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Thursday, 31 May 2007

Dining at Jackie's Kitchen in Seoul with Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan is the king of comedic action movies. I watched his movies growing up as a kid, in particular the original Police Story. I remember watching it when I was younger and being unable to control my laughter when Jackie turned to using pencils to eat a bowl of noodles. That memory has stuck inside my head and it led me to experience dining at Jackie's restaurant chain, Jackie's Kitchen.

The sixth location in Seoul just recently had a "grand open", conveniently right by us in Mokdong located in the CBS Building, along with ColdStone and VIPS. I have heard mixed reviews about the food quality and prices at Jackie's Kitchen in Seoul. So of course, we ventured out on the weekend and had to try it out for ourselves. Since I had just returned from a quick "food vacation" in Hong Kong, my palate definitely had high expectations for dim sum! Let's take a look at our experience at Jackie's Kitchen in Seoul.

We entered the restaurant through the CBS Building after making a quick stop to an ATM. They like to call grand openings "grand open" here:

The restaurant's interior was nicely decorated and very clean. Hey, you gotta impress people when you have your "grand open" ya know (FYI, I did not wash my cup and bowl)

Jackie's Kitchen has dim sum, where you can order individual dishes along with their regular menu. After checking out the prices on their regular menu, we opted to try out a few dim sum dishes instead. Jackie's Kitchen is expensive here!

Here is sampling of their dinner course sets...the prices you see are per person...

We ordered five dishes, ranging from har gow to shui mai to egg rolls. Gee, don't these pictures remind you of my trip to Hong Kong? It's like deja vu all over again!

They also have "live seafood"...which is super duper expensive. I only spotted three or four lobsters in the tank. Regardless of the price, the middle and upper class residents of Mokdong have lots of money to spend!

Let's see...what's the verdict on Jackie's Kitchen? Well, for starters the dim sum did not taste very fresh. The pieces of dim sum would fall apart the moment we picked them up with our chopsticks, an indication that they were previously frozen. I guess that's the only way Jackie's Kitchen can supply mass quantities of dim sum to all its worldwide locations and get some sort of consistency going on. I am not a big fan of frozen dim sum...it's like eating a previously frozen hamburger that has been steamed back to life--it's not going to be tasty.

Want to try something fun? Ask your waiter/waitress "Where's Jackie?" and wait the confused look on their faces--it's priceless! I asked our waiter and his response was "who?"...I was like "Jackie Chan"...he had a small chuckle, the "I'm going to get the chef to add special sauce to your meal" chuckle. Whoops!

If you're interested in visiting a Jackie's Kitchen near you, you can visit this location in Mokdong. Take exit 2 from Omokgyo station. I also know of two other locations in COEX. You can check their website for more info. Have you had a "Jackie's Kitchen" experience before? How was it? What's your favorite Jackie Chan movie?

The Hyundai Tuscany in Korea

When the Hyundai Tiburon sports coupe debuted in late 1996, it caught the attention of others around the world including myself. Although the design was sleek at the time, I never considered owning one (I was a die hard Honda fan--I have previously driven a '94 Acura Integra RS, '95 Acura Integra GS-R, and '98 Acura 1.6EL). It was the "it's still a Hyundai" mentality that some import car enthusiasts had. However, times have changed and Hyundai is now one of the leading car manufactures in the world.

For those who are not already aware, the Hyundai Tiburon goes by the name of the Hyundai Tuscany here in South Korea, and the Hyunda Coupe in other worldwide markets. What does a Hyundai Tuscany look like? It looks the same as the Tiburon in North America. Here are a couple pictures of the Tuscany, if you are not already aware of what one looks like:

The 2007 Tiburon:

Were you ever into the import car scene (or currently still an avid fan)? What kind of car do you drive? It is...a Hyundai?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Why Google Korea Will Fail in South Korea

What is one way to find out news fast? Check out the stories on the social news site, Digg. I just noticed one that caught my eye. It was a story about Google Korea's new 'animated' start page, which looks much better than the regular Google.com homepage. When you rollover the icons along the bottom, little animations appear revealing the Google's other innovative free services, such as Gmail (2.8GB of online storage and the BEST spam filter available), Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Notebook, Google Toolbar, Google Desktop Search, and Picasa (a simple to use photo organizing software).

