Gringos Burritos

Finding good Mexican food in Korea can be tricky, even in Seoul where there are numerous restaurants around (even more with the rise of On the Border and Taco bell) it’s not always great and sometime very expensive. Those of you who don’t live in large cities have to travel even further afield to get your next burrito fix.

Gringos burritos have the answer. The geniuses behind this Mexican marvel (Mike and Mark) came up with a delivery system to bring burritos to every home in Korea. The burritos come in 3 flavours chicken, breakfast and vegetarian. They are well stuffed and have a good balance of ingredients which makes every bite authentic and tasty.  The side dishes are equally amazing if not better (the bean dip is so good I would take a bath in it) and the Chili has the perfect meat to spice ratio- its sensational over french-fries topped with cheese. Their salsa is also fresh and spicy and the perfect accessory to glam up some nacho chips. So far they are not making guacamole (but I live in hope), with the extortionate price of avocados here I don’t know if it’s possible, but if anyone can pull it off it’s these two guys.

How it works – The burritos come frozen in vacuumed packs which can be delivered to your home or work all ready for you to cook at home in the oven or microwave. You order in packs of 6 -30,000 or 12 – 55,000 (but as I always say why have 6 when you can have 12 especially if one of them is free, it would be churlish not too). You can mix and match with sides and burritos to make your pack, so choose whatever floats your boat.  Delivery costs 7,500 for those in Seoul and 10,000 for everywhere else. Delivery takes 7-10 days.

A full menu and delivery information can be found on their website.  http://gringoskorea.com/

Cheats Chocolate Brownie

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This brownie is incredibly easy to make and extremely delicious. You will be in dessert heaven in a mere 20 minutes or less. The easiness of this recipe lies in using a box of the brownie mix that they sell now in most Korean supermarkets and just pimping it up a bit. You can add whatever chocolate floats your boat. I usually go for 2 dove bars with a bit of white Toblerone thrown in but snickers also works very well.

Ingredients

1 box of brownie mix (Tous le jour brand)

2 Dove chocolate bars (100g milk chocolate)

50g – 100g of White chocolate

1 – 4 tablespoons of peanut butter. (optional)

Directions

Make the brownie mix according to the directions, (On the Tous le jour box you just add water and mix in a bowl). Chop your chocolate bars in to small pieces and add to the mix along with the peanut butter if your using it. You could also add some mixed nuts at this point if you have some. Stir to combine everything then transfer to a cake tin or if you don’t have one a disposable foil dish you can buy anywhere. Cook in the over for 15 – 30 minutes depending on how you prefer it (gooey or cakey). If you do not have an oven this brownie can also be cooked in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Serve with Vanilla Ice cream (Hagan Daz if you have just been paid).  Voilà a delicious dessert in minutes.

Delicious Home-made Pizza

Yesterday I was looking at recipes and got it into my head that I was going to make pizza. I don’t know what would make me think this would end well considering the size of my tiny oven and the fact that my baking attempts do not always end in triumph (My marshmallow peanut butter chocolate chip brownie for one). None the less I decided to give it a bash and was amazed with the results. I’m not one to toot my own horn but I nailed it. (Clearly you are thinking that I do like to toot my horn since I went to the trouble of writing on the internet how fabulous at cooking I am.)

I had only attempted making pizza once before back when I was still at school and I can’t say the result was all too great (and that was back in the land of real ovens). None the less, nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that so I decided to proceed. In the end I was actually amazed at how easy it was to make the dough. Generally I have a lot of trepidation when making any recipe that requires yeast. I hate all the time it takes to rise, the knocking and the kneading etc., I just want to eat it now. I don’t like to be kept waiting. (My homemade bread is still not up to par but it is getting better with each try, so I’ll make sure to write about it when I finally bake a decent loaf).

Ingredients

500g flour (I used the one for dumplings and noodles.)

