Gusto Loco Moco

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Last week I was invited to try new Hawaiian restaurant  Gusto Loco Moco in Hongdae. When you walk through the doors you can’t help but have a smile upon your face. The bright and colorful restaurant is just what you need to put some sunshine into your life on a cold and dark evening.

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With a surfboard, flowers, and bright lights inside it’s almost as though you are walking in to a Hawaiian paradise, albeit a very small one. This cozy and compact restaurant has room for 5 to sit and about the same to stand, but you can also get food to take away if you are a bit on the claustrophobic side.

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The All Bus Tea (5,000) is a spiked plantation ice tea and was just the ticket to get things started. Accented with a cute umbrella, this tasty drunken tea got me right in the tropical spirit.

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Since I’ve never eaten Hawaiian food in my life before (unless you count Aloha Table) I had to ask the  friendly owners what they recommended, and we were informed that the Aloha Moco (6,700) was a real taste of Hawaiian food.  I had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. You can choose between beef or pork, but we opted for the pork. It was soft and tender, and encased in a rich gravy. Served over rice, and topped with a perfectly cooked fried egg sunny side up, and accompanied by salsa, pineapple, and macaroni. At only 6,500 it was very cheap and well worth the price. A coconut cream dessert was in the middle to finish the meal. It had the scrumptious taste of coconut without the stringy texture which I particularly loath.

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We also got the Wiki Wiki Burger (6,5000) with Garlic Fries (2,500). A handmade beef patty, topped with salad and a special sauce, in a nice soft bun. As you can see the burger held up very well and didn’t fall apart as far too many do these days. The patty was well seasoned and the special sauce sweet and slightly tangy. An excellent choice at only 6,500. You’d be hard pushed to find a burger nearby that is better value for money. We got ours with a side of garlic fries. Standard crinkle fries you find in most places with their own special seasoning. Fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think I’d try the fries with gravy and cheese next time.

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Our visit was short and sweet, but I’d certainly pay another visit to Gusto Loco Moco. It’s not gourmet cuisine but at those prices you wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s just good wholesome food for those who are looking to try something a bit different or Hawaiian natives looking for a taste of home. There are a variety of other dishes on the menu I’d be keen to try  like the pulled pork sandwich and the spicy garlic shrimp. They also have spam musabi on the menu for those that like it, though personally spam scares the bejesus out of me so I’ll be skipping that one, even if it is only 2,000. They also have imported Hawaiian beers for a full authentic Aloha experience.

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Gusto Moco Loco is located at 342-16 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. To get there go to Hongik University Station (Exit 9). Take a left immediately and then walk straight. Keep going straight on that road and just follow it round. Go through the junction and then follow the road around to the right. Take your second left off this road and Gusto Loco Moco is on your right, in the old Gusto Taco location. For more information call 02-3142-8226 or check out their facebook page.

 

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Halloween Ideas

Hurray, Halloween is fast approaching and it’s one of my favourite times of the year. I love a good a food theme and what better theme is there than something a bit spooky and scary. I’ve made a few different things over the years so here’s a bit of an amalgamation of my stuff, it’s no pinterest board but there’re a couple of gems in there regardless. Sadly I have not had a hot minute this year  to make anything new as I’ve been too busy making my foodie themed costumes instead. Though since I took 1st and 2nd prizes for them, I consider it time well spent!

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All good Halloween parties start with plenty of booze. This Blood Lust cocktail is just what yours needs to get you into the spooky spirit and get everyone doing the monster mash.

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If you want something cute and adorable to serve for dinner then look no further than these Halloween Stuffed Peppers. Cute as a damn button and tasty too, I’d eat these any day of the year.

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For a Halloween pot luck party, my pumpkin focaccia is just the ticket. Just follow the regular Focaccia Bread recipe and skip the tomatoes on top. instead make a a pumpkin shape with yellow or orange peppers and fill it in with cheese and make a cute face. Easy and delicious.

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For a sweet treat I made this spider web pavlova. Follow my pavlova recipe but when you bake the meringue shape it into a web shape, once baked top with whipped cream and pipe melted chocolate to make a web shape. I made the spider with an oreo dipped into chocolate and some pretzels for the legs. I think it turned out pretty damn well, and everyone said it was delicious.

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If you’re absolutely rubbish at any form of baking but still want to get in on the Halloween themed edibles then head over to Monster Cupcake. They create the most amazing scary cupcakes and other baked treats that are super yummy and scary. Happy Halloween everyone!

