally healthier than red meat.

The cooking takes about 10 to 15 minutes.  When done, the chicken is tender and juicy.  The portion is usually generous so my advice is not to eat any heavy meals before having a dakgalbi meal.  At some restaurants, they may even add rice to the remaining dakgalbi and turn it into dakgalbi fried rice!

Dakgalbi is a very flavourful dish that is sweet, salty and spicy at the same time.  That is also one reason why it is popular amongst the general population.  It was said that sweet potato and rice cakes were not part of the original recipe.  Sweet potato, not only added to the sweetness of the dish, it was used as a gauge as to whether the meat is cooked.  When the sweet potato turns soft and edible, it means that the meat is already cooked too.  How interesting!

Getting there: Point A refers to the position of Chuncheon Station and Point B is the Dakgalbi street. 

View Larger Map

Monday, July 31, 2017

Winter Sports at 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics

The PyeongChang Olympics will kick start the games in less than 200 days.  If you do not know yet, Soohorang and Bandabi are the mascots for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to be held I PyeongChang, Gangwon, South Korea.

Soohorang is a white tiger.  The tiger is an animal closely related to Korean mythology and is a symbol of trust, strength and protection.  Bandabi is an Asiatic black bear.  The bear is a symbol of strong will and courage. 

A total of 7 snow sports, 5 ice sports and 3 sliding sports will be held during the Olympic games.  Let trusty Soohorang introduce you to these games.

The Paralympic will feature 4 snow sports events and 2 ice sports events.  Courageous Bandabi will introduce you to these games.

For those who are familiar with Korean reality show, these was a special episode on the PyeongChang Olympic games.  Park Bo Gum was the guest celebrity who took part in programme and introduced several sports by attempting them together with the show hosts and national team athletes.  The sports which really got me interested in the Olympic games was Bobsleigh.

Bobsleigh began to be practiced as a sport in Switzerland in the late 19th century.  In bobsleigh, athletes ride a steerable sled down an ice track. And there are three events comprised of 4-man bobsleigh, 2-man bobsleigh, and women´s bobsleigh. 2-person bobsleigh includes a pilot and a brakeman. The pilot uses the inner steering rope to drive the sled. And the brakeman puts on the brake to bring the sled to a halt after it has passed the finish line. 4-man bobsleigh adds two pushmen.

For bobsleigh, the track length is 1,200 to 1,500m long with an average slope of 8% to 15% while the curve radius is minimum 20m. The pressure an athlete feels while going around a curve is nearly four times the gravity, and the bobsleigh reaches an average maximum speed of 135Km an hour. It is important to glide around 14 to 22 curves on straight, curved, and circular segments of the track increasing the speed.

Watch the clips to experience the excitement in riding a bobsleigh!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The city for the next Olympic Games - PyeongChang, Gangwon

What opens up a new horizon?
Passion. Connected.
Where everyone around the world is connected with their shared passion for winter sports.

In another 7 months, approximately 6.500 athletes will gather in South Korea for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.  The XXIII Olympic Games will be held for 17 days from 9 to 25 Feb 2018, 30 years since the last Olympic Games held in Seoul in 1988.

A total of 7 snow sports, 5 ice sports and 3 sliding sports will be held in Gangwon Province.  PyeongChang takes central stage as the opening and closing ceremonies as well as most snow sports will be held there.  Alpine speed events will take place in Jeongseon and all ice sports will be competed in the coastal city of Gangneung.

6 new events such as Snowboard Big Air (Men, Women), Speed Skating Mass Start (Men, Women), Curling Mixed Dubles, Alpine Skiing Team had been added to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  A total of 102 events will take place in the 15 sports disciplines.  This will be the first ever Olympic Winter Games with over 100 gold medals.

PyeongChang is 1-hour away from Seoul via the newly constructed KTX ling.  And all competition venues are located within 30 minutes' driving distance from the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium.

For those planning a winter trip to Korea in 2018, it will be timing to catch the Winter Games while travelling or visit the Olympic village to immerse in the festive atmosphere.  I am certain this experience will go a long way down your memory lane. 

On A Related Note

The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics will be held for 10 days from 9 to 18 March 2018. Approximately 1,500 athletes will participate in 4 snow sports events and 2 ice sports events.

Official Websites
Visit the following official websites for event and spectator information:

PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games (website)
PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (website)

For ticketing information, please visit

Monday, January 30, 2017

[Korean food] SBCD Korean Tofu House 부창동 순두부

In the recent years, Korean restaurants/fastfood specializing in signature Korean food are getting more popular in Singapore.  Some of these specialties include bingsu, fried chicken, gimbap, bibimbap and the latest addition to the list is now soontofu (순두부).  In the 1970s, Korean soft tofu soup has been regarded as a daily comfort staple that provides a rich source of nourishment to Koreans and other nationalities residing in Korea.

