It’s Gettin’ Hot in Herre…

Update 01/12/2017: I’ve had feedback that there is a missing step below however, I followed my instructions exactly as written and it worked on my oven. I can only conclude therefore that as every oven is slightly different, you might have to try pressing a couple of extra buttons in between to get it working as you want!

And that is where we will stop any comparisons to the 2009 Nelly hit because cooking while less than dressed is inadvisable to say the least. Ahem.

When we were apartment hunting, having an oven was one of the overriding requirements – more so than having any furniture/white goods provided, because a life without hope of the odd Jacket Potato is not a life that we want any part of. (Raj likes to tell me I can be a bit of a Drama Queen. This isn’t true, but if it was, I would prefer Princess.) So we were very happy to learn that all the Central Park apartments have built-in ovens – but then came the fun bit, of trying to figure out how to use it. We asked our landlord to show us, but the oven doesn’t feature highly in Korean cooking, and she was only able to show us how to activate the microwave and how to use the oven presets. Now, that’s all well and good, but I had no idea what actual temperature each of the presets related to, so baking anything was a bit hit and miss.

One day, I decided that if all I achieved that day was to work out how to make the oven work, then I would have had a major Korea-win for my collection. Since that day, I seem to have spent a fair bit of time going to people’s apartments to show them how to work their ovens / have them come to mine for the same, so I’ve decided that a quick post on this probably wouldn’t go amiss.

FIrst things first: This is the basic oven setup from all the ovens in Songdo that I have seen. I’ve only labelled the buttons and knobs on the right hand side, as that’s all you need to make the oven work. I think the buttons on the left hand side are for using the presets but I can’t remember and to be honest, do perfectly well without those!

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Step 1: Twiddle (for want of a better word) knob A until you see these two symbols in the display

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Step 2: Once you have the two symbols as above, hit* button B and you’ll see the temperature in the display. You can then turn Knob A again to increase or decrease the temperature as required. Once you’re at the right temperature, hit button B again to lock it in.

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Step 3: Hit button E at the end to preheat the oven. The little bar will fill up to indicate the oven getting hotter, but even when the bar is full, wait for the beeps to indicate that your required temperature has been reached.

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Step 4: Once preheated, twiddle Knob C to set the required time, and hit button E to get the cooking going! If at any point you want to cancel and start over, button D is the one you need.

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Another couple of features of this combination machine include:

  • Microwave: The easiest way to use it is just hitting button E repeatedly to increase the amount of micro-waving time in increments of 30 seconds.
  • Grill: Unlike grills that I am used to, this one only works when the door is closed, so be careful what pans you use in it. To get the grill going, twiddle Knob A until you see the symbol marked below, hit Button B to fix it, adjust the timing with Knob C and get the cooking going by hitting button E. Simples.

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Happy Baking Everybody!

*Note from Ed: Whether or not you choose to actually hit your oven is up to you – for me it usually depends on how frustrating whatever I am trying to make is proving to be.

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How To: Use Kakao Taxi

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Korea, you’ll know that Kakao is a way of life. If you are like me, perhaps you’ll even start to say ‘kakao’ in a similar tone to the message notification instead of replying to people in the affirmative – no? Just me then *sigh*.

Anyhow, since I briefly mentioned the app in an early post I have avoided using Kakao Taxi altogether by relying on other people or taking the car everywhere I go, but one of Raj’s delightful colleagues recently sent across a little ‘how to’ guide for non-Korean speakers, so I have no excuse now. Well, actually I do – I still can’t really figure out where I am on a map and where I want to get to, but that’s a separate issue. As this post largely consists of someone else’s writing (Cheat! Cheat! I hear you scream…) I’ll be following up with another one shortly… Happy wandering folks.

Step 1: Sign in

The sign-in page will greet you. You can automatically log in with your KakaoTalk account once you press the button on the button of the screen

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 Step 2: Agree to the T&Cs
Make sure you agree to all the statements, then hit next.