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Twiga – Revisited

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Earlier this year I  visited new South African restaurant Twiga, and had the best cheesecake of my life. 6 months later I was invited back to see how things had changed. As soon as we arrived owner Vanita greeted us warmly like long lost friends. She told me that things had changed a little since my last visit, including the chef. Her original head chef returned home due to a personal crisis and she now has French chef Gregory at the helm. Gregory being french wanted to inject his own flair and skills into the menu, so there is now a French and South African fusion going on. As well as offering their evening A La Carte menu, they now have a brunch menu too.

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Since it was a Friday night, it was right down to business with a vodka lemonade. Using a dash of chef Gregory’s homemade lemongrass infused vodka it was a rather nice tipple. I’d be interested to see if they can make a complete cocktail list, as this one was right up my ally.

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The menu is still fairly small, as they plan on having weekly specials to make use of in season produce. The bobotie is still there along with their fantastic lamb sausages. Gregory’s arrival has put quiche on the menu (8,500 per slice), and luckily for us they had three varieties  available. I of course thought it churlish not to try them all  There was a salmon and spinach quiche which the Fat Boyfriend devoured with gusto, a traditional bacon,  and a Boerwors South African quiche. With a French chef in the kitchen I had high hopes for the quiche and wasn’t disappointed. The pastry was so rich and buttery. The bacon quiche was rich and satisfying, though the bacon was possibly a tad too thick for me. Surprisingly we both favoured the boerwors quiche of the three, the lamb sausages paired rather well with the egg and pastry. Who would have thought French-South African fusion would be such a great match. the quiche also came with salad and new potatoes, making it perfect for lunch or dinner.

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The Lamb Chops (28,000) are still a star of the menu. Though the accompaniments have changed a little since my last visit. They are now served with a luxurious mashed potato, baked asparagus, and rich red wine sauce. The two succulent lamb chops were cooked to medium at my request, and were just as good as last time. The red wine sauce was so moreish I could have drank a pint of it! I just stopped short of licking the plate clean, but it was a close call.

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Thankfully Vanita’s famous cheesecake (6,500) is still on the menu, along with a few new desserts showcased in a brand spanking new glass cabinet, or dessert showcase if you will. I thought it prudent to try a piece of Gregory’s chocolate tart (6,500) too. Beautifully made with a sweet pastry, and a rich chocolate throughout. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side it would have been just perfect.

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As part of the new revamp they intend to start serving Sunday roast dinners, and I for one can’t wait. Reservations will be very necessary to get a a starter, plate of roast lamb or chicken served with all the usual accompaniments, and a dessert for 35,000. This will be a weekend event only so be sure to book your seat before they are all gone. I have a feeling this it’s going to be very popular indeed, as there really aren’t enough restaurants serving roast dinners in Korea.

Twiga is located on the 5th floor, 26-38 Noksapyeondae-ro, Itaewon, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station and come out of exit 3. Walk across the cross walk so you are outside Suji’s Deli and go right and walk  along the main road. Keep going straight until you see the over pass bridge and take the road turning left. Twiga is about halfway up the road on the right hand side, just opposite the Saudi Arabian Embassy. For more information or to make a reservation call 02-797-5011.

Food Week Korea 2014 – Taste your way around the world!

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Tasting my way around the world is pretty much my mission in life. So doing it under one roof just bodes well with my laziness and lack of can do attitude. As luck would have it, it’s time again for Korea’s biggest and best food show, showcasing restaurants, vendors, franchises, and some of the best food in the world!

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This year’s exhibition has been divided among several themes, which will be presented in different sections. This year’s themes are ASEAN Local Food, Health & Healing, Solar Salt & Low Sodium, Desserts & Delicate, Trendy Traditional Korean Food, and Single & Simple Food. Hopefully that means there will be something for everyone to enjoy whether your interests lie in exotic world cuisine, health foods, or desserts. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in the Single and Simple department! It’s about time gourmet ready meals made it to Korea for those who are are too busy to cook. Or if you are like me, just enjoy eating a ready meal to keep your hunger at bay while you prepare a more time consuming feast.

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Co-hosting Food Week is the Seoul International Bakery Fair! So that means there will be a huge host of baked goodies, and chefs showing off their cool skills in the baking competition. It’s also a great chance to pick up any baking or cookware, so if you have your heart set on a Vitamix, or an 18 inch cake tin this is the place to get it!

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Also involved are the GKBF, although they sound like a political activist group, the GBKF is actually The Great Korean Beer Fest. They will be offering samples for people to savor the large variety of awesome craft beers. As it happens they are also running a festival this weekend at the war memorial. For more info about it and to buy tickets check out their facebook page.