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of yeast (I used bobai brand that comes in 8g packages)

4 table spoons of olive oil

14oz ice cold water

Directions

Sift the flour, salt and yeast into a bowl. Then using a table spoon stir in the oil followed by the water bit by bit, you may find as I did that you don’t need it all or you can always add more. Use the metal spoon to get right into the middle of the dough and mix it thoroughly. You know you have added enough water when the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom. If it is too dry add a few more drops of water, if it is too wet add more flour a little at a time until it’s the right consistency.

Once your dough is formed you need to work it for another 5-7 minutes using the metal spoon, this activates the gluten in the flour which makes it springy and elastic rather than a tacky lump. You can do this by putting the spoon into the dough and moving it around, you will find the dough stretches the more you do this. After this take the ball of dough and pull it and stretch it with your hands, I am sure you have seen Italian pizza chefs on TV doing it (I didn’t do it half as elaborately but you get the idea).

Now the dough is ready, form it into balls – I made 3 big ones. The recipe stated that you should leave the balls in the fridge over night before using, but I don’t think it’s hugely important. If you have thought ahead in advance or have a huge amount of restraint and will power it does help the flavour of the dough develop, but it still tastes great if you use it straight away (the dough will keep in the fridge for up to four days). Roll your ball in flour then put a little olive oil on your hands and coat each ball before putting on a tray or plate. Put the plate in a zip lock bag or failing this cling film and store overnight.

If you have prepared in advance take one of your balls out of the fridge and roll it out as thinly as possible (dust the rolling pin and surface first with flour). Meanwhile preheat your oven to its hottest temperature.  If I was at home and using a real oven I would invest in a pizza stone, sadly living here that is not an option so I’m using the back of my baking tray. I found this worked perfectly fine anyhow. Coat the back of the tray with flour then place the rolled out pizza dough upon it. Now you are ready for the sauce. I just made a quick one in my blender using 20 cherry tomatoes, a glug of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of mixed herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper but you could easily use some of the tomato spaghetti sauce that comes in a jar if you don’t have time.  Then top with cheese, I just used the grated mozzarella you can buy everywhere with a bit of parmesan and topped with sliced big tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and red peppers and it turned out great. If you have the resources then use fresh mozzarella or other cheeses. I also made a Florentine pizza using some spinach and eggs I had in the fridge with some fresh parmesan. You can get as fancy as you like with the toppings. However one of the best points of this recipe is that you can get all of the ingredients at your local Korean supermarket you don’t need to go to Homeplus for this, which always makes it a winner in my book. It’s also far cheaper than Pizza Hut my greatest and most costly food addiction.

British Sausages and Bacon

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One of the biggest complaints I hear from meat lovers in Korea is not being able to find proper sausages. The ones they sell in the supermarket are the pre packaged boiled kind which taste nothing like we are used to back home in Britain. Well look no further meat salvation is here. Gavin is here to fulfil all your sausage needs and more.
Gavin is a Scottish butcher who has been in Seoul for many years now. He supplies many hotels and restaurants but its still a well kept secret among the foreign community. He has a shop at the Shinsegae Department store in Myeongdong but also a delivery service arranged from his website. Which means you get a hot meat injection without even leaving the house.
On to the meat, he has several varieties of sausages which come in packs of 10 for 14,500. We tried the original and the pork and herbs, both of which were great, just like the ones at home, cook on the BBQ or in the frying pan at home. If I had one complaint it would be that their slighly lacking in girth (although as the saying goes its not the size that counts its what you do with it , and Gavin has filled these sausages with some tasty tasty meat).
Also on the menu is bacon at 14,500 for 350g, personally I’m not a lover of bacon (Good lord why? I hear you cry – I dont know why? I eat all other kinds of pork except for ham and bacon, I’m a very strange person). However my boyfriend said it is the best bacon he’s had in Korea by a long way, so take his word for it. It’s as close to the kind we have at home as you will ever find. Not only will Gavin provide you with sausages and bacon, he also has sausage rolls and pies!!! Pork, Lamb, Chicken Curry and Aussie steak 14,500 for a pack of five.
The order forms can be found on his website along with a full menu. Delivery costs 3,500 or free if you spend over 50,000 (very easy to do). http://www.gavin.co.kr
So put Gavins sausage in your mouth – you wont regret it!

