Jonny Dumpling, You’re a Dumpling To Me

Jonny Dumpling is a sentient dumpling that sells out his unaware brothers and sisters to the maws of humankind. And boy are they delicious! There are three branches of Jonny Dumpling in Itaewon. The first branch often has a line, so I went on an off day to the third branch because I hate lines!

We had two dishes. First we had the #2 – 군만두 – 반달 (Fried Dumplings – Half Moon)

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Heeeeere’s Mandu!

I love these guys. They’re steamed dumplings that are fried on one side. This creates a really nice texture, both soft and crispy. It’s filled with a pork and shrimp stuffing, so if it’s not going to be a good choice if you are vegetarian or kosher.

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Soak up that deliciousness!

The second dish was the #1 – 새우 물만두 (Shrimp steamed dumplings)

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These had the same filling as the Half Moons, but the texture is different. If you like your mandu softer, they’re for you! But also not kosher.

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I’ll have to go back and try some of their other dumplings. Evidently they have some vegetarian options.

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Washed it all down with some Tsingtao.

If you want to visit Jonny Dumpling, you can find it in Itaewon. We went to the third branch at:

Seoul Yongsan-gu
Bogwang-ro 118

It’s on the second floor! Enjoy!

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맛있게 드세요!

Roasted Sparrow – On A Stick

Want a treat from the good ol’ days when kids played outside and killed small animals with stones? Then it sounds like ChamSaeJip is for you!

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These restaurants aren’t particularly common in Korea. In fact, many Koreans seem surprised to find out about these places. But I’ve been told by some older Koreans that grew up in the countryside that they would kill sparrows and toss them into a fire whole to cook and singe off the feathers. Since the Jongno area of Seoul is a haven for older people wishing to reminisce, well, I guess there is a big enough market for sparrows.

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For 10,000 won (about $10) you get two sticks with two roasted sparrows each. Splayed and gutted, but not deboned or beheaded, you can easily eat one sparrow with one bite. They come with gingko seeds, which are quite good.

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So how does it taste? It tastes like chicken. Crunchy chicken! Buy some beer to wash it down and you’ve got yourself a light snack.

If you want to try it for yourself, you can find it across the street from the Doosan We’ve Pavilion. Or you can punch in the address below!

종로구 청진동 43-2

Jongno-gu Cheongjin-dong 43-2

맛있게 드세요!

 

Korean Unification Restaurant – Neungna Babsang

IMG_4665Parallel the sleepless Jongno street is an alley packed with old folks, restaurants filled mostly with said old folk, and the occasional protest graffiti.

IMG_4232Not far from the yellow ribbon, next to a gamjatang house is a fairly unassuming entrance to Neungna Babsang (능라밥상) which I think roughly translates as… silk dining table? A finely laid dining table? Something fancy.

Neungna Babsang (능라밥상)

 

IMG_4670It’s a Korean Unification restaurant. Not quite sure what that means, but they serve some North Korean style food. Some real tasty North Korean food. The dining area feels staged and inauthentic. Don’t let that fool you!

IMG_4676Here are a few of the dishes I’ve tried thus far!

 

Gaeseong Mujjim (개성무찜)

Personality Steamed Radish! 

… I think…

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Oh, wait. So evidently Gaeseong is the name of a North Korean city. So this is a stew made with steamed radish in the style of the Gaeseongites. Those of you who followed the now defunct Sunshine Policy of South Korea, might remember that Gaeseong is the site of a South Korean industrial complex run by South Koreans, operated by North Koreans.

Wether personality or city, this dish is excellent. It’s a little spicy, with a little black pepper, tons of garlic, and a little ginger for a nice kick. Come with a friend or group though, this dish serves a minimum of two.
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Gamja Ogeurang Ddeokguk (감자 오그랑떡국)
Potato Wrinkled-Ricecake Soup

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Ogeuram Ddeokguk is a nice, thick ddeokguk. However, while it has some of the regular ddeokguk ddeok (ricecake), it also has a potato based lumpy/wrinkly ddeok. If you like ddeokguk, try this one out. Oh, right, and this dish is also heavy with garlic and I think a hint of ginger.
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Sogalbi Gukbap (소갈비국밥)
Beef Rib Soup

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Like the other dishes, the sogalbi gukbap here has plenty of good stuff, including the ever present garlic and ginger.

Sul (술)
Booze

Also for sale – booze! North Korean booze to be specific. Booze of various kinds!
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Evidently Dotori Sul is a ‘Well Known Liquor’. I haven’t tried any of these yet myself, but curiosity will eventually get the better of me.

Go North!