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Step 3: Confirm your Korean phone number
In order to use this app, you will need to have a working Korean cell phone number. The app will instantly send you a verification code and you must input the code into the KakaoTaxi app within the specified time limit.

 

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 Step 4: Input your location and Destination
Input your starting location in the top box and destination address in the bottom box. You can also click on the “starting location” box to be given the option to select your current location
*Scroll down to the bottom to view the diagram of Korean taxi types*  

 

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Swipe down on the map so that it enlarges to your entire phone screen. You can also type in the locations in the boxes. Once you input the information, the screen will close the map and give you an arrival estimate of your taxi. You can also click to see the map once more.

Step 5: Give them a “call”
Simply press the yellow button on the bottom and your request is sent to a nearby taxi. The app has real-time location, destination and travel time that you can send to family or friends through KakaoTalk, so that they can follow your journey on your phone.
Step 6: Pay at the end & give your driver a rating!
“We hope you had a pleasant ride”
You have the option of paying with card or cash once you arrive at your destination, much like a regular taxi. A screen should also pop up asking you to rate your experience with KakaoTaxi.
In short, as long as you can figure out a map, you can now use KakaoTaxi – Hurrah for this much-needed information and thank you PKC for sharing this with everyone!

 

 

Fancy Footwork

I’ve mentioned previously how the problem with pedicures here is the lack of a good foot scrub – I know that’s more than half the reason I want a pedicure most of the time – I mean, painting toenails is not that hard. Yet there aren’t scaly gross feet everywhere you look. Ok yes, most people wear covered shoes and I think even amongst the foreigner community Raj and I are in the minority wearing flip-flops whenever we can get away with it but don’t forget that in all Korean houses and even some traditional Korean restaurants, taking off your shoes at the entrance is the norm.

So apart from taking a file to your feet yourself, how can you achieve the impossible-y smooth feet that the locals have – do an at-home Foot Peel of course. I promised (threatened?) you last week with a full photo diary of how the process worked and I will not disappoint. It is gross and there aren’t really any nice words I can use to describe what happens, so probably best you don’t eat anything whilst reading this particular post.

There are a huge variety of peels that you can buy – as I like to minimise the number of different shops that I have to go to on a given day, I ended up picking up one from Tony Moly:

Although there are pictures, I did need to Google Translate the instructions which basically boil down to:

  • Wash and dry feet and place in the baggies provided
  • Pour the Solution into the baggie
  • Seal baggie up using the tabs
  • Sit for an hour and let the solution work its magic
  • Remove baggies and rinse off the solution from feet.

5. Post Peel

These are my feet immediately post-peel. Just a bit wrinkly from sitting in solution for so long, but nothing drastic yet.

The interesting thing about these foot peels is that the effect is not instant. When I instagrammed (of course) myself using the peel, my cousin wrote to me to tell me that it would take about 2 weeks for the actual peeling to take place so you have to be patient. Had I known this before, rather than waiting for Raj to travel to use the peel, I probably would have used it while he was in town and just timed it for the peeling to happen while he was away – subjecting anyone to the grossness that ensues is just not nice. Also, not a good idea to use these if your home is carpeted.  Just saying.

Now in my case, the heavy-duty peeling started about 7 days after using the pack and finished about 2 weeks later, so that’s the timeline I’d work with. One thing that I think helped things along though is actually wearing socks and shoes, rather than flip-flops. Something to do with the friction of the socks against your skin helps to slowly peel the dead crusty skin away – and its also a useful way not to trail skin everywhere you go. I liked the end result a lot – will definitely be using this more regularly – but I think every couple of months will do the trick! As promised, here’s a little photo diary of my feet… lucky readers!

From left to right, days 1 – 4 Post Peel: still nothing dramatic happening.

Day 5 saw a bit of peeling in the folds of skin around the toes

Day 6 is when the magic really started happening

12. Day 6 Post Peel

From day 7, I basically trailed dead skin wherever I went so I stuck to wearing socks and shoes.

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You aren’t supposed to pick at the skin to help it come off but I found a bit of gentle rubbing in the shower was good. After all the dead skin went away, I had wonderfully soft feet – but that’s the one thing I forgot to take a picture of! Ooops!