Real Chinese Food – Ho Lee Chow

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to find good Chinese food in Korea is like trying to find a meal that doesn’t come with a side of kimchi. Being so close to China I always though that the chinese food would be great here, sadly I was very mistaken. It’s edible but it doesn’t taste like Chinese food from home or China, it’s just this unidentifiable slop in flavourless sticky sauces.

Luckily when living in Cheongju my first year, we did have a really great Chinese nearby which was frequented every time someone had a birthday or someone arrived or left (so basically once a week). It was in my second year that I finally discovered the phenomenon that is Ho Lee Chow. I had just moved to Suwon and didn’t know any of any westernised Chinese food there, I was craving some sweet and sour chicken and fried rice badly. I figured there must be one in Seoul somewhere, I just had to find it. After searching the internet furiously I finally found what I was looking for – “Ho Lee Chow”.
Ho Lee Chow is located on the 2nd floor of the Hamilton Hotel. I couldn’t believe it had been right there in Itaewon looking down at me all that time and had I only looked up I would have seen it. The food is American Chinese food, sadly not British so no chicken balls or bang bang chicken but a vast improvement on the Korean variety. There is a full menu on the website but they have all the usual suspects – springrolls, lemon chicken, Mongolian beef, sweet n’ sour chicken, ribs, General Tso’s, Mu shu pork,  Kung pao chicken, fried rice and noodles. Prices vary from 9,900 – 16,500 per dish. One dish would fill a person easily so make sure to mix and match with your friends (or just order everything if your as greedy as me). Everything tastes exactly as it should, it will certainly satisfy all your cravings until you next get home. They will even wrap up your leftovers and let you take them home, my second favourite thing about ordering Chinese food.
They have 6 locations around Seoul (Itaewon, Yuido, Bundang, Dogok, Lotte world and Apgujeong. Full information and the menu can be found on their website. http://holeechow.co.kr/

Tasty Garlic Dip

My absolute favourite snacking food to eat at home is Doritos and Dip. Oh how I have craved this treat so many times but there was no dip to be found, salsa was my only option.  If there was ever any event in my life to make me believe in a higher power it was the good fortune of me finally discovering how to make dip the week before they released cheesy Doritos in Korea. They have been selling the American cheesy Doritios in homeplus and foreign food mart for some time now, although I will admit the American version is nicer it is also much more expensive at 5,000 a bag. If you eat as many as I do this can develop into a very costly addiction. They currently sell a large bag of the Korean ones in Daiso for 2000.

On to the dip, the secret of this recipe is using half mayo and half sour cream. When I first started making this dip I was buying 1kg boxes of mayonnaise as it was cheaper, I have now moved up several notches on my gluttony belt and have taken to buying the 3.5kg jar of mayonnaise at Costco and where before one large tub of sour cream a trip would suffice I am now on to two at a time. But like I said it is my favourite snack and we all deserve to have something we love waiting in the fridge at home for us.  The recipe below will make a pint of dip but feel free to double or triple it as I do.

Ingredients

 6 tbsp. Mayo

6 tbsp. Sour Cream

50g Cheddar cheese finely grated

2 tbsp. Garlic Powder

3-6 spring onions (depending on girth)

Directions

Mix the mayonnaise and sour cream together in an empty tub or bowl. Stir in the garlic powder cheese and spring onions. Leave for 30 minutes in the fridge if you are capable of restraining yourself, this lets the garlic powder dissolve otherwise it tastes a little powdery.  Serve with cheesy doritos or BBQ doritos if you swing the other way.  Voila my favourite snack in minutes.

VIPS

I first discovered the delights of VIPS in my first year here. Being a professional overeater, I am a big fan of the all you can eat buffet. So what better news could I hear then, that there is a chain of all you can eat western buffets with locations all over Korea.

