Monday, 20 August 2012

Tennis, Tofu and Soju....In That Order!

And while the tennis matches at the London Olympics were being played, I suddenly had the urge to also play some matches, not just to win a gold, silver or bronze medal, but also to re-visit Sogang University and Sinchon!

A couple of weekends back, I paid a visit to Sogang University with my friend, Andrew, who graduated from Sogang-dae. And I thought, since it's the Olympics, I'd better not just visit the tennis courts, I should play in them!

Well, winning the gold medal wasn't really my priority. It was the tofu dinner after!  From Sogang-dae, we drove to the Sinchon area and looked for my favorite 'soon-dupu' restaurant! It's my favorite because the 'eggs-all-you-can' at the table!  Yes, you can put as many eggs as you wish into your tofu dish!

I was told eating too much eggs will cause your cholesterol to rise, but....who cares?? Ha-ha-ha!

I had to crack three eggs and let them all join the boiling hot pot of tofu! I stirred and stirred...and stirred some more!
My soon-dupu finally turned orange-y!  And with the eggs cooked, my bowl got texture!
Oh my! I couldn't wait to taste it, but I just had to be careful. It was boiling hot!

And spoonful by spoonful, I enjoyed my favorite Korean dish (one of the many favorites, actually!) which I haven't had in a  long time! I definitely would want to come back here again soon! The spiciness of the broth, which now became thicker with the cooked eggs, and the bland tofu curds mixing on my palate alongside some seafood, veggies and other ingredients were like a festival of tastes in my mouth! Ha-ha-ha!
And after we were done with dinner, we walked around and decided to get some soju

And an idea for a place came from a guy who was on the sidewalk giving away business cards for a bar. He was like a walking marketer, aggressively advertising his bar to passers-by.

And since the bar was just nearby the restaurant, we just walked up the stairs and found a comfortable seating amidst groups of friends who were partying (and drinking!) the Saturday night away!
I told Seung-ho and Lowell, my tennis friends, that it's difficult for me to get drunk. I don't know why. Maybe it's all the drinking around me that got my tolerance to alcohol that high.

Although we ordered soju, until now, I am not sure why they serve fruit cocktails to go with alcoholic drinks here in Korea. These fruit cocktails always end up as dessert in the Philippines if you mix it with Nestle cream and Alaska condensed milk. Ha-ha-ha!
After hours on the tennis court and even longer hours chatting (and sometimes not understanding what the other was saying), we decided to call it a night. A Saturday night, to be exact. But Seung-ho still wanted to eat! So, he ordered what to me is the most boring Korean food, tteok-bokki.

Oh well, we let him. Ha-ha-ha!

Of all the three, tennis, tofu and soju, it's the tofu dinner that was sooo enjoyable for me. I still could not believe in their idea of letting the customer crack as many eggs as he can and put them into his tofu dish! 

In other restaurants, I only I get one fresh egg in my tofu dish, but this Dolkemaeul Tofu House in Sinchon is definitely my favorite. They don't care about their customer's cholesterol. But what they care about is customer satisfaction. And that's what good business should always be about!

Definitely going back there again. After my annual medical check-up. Ha-ha-ha!

Dolkemaeul Tofu House is behind the Hyundai Department store (Sinchon Station, Line 2, Exit 1). If you're standing at the back area of the department store, look to your left and you will see the restaurant. It has two storeys. You can forget your cholesterol count, but not its name. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Revisiting Sogang University And Sinchon!

The Sogang University campus in Seoul is one of my favorites: it's a convenient one-bus ride from Hannam-dong, it has great tennis courts (both hard and clay!) and most of my best friends in Seoul came from this catholic university! 

It is also a sister university of several Philippine universities like Ateneo de Manila, University of Santo Tomas and Saint Paul University (how come they call it 'sister' university, and not 'brother'? Ha-ha-ha!).

And one summer weekend, since I haven't been to Sogang-dae for more than a year, I asked my friend Andrew, a Sogang alumnus, to join me in revisiting our alma mater. Yes, our alma mater. Ha-ha-ha!  He finished his studies inside the Sogang classrooms, while I finished my matches on the Sogang tennis courts!

I decided to take the subway and not the bus (to avoid the traffic along Itaewon), and got off at the Daeheung Station of Line 6. This station is also known as the Sogang University Station as it's just a few meters from Exit 1.
A quick stroll along the main road (which actually leads to the Sinchon rotary - another interesting fun place!), and I was at the main entrance of Sogang!
This is the obelisk at the main entrance of the campus, which is called the Albatross. It welcomes everyone entering the campus.
While Andrew and I were standing around the Albatross and taking photographs, a Korean woman engaged us in a conversation. She said her son graduated from Sogang-dae, and he is now gainfully employed and successful in his own way. As she was talking to us (and although I could not understand most of what she said), I could sense pride in her voice in the way she was talking about her son.

We weren't able to ask why she was in the vicinity, but I guess she not only wanted to revisit Sogang University, but perhaps also to stand on the place where her son, years before, have been passing through every day in order to learn and arm himself with knowledge for the life ahead. She must have been celebrating his memories as well as his sacrifices.

And before Andrew started to tell his own stories and get misty eyed with his memories, I told him it was time to leave and get something to eat. 