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So if your ideal Saturday involves walking around a supermarket devouring as many free samples as possible, and let’s face it who doesn’t enjoy that. Then the food show is definitely the place for you. I had a great time at the Coffee Expo  hosted here earlier in the year, so am looking forward to seeing what the Food Expo has to offer too!

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Food Week Korea will be taking place at Coex, Seoul. On November 12th -15th 2014. If you would like to get free tickets you can sign up on the Food Week Website before October 31st.

Dominic Brunch

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As a brunch aficionado I am always desperately on the look out for new places to go. Probably because I’m prone to getting rather drunk and am not always welcomed back. I had a wonderful dinner at Dominic a few months ago, so I thought it would be prudent to check out what’s on the brunch menu too. It’s such a great space with their large floor to ceiling windows, so brunch is the perfect time to enjoy the view.

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For me the best part of brunch is the fact you can drink, and not be the least bit frowned upon. I don’t think brunch can be considered brunch without a few cocktails and luckily Dominic doesn’t disappoint on that front. They have a fab range of brunch special cocktails for only 6,000 each! As you can see we all indulged in a mimosa or two, possibly three, after so many it really is hard to keep track.

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As well as the mimosas they also have a few autumn cocktail specials. We tried the Apple Pisco Sour, and Pear and Vanilla martini. Both are 12,000 each or half price during brunch and happy hour. They are both exceptionally well made drinks. The balance of flavours paired with the alcohol makes for a great harmony. I enjoyed both but would have to give the edge to the apple pisco sour, despite the fact I’m not usually a fan of apple flavoured things, this was a delight and The Fat Boyfriend agreed too.

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After all those drinks, I needed something to soak it all up with. I was rather ravenous, so opted for the Dominic Burger (17,000). Served on chewy ciabatta bread and topped with a slice of cream cheese, this homemade burger was delightful. The beef patty was well seasoned  and full of flavopur. Topped with a big wedge of cream cheese, and salad  it seemed like a classier version of a regular burger. It also came with cajun french fries. 20140813-151028-54628797.jpg

We also ordered The French Toast Crunch (12,000) Rice Krispie crusted French Toast, served with bacon and fig jam. This is the perfect treat for sweet toothed people with a serious hangover. The french toast will seriously cure what ails you. An interesting take, made with their buttery brioche bread. The fig jam that was paired with it also worked well and was a great compliment to the bacon. A real winner, considering the price.

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My dining companion ordered the Prosciutto, Eggplant, and Brie sandwich (17,000). It looked pretty well stuffed with freshly roasted vegeatables, cheese and pesto. Although I think it was a bit on the pricey side as there wasn’t much prosciutto in it. He let me have a bite but I’m not a great fan of brie, so I guess this one is a matter of taste for me. The vegetables and pesto were tasty though. I think it would be nicer if I tried it with fresh mozzarella instead.

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I also couldn’t resist ordering the California Cobb salad again. It’s just so fresh and tasty, and fast becoming my favourite salad.

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With their half price cocktails during brunch I think Dominic is definitely in my top five. The food is great, and the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere. Well worth checking out on a weekend if you enjoy day drinking!

Dominic is located at 683-133 hanam-dong, yongsan-gu, Seoul. to get there take a train to Hangangjin Station (line6) Come out of exit 3 and walk straight for about 200 meters. It’s located next to the Kolon Series Multi Shop and just across from Woori bank. For more information you can call them on 02-790-7588 or check out their facebook page.

Wild Rice Enchilada Bake

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On my last iHerb shop, I treated myself to a bag of wild rice. Frivolous I know, but I just thought what the hell, treat yourself!  It’s so much healthier that its white counterpart, and it has a nuttiness and flavour you just don’t get with white. I was in somewhat of a quandary on how best to use it when I hit upon an enchilada bake. I quickly whipped up my own tasty enchilada sauce, and threw in some leftover Costco rotisserie chicken (which I am obsessed with by the way), black beans, extra veg, and leftover cheese and bing bam boom, dinner was served. Both the Fat Boyfriend and I agreed it was one of the best dinners we had had in ages. With some sliced avocado on top, and a wedge of lime it was a damn good Wednesday night dinner. There were also plenty of leftovers for the next night too, which I find a highly desirable quality in a weeknight dinner!

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Ingredients

2 cups of rice

4 cups of water

400g of tomatoes (or 1 can)

1 tablespoon of cumin

1 tablespoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder

2 peppers (any colour)

5 spring onions

3 cloves of garlic

A handful of cilantro (고수)

1-2 cups of leftover cooked chicken (or 2 breasts)

1 cup of black beans (cooked)

A great big handful of cheese

Directions

1. If you are using dried beans you will need to soak them the night before then simmer them for about an hour. If you are using canned, you can just add them in step three. Cook your rice, using the 1 cup of rice, to two cups of water method. I find this works perfectly with brown or wild rice. The rice shouldn’t be mushy, but cooked until it has still got a tiny bite, as it will cook a little more in the oven.