To those not in the know VIPS is a steak and salad bar restaurant. When you arrive you can choose to eat just the salad bar or to buy a steak, rack of ribs or a variety of luxury meat or fish items that then come with access to the buffet.  I usually tend to buy the steak as it only costs an extra 10,000 and you can have it wrapped up and taken home, it is served with a little jacket potato that I love too. If you take your steak home not only do you have a delicious meal ready to eat later, you also have more room for the salad bar.

Calling it a salad bar is actually underestimating it, as it has so much more than that to offer. Starting with the salad they have a station with all the raw ingredients so you make your own with various dressings to top it off. They also have about 8 premade salads. These change every few months depending on their current theme but as a guide they have chicken salad, roast vegetables, potato salad, pasta salad, crab salad etc.

On to fish  they always have fresh smoked salmon which my boyfriend loves which comes with various accompaniments and fresh king prawns (although you do have to peel them yourself). They used to have a make your own taco stand which was great because they always had guacamole but the last time we went they had changed it to make your own hot dogs (this varies from location to location though).  Up at the hot plate they have 2 different thin crust pizzas, fried chicken, corn on the cob and various other roasted vegetables and french fries. You are also given a choice of two different pastas, tomato or carbonara. Lastly they have 3 – 5 main dishes which vary seasonally but I have seen, fried rice, mussels, sweet and sour chicken, and sweet chilli battered prawns.

There is also a Korean stand which has some kind of soup which you can add noodles or various vegetables and things too plus rice and maybe mandu (Korean dumplings). You can get 3 regular soups corn, broccoli and mushroom which come with fresh bread or rolls.

If you have room left by the time you get to dessert they have a make your own ice cream bar, various fresh fruits, and a selection of cakes and cookies.  An assortment of teas, coffees and sodas are also all available within the salad bar. If you want something a little stronger they have a selection of wines and Korean beer on tap which you must pay for separately.

Vips has a website http://www.ivips.co.kr/ click on store to bring up a map and find the location nearest to you. Prices vary – weekday lunch 17,800 weekday dinner 23,400 weekend 24,400.

Veggie Burgers

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I first made these when we went to Muido island for the weekend and I volunteered to make and organise all the food. Then I found out one of my companions was a vegan!! I didnt want my friend to be left out and set about scouring the internet for vegan burger options and in the end just decided to make my own version using the guidelines of others. I had only attempted to make a veggie burgers once before using tofu and the result was sadly less than perfect . It wasn’t so much the taste as the fact they just fell apart. The secret to this recipe is using the potato to bind everything together instead of eggs, which is obviously a no no for vegans.
Ingredients
300g dried chickpeas
1 carrot
1 courgette (Zucchini)
1 onion
5-10 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like it)
1 Aubergine (or egg plant to Americans)
1 green pepper
2 large oyster mushrooms
6 potatoes boiled
bread crumbs
3 table spoons of cumin
2 table spoons of ground coriander (cilantro)
1 tea spoon of paprika
1 tea spoon of garam masala
1 tea spoon of celery salt
1 tea spoon of black pepper.
Directions
Soak your chickpeas (if using the dry ones) over night then cook them for 1 1/2 – 2 hours in the rice cooker. I have found that cooking the chick peas in the rice cooker saves a lot of time and worry as you dont need to keep topping up the water. Meanwhile grate your carrot and courgette and chop the onion, garlic, aubergine, mushrooms and peppers as finely as possible then mix togther in a bowl with the herbs and spices and a splash of oil. I then roasted this mixture in the oven for around 20 – 30 minutes in the oven until the vegetables are golden brown and soft but you could just as easily do this in a frying pan if you’re sans oven. You can use any kind of herbs and spices you like in this recipe, I went for cumin and coriander because I have a big tub of each but anything would work really. If you like your food hot you can add chili pepper or fresh chilis. Its really just about giving some flavor to the chick peas which are rather bland on their own. (You can also vary the vegetables, sweetcorn, sweet potato, mixed peppers or tomatoes would all work too) When your chick peas are cooked (they should break apart easily with tthe back of a fork) you need to mash them in a bowl, if you have a blender or food processor then that will save you a lot of time if not use a bit of elbow grease. Once the vegetables are cooked mix them in a bowl with the boiled potatoes (you should mash them first) then add to the chick pea and stir together. Pick up the mixture with your hands and form into to burger shapes, if the mixture if too dry you could add some oil or egg or even a little bit of peanut butter ( it really adds a nice flavor) if its too wet stir in some bread crumbs. When the burgers are shaped roll them in bread crumbs and cook either in the oven or frying pan with a little oil. If you made far too many like I did cover them individually in cling film and put them in the freezer so they’re available whenever you need a quick dinner or if a vegetarian friend unexpectedly pops round. Since I made so many I have been taking them to work to eat with salad for a delicious and healthy lunch, although in a bun and covered with cheese is also an excellent way to go.

