It’s Gettin’ Hot in Herre…

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!

Oven 1

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

Oven 2.png

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.

Oven 4.png

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.

Oven 5.png

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.

Grill 1.png

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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Cooking.

Yup it had to be mentioned. Now it’s not that I dislike cooking, it’s just that I don’t see it as a huge deal – just something that has to be done and so will be.

I quite like trying out new recipes, especially when I have random ingredients that I am trying to use up, it just isn’t something that I want to spend all my time doing. Having said that, when it is necessary, I’ll step up (as would anyone) and never has it been more necessary than trying to feed my vegetarian husband a balanced diet in meat-loving-Korea. I guess the fact that I throw in a load of booze with every meal masks the fact that my cooking skills aren’t exactly up to scratch 🙂

I think the toughest thing about cooking in South Korea is that the ingredients aren’t what I’m used to and all the recipes I have / know require ingredients that aren’t readily available here. But you learn and you can pretty quickly start adapting things. My mum always said that as long as you know what good food is supposed to taste like, with a little trial and error, you can start to produce it.

One day last week, I woke up with a desire to make Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) which is not only full of protein but is most certainly not available in Songdo and is also one of Raj’s favourite foods.

Following this recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/paneer_86451 (Thanks BBC) I successfully made paneer with my limited resources (I don’t have muslin, or weights, or a very large pan). I also ended up with a load of whey, which I believe can be used for other purposes, but that is going to be another experiment.IMG_4201.JPG

All in all, I’ve managed to feed Raj for just over a week and he hasn’t politely suggested going out for all our meals yet.. long may it continue!

28/01/2016:

Just a couple of updates to add here:

(1) One great thing about the South Korean supermarkets is the sheer number of samples you can have (presuming that, like me, you’ll eat anything at least once) whilst shopping. It’s helped me to figure out what certain items are, and also, kept the hunger at bay so I don’t buy things based on my stomach!

(2) One tip – when you find something that you like (either you’ve used it before, or it is something from home) and it is on promotion – buy it! Prices change all the time, seemingly without any reason, so use that storage space and buy the long lasting items whilst the going is good!

That’s all for now folks..

05/04/2016:

I’m getting more adventurous in my Iyengar (my community in India) cooking to varying degrees of success. Sometimes I’ll throw everything away in a fit of anger that it doesn’t taste like my mum’s food and sometimes I’ll persevere and get somewhere close. Alongside amma’s recipes, she suggested I use http://www.malas-kitchen.com/ as a guide and it is such a great help and thoroughly recommended, especially if burning toast is about as far as your cooking skills go!

 

Week one…

We’ve officially spent our first full week in Songdo and I’ve gathered a lot of tips that would have been handy to know. I’ve split them up into separate posts to avoid it getting too long.

First up, grocery shopping. I struggled with this and spent the first few days (well, the days I wasn’t ill and sleeping all day and night) buying bits and pieces on a meal-to-meal basis from local stores. Whilst easy, it isn’t the most budget friendly way to go.

Don’t come with preconceptions of how much things (cleaning products, produce, food etc) should cost. I find that everything, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, is more expensive here. I haven’t checked out any produce markets yet – I believe there is one not so far away in Incheon – but in the supermarkets, everything comes in huge packages and with a heftier-than-at-home price tag attached.

When you arrive, apart from the immediate necessities,  I’d actually give the smaller convenience stores a miss and head straight to Lotte, right by Oakwood on the Convensia-Dareo, when you get here. You’ll find a small piece of home, with foods you recognise, potential alternatives and the odd couple of English signs to help you get along your way.

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At Lotte, you’ll find everything you need to set up your apartment until your shipment arrives – from soaps, laundry products, DIY products to food. You’ll also find things that you didn’t know you needed – chair socks anyone?

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Important: If you are a tea drinker, then bring a big stash with you. Very few places stock English Breakfast tea bags and when you do find them, much like everything else, it’s expensive. I’m planning on having a care package from home sent over when stocks are running low…

However, don’t put all your eggs in the Lotte basket. A bit of shopping around will bring up gems in Emart (a kind of department store with a mix of everything) and Homeplus (Tesco – rebranded – with an imported goods aisle). Annoyingly, I found certain things are better priced in each of the different stores, so I think I’ll be visiting all three on a regular basis.

And just for fun, there are the more unusual products that will give you a bit of a giggle…

Obviously not everything that you are used to is available, so when packing your shipment remember the following things:

  • Seasoning packets (especially for Mexican food)
  • Cleaning Wipes / sponges / dish scrubs etc
  • Tea (I can’t say that enough) and instant coffee
  • Deodorant and other toiletries – you can get everything you need here but perhaps not all the brands you are used to

Now getting to the various grocery stores is another matter, but that’s a story for a different post… along with making stuff from scratch using the ingredients available here, finding hobbies and whatever else pops up along the way.