We’ll take it down a notch from the grossness in the next post, I promise!

K Beauty: The Reprise

We’ve already talked about the immense industry that is Korean Beauty but now I want to tell you about the particular products (and where I buy them) that I have found indispensable.

You may or may not know that I am a creature of habit. I don’t like to change things unnecessarily and I did have it in my head that I would continue to bring my favourite face washes, creams and general skin care routine from home on our many visits back to London. Also, Boots has recently opened in Seoul (you can even shop online if you speak Korean) which one would think would help me (certainly it will for Soap & Glory and Boots Tea Tree Oil ranges which I will continue to purchase in tandem with the Korean stuff) but – and it’s a big one – skin care products from home don’t cut the mustard here.

On a lot of my female oriented Facebook groups, you read about women who’ve had major breakouts and issues with their hair upon moving here. Partly its the change in water, but also I think it stems from the fact that products you bring from home don’t target the specific issues that your skin will have here. It has definitely taken some trial and error to figure out what suits me and my sensitive, eczema-prone skin best, so I’m sure that you’ll go through a similar process but here’s a list of my faves as a starting point. DISCLAIMER: I don’t follow the actual 12-step Korean Beauty Regime that is famous-world over but do a bit of googling and you’ll find no end of videos and blogs dedicated to the routine!

Face Wash & Scrub 

One of my regular beauty stops is Innisfree. You’ll find concessions at every large supermarket that you go to and there are standalone-stores in Square One, opposite Daiso Sinsong-Ro and in NC Cube. Everywhere. One of the assistants in the store opposite Daiso Sinsong-Ro speaks some English, so you can (and should) sign up for the loyalty card – she just needs your mobile and ARC to help you do it, and although I haven’t figured out how to use the points yet, I know that every time you spend 10,000KRW, you get a discount of 3,000KRW. As at many skin care stores, whenever you buy something they give you some free samples of other products in the range or things that they think you might use based on what you’ve bought so it’s a good way to try out new things!

I’ve started buying the Jeju Volcanic Pore Cleansing Foam and Scrub Foam from Innisfree. About 8,000KRW won, they do leave you feeling squeaky clean without over-drying (So important, especially in winter) and ready for the rest of the routine. I don’t often bother to Google Translate the directions for use on these things, and just use them as I would products from home and that seems to do the trick.

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Another scrub that I totally loved – and smelt good enough to eat – was the Tony Moly Black Sugar Face Mask Scrub. This one I did translate – apply to dry skin and leave on as a mask for 10 minutes and then rinse off in the shower. This scrub was really nice and exfoliating, but I found it left a bit of a yellowy residue on my face, even after rinsing. It was nothing some swipes of toner couldn’t cope with, but it probably isn’t ideal if you are in a rush in the morning. Also, a couple of the branches that I popped into recently have been out of stock – I don’t know if this is a permanent thing or not, but it might be. Apparently SkinFood do a Black Sugar Face Mask Scrub that is highly rated as well and is probably a good substitute.

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Toner 

Not a lot to say on this front – toner is toner. The simplest one that I’ve found is from Nature Republic (again, you’ll find branches everywhere and it’s a great spot for buying sheet masks in bulk – usually a buy 10 get 10 free deal to be found) that comes in a nice pump bottle. If you’re a Micellar Water fan, you can get a pretty huge bottle from Lotte for about 9,000KRW. I don’t have a picture of it as I’m still working my way through my London stock but it seems to get pretty good reviews.

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Serum

So I understand that face serum is considered a solution that is used to cure specific problem. There are some people who use it to reduce the fine lines, dark spots and wrinkles. Other than this, it is also used to prevent acne and bring the brightness to facial skin. I never used to use it and actually stumbled across this one when I was looking for a local dupe for Benefit’s Porefessional Primer and, although it doesn’t work as a primer (actual substitute found below), I don’t feel quite right unless is layered on under my moisturiser. This serum is from Etude House – more of a makeup store than skin care, but again, with some fun lip balms and nail polishes that make it worth a visit.