This is probably part of Google's plan to get a bigger chunk of the Korean internet search market, as it is currently dominated by the domestic search giant, Naver, which since its inception in 1999, has remained very popular. Naver also has its own email, blog, and desktop search just to name a few services. Another popular search engine portal is Daum, which has risen in popularity since it merged with Hanmail.net, one of the most popular email services.

Although I am a big fan of Google's products and services (Gmail rocks my socks), I believe Google will fail to dominate the South Korean online search market. Why you ask? Things work differently here, as Koreans have an immense amount of pride towards their homegrown products and services, as opposed to foreign companies. Prime examples of these failures? Think Walmart (now E-Mart), French retail giant Carrefour (now owned by E.Land Corp), and recent B&Q's failure to penetrate the Korean retail markets. These large multinationals have suffered greatly and have been forced to sell off their remaining stores in the country to local Korean companies (B&Q is still up in the air). Even automobile manufactures have a tough time in the Korean market. The majority of the cars you see here are either badged Hyundai, Kia, or Samsung.

Considering that South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, the people here definitely are web-saavy. If their preference of internet portals is along the lines of their retail choices, then Google might have a higher mountain to climb than expected. Google Korea might take a large number of users away from Naver and Daum (although Google is now working with Daum), but it will never be viewed as the number one search engine in Korea--the people here won't let it happen.

Here is a screenshot of the new Google Korea homepage; notice the icons along the bottom:

Compare this to the "busier" web portals Naver:

...and Daum. Can you spot the odd one out?

What do you think? Will Google be able to penetrate this tough market?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Winner of Stephen Fung's Blog Contest: Me!

One of the joys of blogging is discovering blogs written by others within the online community. It's interesting to read up about what other people are up to in their lives. One of the blogs that I visit regularly is Stephen Fung DOT NET, who lives in Vancouver, BC. He is a Dot Com Mogul in the making that enjoys giving to charity--his blog is definitely an interesting read.

With his recent USB contest giveaway, participants were required to post a comment as to why they should win the USB drive. Stephen was generous enough to donate one dollar per entry (up to $100) for every person who entered the contest. Even though only 12 people entered, he topped up the amount to $25. Requirements for comment posts had to be somewhat humorous to crack him up. Here is what I wrote that won the contest for me:

Here are the TOP 3 reasons why you should give this USB flash drive to Gdog:

1. I get to see inebriated Koreans puke all over the sidewalks and subway stations…it’s so darn cool because their puke is orange color–due to the consumption of kimchi I’m assuming.

2. If I win this, I’ll dedicate a post to you and give you lots of link love…people always click on my links!

3. I was worried about your blog when it got hacked and posted a comment about it on John’s blog. I don’t know if he called you because of my comment, or if he found out himself. Nevertheless, I tried to draw attention to your blog being down.

BONUS REASON: I could really use that usb flash drive to transfer files to and from work. :)

That’s it…thanks for the contest. ;)

What reason did you like the most, Stephen? Once again, thanks for putting on the great contest! I think The Daily Kimchi will have to create a contest giveaway soon too. Hmm...what should be the prize?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Maple Story: Another Video Game in South Korea

Remember the recent announcement about the upcoming release of Starcraft 2 in South Korea? Anyways, that game got my students (and some Korean staff) super excited. This is nothing new, but if you're not aware already, South Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world. People here play Sudden Attack 24/7 in PC Bangs, also known as computer gaming cafes. I really need to visit one before I depart from South Korea.

A major "massively multi-player online role-playing games" (or MMORPGs) that is hugely popular here amongst elementary kids is the Korean developed Maple Story. This online multiplayer game basically is an adventure game where you can spend real money to buy enhancements. It's huge here--almost all my younger students like to play Maple Story when they have free time (which is next to none). Maple Story is coming out for the Nintendo DS which also has people excited.