I earlier suggested we look for that Takoya chicken restaurant.  A couple of years ago, my Tita Cecile told me about Takoya as this was where she and Tito Efren would go after they attended the Sunday mass said in English at Sogang's chapel.

I didn't know Takoya was that close. We only needed to cross the street. I should tell Tita Cecile I was able to find her favorite chicken restaurant in the area. They served several chicken menus which all looked yummy. So we just settled for the one that looked, well, the yummiest! Ha-ha-ha!

The place wasn't that spacious, although I think they have a few more tables at the basement level. 
And after filling ourselves with chicken wings and some other recognizable chicken anatomy, we decided to walk down to Sinchon rotary and hang out on a cafe where we can people-watch!

The Sinchon area is always full every night. Since it's close to two more universities, Yonsei University and Ewha Women's University, the crowd is usually young. Groups of friends and couples were all around the place drinking, having dinner and having a good time.

An iced cafe mocha, accompanied by Andrew's interesting stories (some of which I could not describe on this blog, lest I want a PG rating! Ha-ha-ha!), capped my visit to Sogang University today, which gave me an idea. 

Next time, it should be tennis at Sogang, a dinner in Sinchon, and perhaps, a beer after.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Rainy Seoul Sunday Calls For Hot Tsokolate And Puto!

It's been a nasty summer so far. So, when I woke up today (almost noon actually!) and looked out my window, it was cloudy and drizzling!  

What a welcome change in the weather....and a drop in the temperatures, I hoped!

So, I hurried out in my gym gear and saw people in the neighborhood walking around with umbrellas. I never thought bringing an umbrella myself. For summer's sakes, it was just a drizzle!  And since I would be sweating in the neighborhood gym, I wouldn't mind getting wet in the rain anyway.

And after spending less than an hour in the gym (which was almost empty!), it was time for breakfast.
I usually have cereals, but today, with the rain cooling the neighborhood, I had to enjoy my tablea tsokolate and Manapla puto, which I brought with me from Manila!

                         (The tablea tsokolate from home)

And on a kettle with boiling soy milk, I melted one tablet of tsokolate, and steamed my Manapla puto!
(Cheese flavored Manapla puto)

I am not exactly sure how many Pinoys in Seoul are enjoying a cup of hot native Philippine tsokolate paired with the best Philippine puto on this rainy Seoul Sunday.
        (My hot tsokolate with plain flavor Manapla puto)

But rain or shine, at least there's one enjoying them right now. Kain po tayo! (Let's eat!)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Olympic Torch Drops By My Seoul Neighborhood!

With all eyes every night glued to the sportscast of the 2012 London Olympic games, I remember four years ago when the Olympic torch relay of the 2008 Beijing Olympics included a stopover in Seoul, and the Olympic torch actually passed through my neighborhood!

 On that cool day in April 2008, when the hype and the excitement of the torch relay were enveloping Seoul, I first headed to the Seoul Plaza to join the Chinese and local fans  at the site where the Olympic torch relay would end. 

The atmosphere at the Seoul Plaza was much like the atmosphere in Beijing itself before the opening ceremonies: people dancing, chanting and celebrating.

But after I had walked around the to savor the excitement around the Plaza, I caught a bus and headed home to Hannam-dong (in Yongsan-gu), where I would be able to actually see the torch relay up close.
And when I got there, voila!  Fans and cheerers had lined up the path where the torch relay would pass! This was the main highway in Hannam-dong which connects the Hannam Bridge, a major bridge in Seoul, to the Namsan Tunnel (which ends up in Myeong-dong).

Alongside the fans, platoons of policemen were also there to secure the path and prevent any crazy person from attempting to put out the Olympic flame. Well, they could have just relaxed. I didn't see anyone carrying a fire extinguisher.

As the fans, the media, the local residents and perhaps, other curious Seoulites from all over the city crowding the sidewalks in Hannam-dong, I found it difficult to squeeze in and find a good spot to take photographs from. So, I headed up to the hilly part just next to the Hannam Bridge.

And a perfect spot I found! I was all alone up there with a bird eye's view of the path right under my nose! Literally! Ha-ha-ha! 

And once I saw the police and Olympic sponsor buses pass by, I knew that the torch was near!  How exciting it was!  Just like a countdown, but without fireworks! Ha-ha-ha!

And there they were. Guarding the Olympic torch bearer were hundreds of guards uniformed in white and yellow, while the torch bearer himself wearing a red and white shirt, making himself stand out from the crowded entourage running at the speed of an Olympic marathon, and not that of the 100-meter dash.

As I stood there watching (and busy taking photographs!) from my perfect spot, I realized the fire that was passing through my neighborhood would be the same flame that would light up the Olympic cauldron at Beijing in about three months' time.
              (The guy in red is the Olympic torch bearer)
(The torch bearer standing at the Hannam-dong flyover after he passed on the flame to the next Olympic torch bearer and waiting for the bus where all torch bearers board after. I don't know his name though.)

Well, I wonder when I'd be able to see up close the Olympic flame again. In Rio 2016, perhaps?  That's still four years away. 

And since we always stay up late at night watching the London Olympic games, the Olympic motto becomes...

Faster, higher, stronger and...sleepier.  Zzzzz.....