Saturday, August 25, 2018

[Seoul] Korean BBQ @ Maple Tree House Itaewon

We were always on the lookout for great tasting grilled meats and decided to go for the crowd favourite at Maple Tree House Itaewon. This area is pretty well known for its its cosmopolitan dining and nightlife, and is practically littered with many restaurants including Korean BBQ. Many foreigners like to hangout at this area too.

Arrived at that area at about 8pm and there was a queue already. Left our name and the service staff informed us to come back in another half hour's time to check if there's any available table.

let's dine here

Was basically just walking up and down that area to kill time. There was a huge Chinese restaurant, international restaurants serving German, French fares and plenty of watering holes.

soju bottles as wall decor

Finally got a table at about 840pm and we were pretty excited! The restaurant serves mid to premium range meats, and its diners were mostly working adults and tourists.

our corner
for larger groups

Our main target for the night was Korean beef, 한우 (Hanwoo). When else can we eat Hanwoo if not when we were in Seoul, right? But we were also mindful of budget so we ordered sparingly. Almost.

USDA Prime Ribeye (150g)
Premium Korean Aged Beef Striploin (150g)
charcoal fire is a must
wait for it
almost there
grab a bite of mouthwatering succulent piece
The beef was tender yet retained its beefy-ness. Not overly marbled but satisfying enough. I think we ordered another round of the striploin for the finale.

For drinks, we had Korean raspberry wine. Like a dessert wine. Offered a glass to the Caucasian family at the next table to try.


Also ordered some pork to grill. Fresh meat that was not frozen makes all the difference, you know.

front: Jeju Korean Black Pork Belly (150g) Back: Jeju Korean Black Pork Collar (150g)
let it grill~ let it grill~

The pork jowl was so amazingly white and promises of an amazing experience. Indeed, it had a fantastic mouthfeel and 'crunchy' firm when the meat was chewed. Juicy as promised.

Pork Jowl (150g)
pork jowl
The grilled meat came with leafy vegetables for the wrap, salad and some side dishes like kimchi and tofu.

pickled perilla leaf

We enjoyed the meats and left the place happy. Spent about $50 to $60 per pax. To end the meal, we were served cold omija tea. It's also known as five-flavours tea which consist of sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and pungency/tartness.

omija 오미자차

Maple Tree House

Address: 26 Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Contact: +82 2-790-7977
Business Hours:
Daily 1130am to 1030pm (till 12am on Fri and Sat)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

[Seoul] Namdaemun Market 남대문시장 Sights and Eats

Stayed at Park Hill Hotel and this was really really close to Namdaemun Market. Just about 6 minutes walk away. This was a budget hotel and located on a slope. Wasted about an hour just trying to locate this place. Take Exit 7 of Namdaemun Station and look out for this landmark: Starbucks, Ediya Coffee and 7-Eleven. If you see these 3 together in a row, then head towards this and turn round the corner to find the hotel.

station exit 
Park Hill Hotel
hotel room

Let's take a walk round Namdaemun Market, shall we?

food shop
too early, at about 8+am
King Dumpling shop
making dumplings
coffee shop
There is Noodle Alley, if you fancy noodles. But, it didn't look that appetizing. So went off to look for other food to eat.

noodles shop
The street food carts would be opened by about 930am.

will buy from this ahjusshi later
grilled goguma and octopus leg

For breakfast, I prefer to eat at the shops. They do open as early as 8am on Sunday too. Full meal for breakfast? Keke, why not! Randomly wandered into this shop that seemed friendly. It is called Myeongsin. 


kimchi self-serve
Ordered the galbitang for breakfast. It came with a bowl of rice, seaweed sheets, pickled radish, pickled octopus and blanced vege. Kimchi is always placed at each table, so help yourself.

galbitang 갈비탕
I loved it when the ₩8000 was well spent. Look at the breakfast feast! The soup was light but tasty. There wasn't alot of meat but it was adequate for breakfast. The seaweed works wonders with the rice. Kimchi was good but the best side dish was the octopus. So so tasty!

marinated octopus

For lunch, I really wanted to try the spicy braised hairtail stew at the Galchi Jorim Alley in Namdaemun Market. Although I did some research prior to embarking on this mission, the popular shops had a lot of hungry people awaiting for their meal. Hence, I went to the one beside it that seemed less busy and managed to try some.