The purpose of this post is to let you in on something...which I like to call "Korean pogs". It's a Maple Story sponsored toy for kids. Do you boys and girls remember pogs? Did you ever waste your Saturday afternoons throwing down "slammers" to win useless round pieces of cardboard cut outs with pictures on them? I admit, I played them during my late elementary school days and my early high school years.

Anyways, my younger students are addicted to these "Korean pogs" called "dak-ji" in Korean. The premise is the same as "pogs" but there are no slammers involved, just the cardboard disc itself. If you can flip over your opponent's "dak-ji" then it's yours to keep. Some students gave me some to play with them, and being the juvenile that I still am, I jumped right in. Some of these kids are pros at this...they have perfected their technique and have put me to shame, day in and day out. However, I vow to get my revenge. Don't get mad, get even!

Here's a picture of what "dak-jis" look like. They come in a multitude of sizes:

A little closer of the main "dak-jis" that my students play with; the higher the level the more valuable it is worth:

Here's a Maple Story desktop wallpaper:

Do you play Maple Story, or know someone who does? Did you ever play pogs?

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Jogyesa Temple: Lotus Lantern Festival in Korea

May 24th was Buddha's birthday, and in celebration it was a holiday in Seoul (which meant a day off for us from work). The Lotus Lantern Festival is an annual event leading up to Buddha's birthday. There was a large parade (that I missed!! You can check out "Lanternpolooza" pictures here and here) from Jongno street from Dongdaemun Stadium to Jogyesa Temple that was held on May 20th. I was a bit disappointed, but what I really hoped to see was the 1000's of lanterns at Jogyesa temple. I went on Saturday afternoon/evening and I was in luck as the lanterns were still up.

I've seen pictures of the lanterns in books on Korea and I was glad that I visited the temple to see them for myself. It really is breathtaking since there are so many handmade lanterns hanging in the air:

As for the temple itself, located inside are three Buddha statues. The temple area was calm and peaceful...so peaceful that I took a nap in the bushes nearby--NOT! (A Borat inspired "NOT!"; It would have been funnier six months ago--or NOT).

Here was a cute Buddha statue outside of the temple. The cool part about this statue? There's a yogurt drink resting on his robe--awesome! I was feeling thirsty and was tempted to drink it.

The lanterns were spectacular in the day, but at night is when the lanterns look their best. After a dinner consisting of samgyeopsal in Jongno, I went back to the temple! Here's part of the main entrance:

Here's that same tree located in the middle, but this time around the picture looks much different:

A picture is worth a thousand words. What's a video worth? 1001?

Remember the cute Buddha statue with the yogurt drink? Well, the drink was still there when I returned but there was more--this time around the statue's left hand was full of money too!

Here are a few of the other pictures for you to enjoy:

I wasn't the only out at night snapping pictures...these lanterns attract photography enthusiasts like no tomorrow:

The lanterns surrounding the "yogurt drink" Buddha statue had lanterns with these cute animated Buddhas on them:

Some lanterns were white...my friend told me they represented people who were deceased.
Can someone elaborate on this? :

These look like they belong on a Christmas tree:

Jogyesa Temple is located at Anguk Station (Line 3). The temple itself is about a five minute walk away. Instead of turning left to head down Insadong, keep on going straight and cross the street. Turn left and keep walking and you'll find the temple on your right. More information about the Lotus Lantern Festival can be found on their official website and Tour2Korea. I would highly recommend checking out the lanterns if you're looking for something to do. Wow, a post not dedicated to some sort of meal I had. That will change soon!

For readers outside of South Korea, how did you celebrate Buddha's birthday? Yogurt drinks?

