From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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Citron-flavored Soju, Anyone?

I just found out last week that we are going to have 회식 (hwesik) before summer break, and I am kind of nervous about it. Hwesik is when colleagues dine and drink together, more like an after-work party. I looove parties, but hwesik is something that I don’t look forward to for one simple reason: I don’t like feeling pressured to drink. Sure, I can refuse when offered soju, but I don’t want to be a party pooper or be deemed rude.

I told my husband my dilemma while we were having lunch outside. Being the helpful husband that he usually is, he ordered citron-flavored soju for me and suggested that I try it. If I can take the taste of flavored soju, I don’t have to worry about staying away from alcohol the entire hwesik night.  It turns out that flavored soju is not as horrible-tasting for me as regular soju.

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순하리 처음 처럼 유자 (Soonhari Chum Churum Yuja) means soft or mild citrus-flavored soju.

Flavored soju has an alcohol content of 14 percent, whereas regular soju contains 20 percent of alcohol (traditional soju is even higher at 40-45 percent), so if you are not a heavy drinker and you just want to make it out of hwesik alive, go for the flavored soju instead.  For the first time, I was able to have more than 5 shots of soju today without feeling queasy. Flavored soju still has that bitter aftertaste, but it’s overpowered by the sapidity of citron and it’s a bit sweet, more like a cocktail. I prefer real cocktails, of course, but it’s highly unlikely that they will serve cocktails during hwesik, so flavored soju will do.

Muhak, Korea’s third largest soju producer, came up with other flavors of soju. Besides citron, they also have pomegranate and blueberry, which I have yet to try.

Fruit-flavored soju, also known as mixju (mixed soju), has become more popular among women and young drinkers since the release of its pioneer, Lotte Liquor’s Soonhari, on March 20. According to Korea JoongAng Daily, Lotte Liquor is now selling 170,000 bottles per day, or two per second. Imagine that! ^^ Just like that time when honey butter chips became a food trend in Korea, flavored soju quickly turned viral. No wonder my Kakao Story was full of shares of photos of this new product for the past months. My husband and I don’t care much about food trends. Believe it or not, we don’t even like honey butter chips. Flavored soju, however, is a trend that we both appreciate, because now whenever there is a special occasion wherein I have to accept a glass of soju from a family member or a Korean friend, I don’t have to refuse the drink and embarrass the other person. I can just request for mixju.

Meanwhile, here is an awesome Soonhari ad:


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“Biyaheng Bibimbap” on I-Witness

Last night, an award-winning documentary television program in the Philippines called I-Witness featured one of South Korea’s most popular signature dishes, BIBIMBAP. Bibimbap is “mixed rice” topped with meat, vegetables, chilli paste and egg. Although the very first Korean restaurant in the Philippines has been serving bibimbap since 1974, it was only recently when this food has gained popularity among Filipinos. Bibimbap restaurants have suddenly mushroomed in my hometown, but unfortunately, none of the bibimbap that we have tried here appeased our taste buds. My husband told me the bibimbap that I used to cook for him in Korea is more delicious. ^^ (I will share my recipe next time.)

The host, Howie Severino, visited the birthplace of bibimbap, Jeonju, where he had a taste of the best bibimbap in the country. He also tried different kinds of jeon sold as street food in Seoul. I never thought that I would miss Korean food now that I get to eat all of my favorite Filipino dishes… but I was wrong.

The documentary wasn’t all about food.

Howie interviewed another successful Filipina in Korea, Genie Kim, whom I have met during the meeting with President Noynoy Aquino. She is one of the many Filipinos in Korea who help fellow Pinoys (Filipinos) by being a multicultural family broadcaster, a volunteer and a marriage counselor.

Two Filipinas also appeared on the show, Ning Fetalvero Minah-Shin whom I call Ate Ning, and Professor Lalaine Cura.

For those who were not able to watch “Biyaheng Bibimbap”, below is the episode on Youtube.