Pho Roi

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Last night I found myself in Sinchon feeling rather hungry. Not fancying Korean I decided to do a quick search online and see what my options were – Thai, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, etc. all came up. I wasn’t really sure what I was in the mood for so we decided to just walk around and go wherever we found first. Then like a shining yellow beacon we found Pho Roi. We are going to Vietnam in a month so I thought it was about high time I had my first Pho experience.

We had a look through the menu and eventually decided on a steak Pho 13,000KRW (Vietnamese rice noodles in a broth) and a plate of mixed starters for 13,000KRW (spring rolls, wedding shomai, cha goo and garlic chicken drumsticks.) The pho came first it was in an enormous bowl just  how I like it. I would definitely recommend sharing one of these as we did; it could serve up to 4 people if you had other food too. The pho was a little bland at first but once we had added the various accompaniments chillies, bean sprouts and hoi sin sauce it got pretty damn good. I could write a paragraph on the hoi sin sauce alone it was so good I wanted to take the bottle home with me (sadly my boyfriend frowned on this behaviour and I left without the sauce, although next time I will be sure not to make the same mistake again. I’m sure I would be a lot happier today if I knew that bottle was in my cupboard).

The starter plate was also rather good. It reminded me of the ones you can get in the Chinese back home. The spring rolls had a nice fresh taste as they weren’t deep fried, the wedding shomai and cha goo were deep fried which is always a winner for me and the chicken wings were a great bonus. This plate also came with a soy dip and a nice little peanut one, although there was not nearly enough of it, thank god for the hoi sin sauce.

All in all I left the restaurant feeling full and happy, it wasn’t the most flavourful food I have ever eaten ( some fresh cilantro certainly would have enhanced some of the dishes) but it made a nice change from Indian or Korean Chinese food which we can all agree leaves a lot to be desired.  Pho Roi has 8 different locations around Seoul which you can check out on their website along with the menu. www.phoroi.com

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Couscous

In the summer months couscous is always a staple in my house and I always miss it when I’m in Korea. Thankfully they stock it in the foreign food mart 5,000 for a 500g box. Couscous is very easy to make and all your friends will be very impressed that you have managed to procure it. Its also been widely enjoyed by all the Koreans I know too. The secret of couscous is making it flavourful I do this by adding a stock cube to the boiling water.
Ingredients 
200g of couscous
200ml of boiling water
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
1 – 2 table spoons of mixed herbs
Directions
If you do not have any scales then just use a cup or any container and fill it with the couscous then add the same amount of boiling water/ stock. Leave it for 5 minutes to absorb the water then fluff it up ( or break it up to you and me ) with a fork. Then stir in the pepper and the herbs. At this point you can jazz up your couscous by adding some vegetables. If you have a toaster oven within you posession chop up vegetables into small pieces. I would recommend, onion, garlic, peppers, corgette, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggplant then roast them with a splash of olive oil until golden brown then add to the cooked couscous.
If you are without a toaster oven then you are clealy not a dedicated eater (they cost 20,000) then you can use salad onions, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and mixed peppers, chop into small pices and mix into the couscous. If you have any fresh herbs available you could add them along with a bit of lemon juice for good meassure.