If you want to try Neungna Babsang, you can find it here:

Neungna Babsang
Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 197-1
2nd Floor

능라밥상
종로구 낙원동 197-1
2층

Engram – Stumbling Across Jeong Ui-Ji

Everyday, as we walk down the streets and live our lives, we form and reinforce memories of time, place, and things. A familiar scent can recall distant memories of childhood, or a song in a foreign land can make us think of our distant friends and family. Sometimes these memories feel locked deep, just waiting for the right key to unlock them and bring them out. This is where serendipity comes to play.

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As I walked around the Insadong area I stumbled by this statue. What’s this? It’s the kind of attention grabber any gallery would love to have. It’s recognisable, it stands out, its different enough, yet friendly and familiar. For me it stands precariously on the edge of cliché and popularism, yet remembering that the line between cliché and power, between the accessible and a sell-out isn’t so much a fine line as it is a giant, fuzzy blur, I decide to look closer.

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Revival-Moose  Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
240x220x140cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I’m not sure how I feel about this piece. I love the size. I love the brute power. However this particular piece isn’t quite… dynamic in movement. It’s a familiar kind of creature, yet it’s made of familiar objects. For my non-Korean audience, a good portion of this sculpture seems to be made of these nickel-silver pots:

They’re cheap and plentiful. Use them for cooking ramyeon (ramen). Look closer, you can see these pounded and disfigured forms creating the apparent bulk of the beast.

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Playing with the memories of discarded cooking ware and memories of fauna most have probably never seen in person. Interesting. Well, even though I have mixed feelings on this piece, I decided to enter the gallery to see what’s inside.

IMG_3019 An invitational exhibition of Jeong Ui-Ji called Engram.

Engram? That sounds familiar. What does that mean?

en·gram
noun
noun: engram; plural noun: engrams
  1.  hypothetical permanent change in the brain accounting for the existence of memory; a memory trace.

What traces of memory do we find?

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Engram 잊혀진 기억 2 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

The texture rich triptych is composed of abandoned cans crushed together and cut to create a flat surface. The frame is as much a part of this work as the cans contained. Fleeting memories of the thousands of times we thoughtlessly enjoy a drink. How many memories from childhood are crushed and compressed inside our failing, rusting mind?

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A growing trend in contemporary art seems to be that of ‘upcycling’, which is just a fancy rebranding of the word ‘reusing’ – but with a twist. It is to reuse but to create something of greater value than the original. A great way to get more money out of people willing to buy into branding. A reused or recycled object is dirty. An upcycled object, well, that’s special. This is not a new thing of course, but the rebranding of this action is. Forgive me, I love the idea, but I’m exceedingly cynical of the terminology and the shallow opportunistic feel it gives.

There were two more ‘Engrams’ of abandoned cans:

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Engram – 잊혀진 기억 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

Engram – 잊혀진 기억 3 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

These two are almost identical. While the texture is interesting, I can’t say I’m a fan. Overall the texture becomes very flat and similar overall. There is at least a little bit of variety in the triptych, though it suffers from the same problem. Up close though, it becomes a bit more interesting:

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A bit. I feel a little bad for not liking these more. It’s not quite as accessible as his Revival series due to the apparent abstract appearance. I do like the idea of buried or forgotten memories, but concept alone does not carry an idea for me.

While interesting, the real stars of the show are the other members of the Revival series. Meet the Kudu.

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Revival – Greater Kudu Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
200x120x220cm (2014)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

All for the low, low price of 16 million won. Or approximately $16,000.

I find this piece more impressive than the moose guarding the gallery. While not extreme, the posture is more dynamic with the twist of the head and the hind legs in a more natural pose. The ears seem to be scanning their surroundings, not quite focused on anything yet. I love the texture of the pot lids as they go down the spine and tail of the creature.

And to finish off this gallery exhibit are a pair of iguanas:

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Revival – Iguana Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
15x75x75cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

 

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Revival – Iguana 2 Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
113x50x15cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I think I like these guys. The texture and rhythm of the nickel-silver pounded and moulded together in the familiar iguana shapes is entrancing. Or was that enchanting? If you get to the gallery before the exhibit gets pulled down (March 4th, 2014!) they include a nice little video showing how the artist created the work.

Or you could visit his blog over on Naver:

http://blog.naver.com/loveart21c

He has some very nice work up there. I particularly love the pangolins, which, after seeing them on the video and his blog, I wish had been at the exhibit. But we can’t have everything in life, now can we?

If you want to drop by before the show is taken down, check out:

Gallery Soo (갤러리수)
서울시 종로구 인사동5길 21

You can find it easily from the Insadong McDonalds. They usually have good shows there, so check ’em out after the date too!