It was already late afternoon and way past lunch hour. Galchi Jorim Alley is simply a stretch where one could find many shops selling galchi jorim (hairtail stew).

deep in the fish alley

Must confess that I did feel intimidated going into shops with many people when I am dining solo. I think the shop that I went into was Uri Sikdang. Funny thing was, I realized I actually did not know how to order the dish that I wanted. Galchi jorim, right? Sounds easy peasy but I forgot the name when I sat down in the shop and there were a couple of fish stew on the menu. Hahahaha! Too hungry, me thinks.

shop interior
Fortunately, they would've guessed that wanderers to this alley were looking for that one particular dish. So the shopkeeper decided to just bring me lunch. There was a whole bunch of stuffs that came along with the fish stew. A plate of kimchi vegetable (that's ok because everyone knows it was part of the banchan), a box of seaweed (not sure if this box is shared with other tables or all for me? But I ate quite a lot!). Another plate of side dishes but wrapped in cling wrap. Was I suppose to eat this or would I be charged extra if I take this? Not sure too!

I was surprised when the staff brought out a tofu stew. Was about to say that I didn't order this, but she said it was "service". Ahhh...that I understood. "Service" means complimentary. Great!

치조림 galchi jorim ₩8000

Discovered that the hairtail fish contained plenty of large pointy bones so one needed to eat it very carefully. The flesh itself was rather mushy. Though the stew looked fiery red, the spiciness kind of grows on you as you eat. It sort of became tastier the more you ate it. 

hairtail stew

But the most impressive dish was the tofu stew. It was just wow. The broth and spices are different from the fish. Do try it when you are in Namdaemun Market. Must try.

In Seoul, most people seemed to like to drink Americano. I wonder why. Do you know the reason? Anyway, I tried Ediya Coffee as there was one near the hotel. The place was smallish and the service staff polite. Main reason I snucked in? For the airconditioning. This was after I went round and round trying to locate my hotel.


Coffee was not too acidic but should have asked for double-shots. In general, when in Seoul, always do double-shots unless you really dig weaker tasting coffee. My favourite drink when in Korea? No...not soju nor makgeolli although I do like those as well....Guess again. Why, it is flavoured milk by Bingrae. Can they please please come up with a less sweet version too, so that I can drink more of those! Actually, they do have a Light version. Keke.

strawberry milk

At night, I went out to get those street food skewers for a light dinner. Of course, again to nearby Namdaemun. I'd always wanted to try the foldered skewered fishcake (eomok) that those people in Korean dramas always stand by the cart and eat. So I got myself the fishcake skewers and chicken skewer. Street food is not exactly cheap as those already cost me almost a full-meal price.

the earlier stall with the orange tshirt ahjusshi
eomok 어묵 ₩4000

Fishcake oden was plump but abit too hot to eat quickly. And I didn't want to bring it around the market. So was just sitting down next to the ahjusshi and there was no other customers so it was just basically him watching me eat. So awkward, haaha!

Then, I requested for a cup of the oden soup. Again, this was influenced by the too many dramas that I watched. Actually, to let you on a secret. The soup was rather bland! The oden soup in Taiwan were much tastier.

닭꼬치 chicken skewer ₩3000

I think they must've used chicken thigh for the chicken skewer, otherwise how else to explain the tenderness and juicyness of it? Yummy. And, if they asked whether you'd like it spicy, I'd always say less spicy or not spicy unless I have a death wish...

street food
Got some mandu from the stall next to this, but the taste was rather weird. The dumpling skin was too thick, the meat inside wasn't good and all masked with too much vinegar. Nope, this was a wrong choice1

skin too thick, and too much vinegar

Finally, after the sightseeing and adventures in Busan, the group congregated back again in Namdaemun for breakfast on another day. I brought them to a random stall again. Glad that they have display sets in front for us to decide what to eat before we went in.

menu pasted on the mirror

Can you guess what I had? Hahaha, galbitang again. Just to compare. The version here is less beefy with a lighter soup stock. More peppery. Maybe it was because of all the spring onions in there. I think the secret ingredient ought to be seaweed. This shop doesn't offer seaweed to its diners.

galbitang again!
gnaw on the bones

Let's see what the rest ate.
tofu stew

I tasted the tofu stew that Ivan was having and concluded that the one from Galchi Jorim alley was still the best.

One thing to note is that the porridge sold in these shops are rather expensive. Cheapest seemed to be ₩5000 per bowl.

Otherwise, expect to spend about ₩8000 for a single-pax meal. Coffee at places like Ediya is about ₩3500 to ₩4500. Or, banana milk from 7-Eleven and there was a promo of buying 3 for the price of 2.
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