The Last Food Diary Entry from Hong Kong

This is it...the finale, the last hurrah, the finito, whatever you want to call it--the last entry of my "food vacation" to Hong Kong. In the beginning I had a goal of reporting to you every single morsel of food that entered my body. I believe we have been successful, minus some chewing gum, miscellaneous candy, grapes I had at my cousin's house, and a few sips of Coke Zero. Other than that, this should be it (oh wait, I had an ice cream cone at the airport before I returned to Seoul). Here's the list in order:

- my first "afternoon tea" snack in Hong Kong,
- then roast goose dinner,
- dessert at Hui Lau Shan,
- a pre-dim sum snack,
- dim sum for breakfast,
- Hui Lau Shan part deux,
- cow stomach noodles as an afternoon snack,
- dinner in Tsim Sha Tsui,
- dim sum dish washing rituals,
- and finally mangosteens and pork buns.

If you want to view all my Hong Kong entries on one page, you can view them here.

For this last entry, I had dinner with my aunt and a couple of my mom's friends. After hearing that I was in town they insisted on taking me out to dinner. We graciously accepted their invitation (who in their right mind would turn down a dinner invitation in Hong Kong??!) and ate in Tai Kwok Tsui, near my aunt's place. This would make it easier since I would be taking the bus to the airport afterwards to catch a red-eye flight back to Seoul.

What was on the menu? Well, we had a very nice meal that consisted of soup, fish, vegetables, and some other dishes. I didn't go trigger happy with the camera because it would have been a bit impolite I thought, but they encouraged me to take pictures. I had to really dig deep down inside and tell myself that I should enjoy this final dinner in Hong Kong and laid off the camera--for a little while at least. ;-)

Our first dish was a crispy skin chicken and damn was it good. I absolutely love free range chicken in Hong Kong, it just tastes so much better:

Here is our soup, served right out of the winter melon. The preparation of having soup served right out of the melon really brought out the flavors:

One giant fish (rock cod-like) steamed just right, and full of flavor. It's been a while since I've had steamed fish prepared like this. Does anyone out there also like eating that one piece of meat from the fish's cheek (the best piece)?

...and here is the rest of the table, with a dish of greens and a scallop stir fry near the back. All in all I had a fantastic pre-flight dinner back to Seoul. I definitely was a happy camper I would say.

Now for all you veterans that have traveled to the Hong Kong airport extensively, you probably would know that there is a Hui Lau Shan there. Anyways, I was planning to have my last dessert drink while waiting for my flight at the airport. However, I had a sudden brain fart and opted to go through security thinking HLS was on the secure side! DOH! I was pretty mad at myself since I had this wonderful plan all laid out, too bad it was poorly executed. Live and learn they say...next time...make no mistake about it, I'm having HLS at the Hong Kong airport!

After arriving in Seoul, I had the pleasure of riding on the recently completed AREX railway from Incheon to Gimpo Airport (pics and videos to come). Be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed if you haven't already so you won't miss any of my updates!

Friday, 25 May 2007

The Easiest Way to Move in Seoul

Moving to a new place can be a pain in the butt. You have to organize and pack all your junk to prepare it for moving. I always find it interesting when I'm packing things up to move because I always find something interesting that I never knew I had. If that's the case, then whatever I found should have been thrown into the trash. Ahh, the joys of being a rat pack. It's a tough habit to break I tell ya.

When we moved to from our original officetel to our bigger officetel, it was quite easy because we only had to drag our stuff up six floors (using a Homever shopping cart is more handy than you think). What happens when you want to get serious about moving furniture and other miscellaneous goods? Well, if you live in an apartment, this is one of the easiest way to move, as spotted on the way to work one day. Using a massive lift that goes up thirteen stories or so...awesome. I'd hate for my grand piano to fall down from up there though:

Have you experienced moving with one of these things before?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

My Cafe de Coral Experience in Hong Kong

Today we had a day off from work because it's BUDDHA'S BIRTHDAY! To celebrate I am going to tell you more about the food I ate in Hong Kong (oh boy!)...excited yet?