Saturday, August 24th

The summer heat is slowly dying and Saturday explorations are becoming viable again.  Jihye and I have plans for the evening, but lunch is a good start. So after a morning of selling myself for fun and profit, we venture out on a beautiful Saturday to find food. After some discussion we decide to waltz over to…

SALT

Cafe Gallery
https://www.facebook.com/CafeSalt7

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Salt is a lovely little café restaurant that serves a mean bibimbap. It’s a lovely little space tucked away in Jongno with a gallery and fresh food. A full review will probably appear eventually, but no promises.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they are not serving food when we arrive there.

Nooooooooo!

I hope you noticed I added a caption to an already captioned animated gif. Anyway, it’s possible they don’t serve food on Saturdays, which is unfortunate because that is when we visited.

I’ll still recommend the place and I’ll probably do a proper review of the place eventually. You can find it here:

Salt Cafe Gallery
Jongno-gu Jongno 16 gil 32-4 Dongsan Building
종로구 종로16길 32-4 동산빌딩

But we are still without food, so we decide to venture to Samcheong-dong. For my dear readers not in the Seoul area, Samcheong-dong is a fairly upscale district, with most buildings no more than two or three stories tall. It is a wonderfully up-kept place with both modern and traditional architecture, along with a more interesting variety of food than your average Seoul district. The day is getting hotter and to get to Samcheong-dong, we must walk through…

Insa-dong

Insa-dong is a happy mixture of art and touristy merchants. And occasionally they have live performances. Today we happened across one of those performances.

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Not a performance so much as posing…

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The temperature in the sun is uncomfortable, but these guys are able to just stand here! They’re demonstrating how  throws look in a live freeze-frame. I’m actually not sure which martial art they’re replicating, but it was pretty cool to see.

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They’re all wearing the famous Yangban mask from one of the traditional mask dances that have thus far eluded me. Interestingly enough, I find they evoke both old culture, but also anonymity and rebellion, much like the Guy Fawkes mask. If you want to see a good usage of the latter, I highly recommend checking out Yangbantal – a group that visits old abandoned or dangerous areas wearing these masks. Fun!

After the performers pack up, we continue north to Samcheong-dong. We wander around until we decide on…

Hit the Spot

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Hit the Spot is visually fun and cozy. The food is also quite fun! We shared the Mushroom Salad…

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and the Shrimp Pane Pasta!

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Gotta love bread bowls to sop up the delicious, delicious cream sauce. We’ll be coming back here to try their other dishes, but these definitely hit the spot!

Hit the Spot is across the street from the new Museum of Modern Art being constructed. I’m über excited about that!

If’n you want to find the place, you can find it here:

Hit the Spot

서울특별시 종로구 소격동 87

After a satiating dinner, we decide to hit the cafe next door and read. Just spending time together until it’s time to head to Jamsil to see…

Penguins!

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Penguins Penguins Penguins!

Penguins!

Oh, right, I guess we have something else on our agenda. What was it again? Oh, right!

Avenue Q!

At the Charlotte Theater, Jamsil. No Penguins though.

For those of you who don’t know, Avenue Q is basically… Sesame Street for adults. And adult topics. It’s the origin of the following song:

Oh, and probably NSFW.

Of course the theatre was properly decked out, including the urinals in the men’s bathroom.

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This is a fun one. Some Koreans have a… hard time coming close enough to the urinals, so this one plays on their potential shame… roughly translated it says “If you don’t come closer, I will tell everyone what you saw tonight.”

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And of course Trekkie Monster is a perv so… “I like seeing your ‘thing’ more than porn!”

Thanks Trekkie Monster. You saved the day.

The Korean version has been modified slightly, so many references were switched to famous Korean figures. For instance, ‘George Bush’ in the song For Now was switched to ‘Kim Jeong Un’. Speaking of For Now…

The closing number, For Now,  is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes 3 – to everything a season, and, at least for me, evokes the same existential sadness.

Anyway, we enjoyed the show. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we’re going to see it again in two weeks time! But for now I’m finished writing. But only for now.

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Penguin Small Penguin Penguin Coffee! Penguin Small Penguin!

Sunday Afternoon in the Cafe SandPark

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And no, it has nothing to do with Van Halen.

Or Seurat’s masterpiece, which you can see if you’re in Chicago. Which I’m not.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Though admittedly, both are cool and worth checking out. No, for Jihye’s b-day we had a light lunch and coffee at a little cafe called Cafe SandPark in Hongdae. They didn’t have much sand, so I’m assuming they’re referring to their wonderful sandwiches.

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An ‘Egg Sandwich’

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So while I rethink my approach, here’s a picture of me enjoying some iced coffee.

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One of the things I like about these independent coffee places is that they have actual drip coffee, which, in Seoul is something that is a bit harder to find outside of Starbucks. Most other mainstream coffee joints tend to stick to Espresso based drinks, which oddly enough means the independent coffee shops have a nice niche to fill.