2. While the rice is cooking, make the enchilada sauce by roasting you tomatoes with the garlic for 10 minutes with a little olive oil then blending your tomatoes with the herbs and spices.

3. Finely chops your spring onions, peppers, cilantro, and any other vegetables you wish to throw in. When the rice is cooked, mix in with the vegetables, shredded chicken, beans and enchilada sauce. Put the whole lot in an oven proof dish and top with cheese. Then bake at 200 degrees Celsius for another 10 -15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. If you have it,  serve with avocado, lime, and sour cream.

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i-Herb Online shopping

Cooking in Korea isn’t always easy. Fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables are plentiful at even the smallest supermarkets, but all those extra bits that go into making meals so often aren’t. People always ask me where I manage to find so many western ingredients for my recipes. And to be honest it comes from a host of places. I often shop at the foreign food mart in Itaewon, and go to Costco once a month, but aside from that it all comes from iHerb. About a year or so ago I discovered i-Herb and quite frankly it changed my life here. Not in a big way, but it made eating healthy so much easier. It also opened me up to whole host of ingredients that I could get easily with the minimum amount of effort. The site is very easy to use and completely in English or various other languages like Korean. Once you register you only have to add your address and card details once then you are good to go. It saves them for the next time and from then on its just a click of a button to place your orders. If you are a first timer you can use this code MRV792 to get $10 off your first order, which will cover the $4.00 shipping costs and give you a whopping $6.00 worth of free goodies. They also run other promotions and for this month they are offering an extra 10% off if you spend over $40.00. The prices are similar to those you would expect in the states, and even with shipping costs I think it works out cheaper than buying things from the foreign food mart or other Korean online establishments.

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The first thing I want to talk about is health supplements, there are 1000s of different vitamins and such, but the two things I now include in my daily diet, and couldn’t live without, are spirulina and chia seeds. Mixed in with a green smoothie I barely taste them, but they have so many benefits for my health I couldn’t imagine not taking them. They are both excellent for cleaning the liver and riding your body of toxins which come from eating fast food and drinking too much soju. I also often order coconut water too, to help revive me during my many hangovers.

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If you have seen my recipes you will know that I’m an avid baker and finding anything but regular white flour can be tricky here. iHerb has every kind of flour you could imagine and more whole wheat, rye, grain, gluten free, corn, coconut, and other alternatives. They also have healthy oils and fats like coconut oil. This is still currently the cheapest price you will find it.

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There are also lots of other supplementary ingredients like chocolate chips, vanilla extract, dried fruit, raw nuts, and natural flavourings that can supplement your baking or provide healthy snacks. The Ghirardelli chocolate chips are always an integral part of my chocolate brownies. And I’m absolutely obsessed with pecans!

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I also tend to shop for my beans and grains online too. The cans you get here are so expensive, and having a few different beans in the cupboard is always a great way to rustle up a quick and easy dinner like my mixed bean salad. It’s also the cheapest place to get quinoa, couscous, and an abundance of other gluten free, or whole grain rice and pastas.

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The cheapest and best ingredients on here are probably the herbs and spices. Everything you could imagine and more is here, if it’s not it probably doesn’t exist! The best part is they have the small jars for a few dollars, but they also sell in pounds for about $7 . It’s amazing, if it’s something you use regularly it really is way cheaper, you could even split one with a friend. Things I buy in bulk are Italian herbs, paprika, cumin, celery salt, and Mexican seasoning. They also have lots of nice BBQ seasoning and rubs.

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For homemade muesli or granola makers it’s a dream. Rye flakes, wheat flakes, oats, bran, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You can also get organic varieties of pretty much everything.

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As an English person I’m a big fan of drinking tea and there really is a wonderful selection online. Chai, mango, pomegranate, lemon, peppermint, caffeine free to name just a few. They have tea bags in spades.

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It’s just healthy snacks either, there are lots of fun things like white chocolate peanut butter, kettle chips, and fair trade chocolate bars. So many delicious ingredients that make life a little more bearable when you are away from home, like BBQ and Honey Dijon crisps!

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So if you are still an iHerb virgin, have a look and see what’s there. You might be surprised at what you find and it will save you trekking to Seoul next time you are desperate for that elusive component for your latest concoction. Again you can use this code MRV792 to get $10 off your first order. Happy shopping!