This will be last of my afternoon tea "snack" posts about my recent trip to Hong Kong. Anyways, the purpose of trip was for a job interview. Who knows where we will end up once our contract is finished in Korea. Anyways, after the interview I met my aunt at Cafe de Coral, a large Hong Kong cafe chain. I'll talk a little more about them later. So...after an interview, one's brain gets a little fried. I wasn't hungry but I ate anyways (who am I kidding, I'm ALWAYS hungry). What did I eat?

Prior to making a decision on what to eat, I was informed that my mom's friend was going to take us out to dinner later in the day. So I had to order accordingly to leave room for dinner. I ordered a pork chop sandwich on a Portuguese bun and an iced "yeen yeung", or a coffee/tea mix. This sandwich was good, but the BEST pork chop sandwiches are in Macau. The last time I was there I ate these everyday!

My thirst-quenching "yeen yeung"...these drinks are always good, I've never had a bad one:

We ate at Cafe de Coral, which is currently part of a promotion offered by the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong. If you complete your morning trip before 8:30am five days a week, you can get a free breakfast from Cafe de Coral. Now that's a pretty neat idea to get commuters to get an early start on their trips to avoid the rush hour, don't you agree? Here's the poster that you'll see plastered all over the subway stations (I forgot to snap a picture, this the only one I could find):

Here's the other half of the picture...just to get a real sense of the "8" formed by steamed buns:

Of course, after returning back to my aunt's pad the eating didn't stop there. We bought some fresh mangosteens earlier and now it was time to eat them too!

This was my first time eating fresh mangosteens, and boy do they ever taste better than previously frozen ones! Eating mangosteens is supposed to cause a "cooling" effect to counteract the "heating" effect from eating durian. It's all part of eating a well balanced diet. In Cantonese, I would always get the "yeet hay" lecture from my parents if I was eating too many greasy, or "hot" foods. Ask a Chinese friend and get them to explain it to you!

Watch out when you are opening these things because the juice from the outer shell is like red dye...and can stain your clothes:

The next post will be about my final dinner in Hong Kong. Stay tuned. Since we're on a fruit theme, does anyone else out there love mangosteens?

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Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The Fresh Waffles and Cream Lady in Hongdae

Some people follow the mantra that hard work pays off (well, it does most of the time). I believe in this too most of the time and so does the following waffle lady in Hongdae. If you haven't spotted her little waffle shack yet, you should. It's one of the most popular snack stalls in Hongdae and it's located up the hill on the same side as the Giordano store.

What's the secret to her success? Well, for starters she sells fresh made waffles with your choice of cream or ice cream as a filling--for only 600w. Usually, most food stalls charge 1000w+ for something similar (like in Myeongdong). So her money making plan is to sell waffles by volume by working super fast. It's quite amazing watching her pour the waffle batter into her three waffle presses, taking the cooked waffles out to cool, making the waffles, and at the same time accepting cash and giving change.

Let's say she is able to sell two to three waffles a minute, with no washroom break and working as fast as she can. How much money could she potentially make? Here's my shady math at work:

3 waffles @ 600w each = 1800w in one minute
1800w x 60 minutes = 108,000w/hour (about $108US)!!

Let's say it's a busy night and she works non-stop for three hours...that equates to 324,000w! Not bad for barely a half day's work. Obviously there are other factors that come into play, but this little scenario is just for fun. Maybe I should be making waffles instead of teaching...hmmm...

Here's the tiny shack she operates out of...notice the three waffle makers:

Some colorful posters are adorned on the walls, enticing you to choose the ice cream filling instead of cream:

I decided to go for the ice cream filling...I shared half with a friend. For 600w it was pretty tasty, but I don't know if I'll be eating these every week:

Our Korean friend told us she is always smoking busy and we were lucky to catch her when the line was small. After we got our waffles the line had ballooned:

...even acid rain doesn't stop these 600w-waffle-loving-university-students:

Last, but not least here's the video of her in action. Keep an eye on her meticulously calculated movements to maximize her waffle making consistency:

Are there any other waffle places in Seoul I should be eating at too?

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