SBCD Korean Tofu House, the latest Korean Restaurant in the Tanjong Pagar CBD district, specialises in a variety of Korean soft tofu soup, where the word "soon" actually means soft.

The restaurant uploads the kitchen philosophy of serving uplifting and complete meals.  Every soontofu dish is created using handmade silken tofu prepared fresh daily.  The broth comes in 4 different levels of spiciness - mild, medium, spicy and crazy hot.  After trying the various level of spiciness, level 3 seems to suit me best.  However, this may be a little too hot for some, who aren't into spicy food.

The modern and spacious restaurant has a total sitting capacity of 120 with 96 in the main dining area and 24 in the private dining area.

The private dining area can be further split into 3 smaller rooms with 8 seats each.  The private rooms are names after the restaurant's name, calling itself b-dong, c-dong and d-dong.  In the administrative division in South Korea, "Dong" means neighbourhood.

(entrance to one of the private rooms)

 (Private dining area)

The soft tofu is made with mature white soybeans, after they have been boiled, curdled and pressed.  The soybean is low in cholestorol and carbohydrates and is a good source of protein and calcium.  The chef comes in as early as 7am daily just to start preparing the fresh tofu for the diners.

(Chef making Prawn Tofu Pancake)

(Prawn Tofu Pancake)

Each soontofu soup is served with an egg and individually prepared in a rich, savoury broth.

Another unique practice in SBCD Korean Tofu House if the way the rice served with every meal.  Each bowl of rice is served in a hot stone bowl, and scooped out into a metal bowl at the dining table.  A thick crust of scorched rice (nuraungji) will remain in the hot stone bowl and corn tea is added into the hot stone bowl and covered to retain the heat to further cook the leftover rice.  Diners get to enjoy a bowl of rice porridge dish later, that is not only nutritious, but also aids in digestion.

(Hot Stone Bowl)

Each bowl of rice is cooked in individual hot stone bowl.  Each batch of rice are covered and pressure-cooked for a precise 15 min and 20 secs! 

The healthy soontofu soup is served with comforting taste of homemade side-dishes (ban chan), which include kimchi, seaweed, pickled green chillies, spicy squid strips and a whole fried croaker fish!  Serving a whole fried fish as a side dish is not common in Korean restaurants in Singapore.  Amongst the side dishes, what stood out for me was the seaweed and the kimchi.  They were totally delicious.  The price of set-meal ranges from $17.90 to $29.90.

There are a total of 4 appetiser dishes in the menu.  Besides the Prawn Tofu Pancake, there are also japchae, fried dumplings and seafood pancake.  Price ranges from $12.90 to $19.90.  The prawn tofu pancake is generous with the minced prawn fillings than the soft tofu itself.  Each portion of the appetiser is suitable for 2 to 3 to share.

(Prawn Tofu Pancake)

Besides the soontofu soup, the restaurant also serve popular Korean meat dishes such as L.A. Galbi, Spicy Grilled Chicken and Spicy Baby Octopus, with price ranging from $23.90 to $35.90.  Options are available to order these dishes as main dish or to include them in the combo meal along with a soontofu soup of choice.  My personal preference is the spicy grilled chicken, although I must say that the level of spiciness has been moderated, perhaps to suit the local taste.  The price for the meat dishes are comparable to BBQ dishes at other Korean restaurants.

(Tteok Galbi - Grilled Short Ribs Patties)

 (Spicy Grilled Chicken)

There is a good selection of 10 soontofu soups on the menu and fortunately for vegetarians, 1 of which excludes meat in the soup.  All soup base contain pork and vegetable, except for the Sesame Soontofu which does not use pork in the broth.  The ingredients used in this healthy option includes sesame, broccoli, mushroom and zucchini.  The taste is really light and suitable for diners who just want a light soup meal.  It is also the only dish that is non-spicy, making it suitable for junior diners.  

Overall, the restaurant serves quite a wide range of Korean popular dishes although the main highlight are the soontofu dishes.  The available of seats provides office workers in the vicinity, a good option for a healthy meal after work and with the enjoyment of continuous K-pop music.

The restaurant is located in Tanjong Pagar Centre, the newest tallest building in Singapore and is conveniently connected to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

SBCD Korean Tofu House
7 Wallich Street, Tanjong Pagar Centre, #B1-01/02 Singapore 078884
Tel: 6366 6441
Opens daily fom 11.30am to 10pm

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