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Peeling Gel

Is anyone else as weirdly obsessed with Peeling Gels as I am? I am seriously fascinated by the amount of dead skin that gently falls away and it seems that no amount of exfoliating can match this simple process. Couple with the fact that, at least in Songdo, you don’t seem to be able to get proper extraction/cleansing facials, I find a peeling gel invaluable in giving your skin a bit of TLC after all the dust and pollution from the outside world. For years I’ve used Obey Your Body peeling gel – as instructed, apply to dry skin with fingertips in a circular motion, leave to sit for a while and wash off. There is debate as to whether one should use it at night, as you can end up with dead skin stuck to your face but I use it pre-shower when I am washing my hair – I figure the shower makes sure that any dead skin is washed off properly and that none of the product is stuck in my hairline. Anyway, this was one thing that when I introduced it into my regime actually gained me compliments on my skin so I was happy to stick to importing it until it mysteriously went out of stock everywhere, and seems only to be available on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Luckily the fact that Korean skin care is such a big deal means that there are a lot of reviews in English online and lo and behold, Tony Moly proved to be my saviour with this little gem:

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Primer 

So yes, Benefit Porefessional is available here, but it costs so much more than it used to at home that it hurts me to buy it. But, Primer, right? So again, I hit up the English reviews online and Innisfree seemed to stand out amongst the crowd. A little goes a long way with this guy making it great value for money and whilst it isn’t as instantly awesome as the original, it is certainly a good dupe that’s kind to the wallet and skin!

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Face Cream 

Each to their own on this front but I’ve tried a lot of different creams – some are too watery and thin, some are too drying etc and this moisturiser from Innisfree (told you the loyalty card was worth it) seems to be perfect for me. It’s a bit on the heavy side – great for winter or when the A/C is on full blast drying you out but I use the tiniest amount post-serum and stay skin-hydrated all day. The other thing I do more regularly here is, on a day that I’m not going out, use coconut oil instead of moisturiser for some deep hydration – whilst that would have been too much for my skin in London, it is actually a good skin-boost every few weeks here.

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Trouble-Shooting

Korean women have flawless, poreless beautiful skin that you could stare at for hours (no, just me? OK then…) but in the event a blemish should rear its ugly head, spot patches are a big thing here – and available in supermarkets, skin care stores, and even Daiso! Of course it is a bit weird when you first clock one on someone’s face, but by and large they aren’t noticeable and can be covered up with a little foundation or concealer if you really want to. Especially great on the under-the-skin-cystic-acne-type spots, if you put it on clean dry skin overnight, you’ll notice the patch has gone cloudy when you take it off and the spot is noticeably reduced in size. For any white heads, my fail safe still is and will always be Mario Badescue’s drying lotion – I buy it on Beautybay.com who ship to Korea reasonably fast.

 

Makeup

Make-up is a tricky one. You do get all the big name brands here, MAC, NARS, Bobbi Brown etc and things which aren’t quite so skin tone specific are readily available – lipsticks in a range of colours, highlighter, bronzer, blusher but when it comes to foundations, BB creams, concealers etc, the Korean standard of PALE PALE PALE skin prevails and I’ve been told that even the fairest of fair people can struggle to find a true match here. In store, assistants tend to push you towards colours that make you look fairer as well, so personally, I’ve been doing my make up shopping abroad. The same products are also slightly cheaper outside of Korea, yeah, sorry, I can’t help much on the make up front!

Well that’s that for what I use from here. I am still using up my charcoal face mask from home (also, origins is available here and their Clear Improvement Mask is still the best I’ve ever tried) or I try out the various sheet masks that come free with my other purchases, so I don’t have a steady recommendation on that front… yet!

Aside from the specialist skin care stores mentioned here, you can also check out Olive Young, Watsons and LOHB for both products that you might be more familiar with from home and local goodies!

Next week…. Foot Peels – not for the faint-hearted or squeamish as I fully intend to give you a day by day photo diary of what happens to gross feet to make them beautiful again!!