As far as the joint goes, it’s quite cozy. Though from the outside while it’s a bit cute, it’s also  a little brutalist for my tastes.

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Though Ryan Style hair salon is opening soon! Which… means nothing to me. Reference my hair style:

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But back on topic, the sandwiches were delightful, and though they’re fairly standard Korean style, they are made exceedingly fresh and our Egg Sandwich basically tasted like devilled eggs. WHICH I ADORE. Oh, and if you feel like it, you can get them on a bagel. Jihye doesn’t care for bagels, so we skipped that. As such I cannot testify to the quality of their bagels, but the rest of the ingredients were wonderful.

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And I guess the sandwich came with a little jar of yogurt? Likewise the staff was friendly and kind, always a good sign!

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It’s just a friendly atmosphere, and if you’re going to the Hongdae area anyway, might as well give it a look.

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Cafe SandPark has a nice little website, most of which is in Korean:
http://www.sandpark.co.kr/

I found this place through a fellow blogger, Memoirs in Seoul, on Tumbler:
http://memoirsinseoul.com/post/54050760555/must-go-places-food-cafe-sandpark

If you’d like to actually visit the place, you can punch the following address into your preferred map app:

서울특별시 마포구 동교동 176-13번지

Or in today’s language of the Franks:

Seoul, Mapo-gu, Donggyo-dong 176-13

It’s also literally just across the street from a brand new exit 5 of Hongik University station (on the green line, line 5).

(Quick hint, Google maps is, as of this writing, actually a bit out of date. I’d recommend Naver Maps for a more accurate street layout.)

Fried Food – Yoyomi style!

Want the guilt of eating fried street food with the convenience of an actual restaurant? As an added bonus lets say this mystical dream eatery only used fresh ingredients and doesn’t reuse their cooking oil the next day. Well, if you’re willing to make it out to Eunpyeong-gu (은평구) in the north-west part of Seoul, then one such place does exist! But make sure you get there early enough! Once they’ve used up their veggies for the day they won’t be prepping any more. Welcome to Yoyomi!

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The staff are all pretty cool. Just waving and laughing at the fact we got there too late.

Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened the first time our intrepid gang tried for this joint. Evidently by five in the afternoon they’re usually cleaning up shop, so we had to settle for the samgyeopsal restaurant across the alley.

Undaunted, we decided to return, and we’re glad we did!

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Of course if you can’t read Korean…

Yoyomi opens around noon, and technically close around 10pm, but they’ll close shop once they’re sold out for the day, so no promises. On the plus side, there is a wide variety of fried food here, but if you get the Modum Set (pronounced Mo’ Doom), literally the everything set, or more doom if you’re eating alone, you’ll get the works. That’s what we got, plus some beer!

Modum Set with Deokbokki and Beer!

Modum Set with Deokbokki and Beer!

The Modum set includes 4 fried shrimp, 2 fried kim rolls, 2 fried cuttlefish, 2 fried sweet potato slices, 2 fried chopped veggies, and 4 fried potatoes (read wedge fries). The deokbokki is soupy and not spectacular, but it does the job. It’s quite delicious to dip your fried foods in the spicy soup. Wash it down with some cold draft beer and it’s perfect.

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The fried kim roll (kimmari – 김말이) was quite artistic!

Some of the items were both fun to eat AND look at. Though, not in that order. Above is the kimmari or fried kim roll. It’s actually glass noodles rolled up in dried seaweed, with the noodles all dangling out one end when they dipped and fried the sucker! It was one of my favorites.

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Fried Shrimp – eat the whole thing!

The shrimp is fried whole. I love seeing the little shrimp legs all splayed out. It reminds me of ancient art depicting the legendary three legged bird.

samjoko

See the similarity?

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Noodles? Nope! Cuttlefish legs!

Cuttlefish legs, though I usually just call ’em squid, is by far my favorite fried food on the mean Korean streets. But I’ve never seen them fried together like this! Again, the artistic merit matches the taste of this fried cephalopod.

Come by Yoyomi with some friends and share/fight over which pieces you’ll eat. You won’t regret it. Unless, of course, you get there too late.

To get there, you can take line 6 to Yeokchon Station and head south from exit 4. If line 3 is more convenient, you could also go to Nokbeon Station and head west from that exit 4. How convenient…

Yoyomi-map

Taken from Google Maps

The address so you can plug it into your own Google or Naver map? Here you go!

Yoyomi
Seoul, Eunpyeong-gu, Eungam-dong 87-36

요요미 김튀석즉
서울시 은평구 응암동 87-36

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Nyam nyam nyam

You can visit them at http://blog.naver.com/yoyomi_fry though it is all in Korean. Have fun!