Friday, June 24, 2011

Korean Snack Time: Red Bean Bar

Yo yo! Sorry my friends, I have been lazy with the blog lately, and also kind of busy preparing for my trip to Korea! Well friends, I am here again with another amazing snack from the hermit kingdom! Lets take a look!

열양갱 (yeol yahng gaeng) - Read Bean Snack

The first snack's packaging doesn't look entirely remarkable, it sports a peach coloured box with the characters "yeol yahng gaeng". I'm not really sure what that means. On the left there is a picture of a wheat stock with some info which suggests that it contains 1.3 percent rice.

 
Upon opening the box, we see a soft bar wrapped in foil (no pic) and upon opening that, we get a bar of soft, somewhat gelatinous red bean that looks like... well you know...

Looks delicious right? RIGHT?
 
Well I'm sure this dosen't look too appetizing but don't judge a book by its cover cause its quite nice actually! Especially if your a fan of red bean like me.

Review:

Texture - Soft and chewy, sort of like toffee

Flavour - Sweet but subtle, if you ever had red bean before, then you know what I mean.

Appearance - like brownish-red log of toffee, or.... poo -_-

Verdict:

I love me some red bean! This is basically like eating glutinous red bean paste. I very much enjoyed it with some tea and biscuits. Its hard to describe the taste of red bean accurately because it has a fairly unique flavour which is difficult to compare to anything. If you like naturally sweet flavours than give this one a try. I found that eating it by cutting into some slices with a knife worked well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Korean Snack Time!

Hello friends! I believe in a previous post I mentioned that I was an ESL tutor. Well, a few weeks ago a for my birthday a magical box was bestowed upon me by two of my Korean students. What treasures lay wait inside? Why, snacks of course!

There was more stuff in here originally, this was taken after I ate half the contents...

    But now you are probably saying "Alex! Why are you showing me this? I don't have Korean snacks! Why are you gloating about your possessions?! Do you think your better than me you pompous #*$@!?" Well you need to calm down friend. Because I'm here to help introduce you to the world of Korean snacks! I painstakingly recorded and reviewed every snack that I ate from this box, with details on texture, taste and packaging, for the betterment of your lives. Why? Because I love you! And now, without further ado, SNACKS!!!

Snack the first...

 뿌셔뿌셔 - Ppushu Ppushu (Barbecue Flavour)


Here we have a delightful package featuring a little dude sporting some sort of super hero costume and a giant hammer. The characters on the front are romanized as "ppushu ppushu" but a more accurate sound would be "pushaw pushaw", similar to the sound English aristocrats make when their bored or disinterested. (eg. "Pshaw! These foreign delicacies interest me not!"). "ppushu ppushu" is an onomatopoeia which constitutes the bashing of something (think bash bash), hence the use of a hammer on the package. But why all the violence?


 As you can see the contents of this delightful package look very much like instant noodles. This is because they essentially are. Now I know what you must be thinking, "Alex; shame on you. I've had instant noodles before. I come to this blog for something NEW!" Well don't be fooled friends, this block of noodley goodness is not destined for the pot or kettle (although you probably could just boil it if you wanted to). These dehydrated noodles have been specially designed to eat dry! As you can see they come with a powdery BBQ flavor pack of which your are meant to pour on the noodles and "ppushu ppushu" them up.

 
Ppushu Ppushu after its been "ppushueded".







Here we have Ppushu Ppushu in its final stage. The flavouring is on and its ready to be eaten. And now, the review.

Review:

Texture - Crispy and brittle. Like potato-chips or dehydrated instant noodles : P

Flavour - An interesting mix between the classic BBQ chip and instant noodle flavouring powder. I rather liked it.

Appearence - like crushed up instant noodles.


Verdict:

I found it difficult to ignore the fact that it's just repackaged instant noodles with better flavour. You could get a similar effect by crushing up a pack of instant noodles and tossing in the flavour packet. Thus, it looses points for originality. However, its good and costs just as much as a pack of instant noodles so, no harm done I suppose. The package is also awesome! I love the mascot who I have named, "Bashing Hammer Brother". Look for it at your local Korean super market! More to come!     

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rise of the Middle Kingdom

Hey guys! Here in the West we feel threatened! Why? Because of the insatiable appetite of the RED DRAGON known as China! Alas, our industries; nay! Our very livelihoods and cultural values are in peril! Head for the hills! China's coming!

So that was my weak attempt at a satirical look at how many North Americans may be viewing China these days. While there is some truth here, I'm much more optimistic. I can't help but say, "would China 'ruling' the world be so bad?" I mean the United States of America did it for the greater part of the 20th century and they were not exactly saints; but guess what?! we're all still here (more or less)! Now I'm not stupid (although you might want to argue that). I know China is not the USA and China's government has been privy to certain policies over the years that may be disconcerting to some. A record of human rights abuses likely being the main problem here.

But ya know what? I'm not here to have an academic conversation about China's political history I'm here to tell you guys about a novel I just finished reading that was recommended by a good buddy of mine called Chung Kuo: The Middle Kingdom by David Wingrove.


Cover art for David Wingrove's epic, Chung Kuo

This book here, is the first in a seven part science fiction epic that was started in 1988 and ended in 1998. It rivals Frank Herbert's Dune in scope and is centered around a world of the future in where; you guessed it, China RULES THE WORLD!!! Yes! It seems that at some point in the 2100's (or was it 2200's? I'm terrible with dates) a horrible tyrant gains control of China and sets out to conquer the world! And he does.

The result of this campaign is that the world becomes known  as "Chung Kuo" which is the Wade Giles' romanization for "the middle kingdom"; the historical name for China in Chinese. There are also a number of other things that have changed from the world we know today. Japan has been obliterated, so no more anime and sushi and weird video games. NNNOOOOO!!! western history has been censored, edited, and reformed (perhaps the most interesting article being about how Genghis Khan was Chinese and was the first person to take over the world for China).

Finally the worst of the changes made; a racial "cleansing" which has left the world devoid of blacks, aboriginals, and basically anyone else whose skin color could be considered "darkish". So yeah, some pretty bleak stuff here. Eventually the tyrant was overthrown and a new, more sensible, more peaceful regime took over. One that was not so big on genocide and evil stuff like that. That's where this novel starts off.     

However, this isn't you're Daddy's communist China. This China's old school! So the government is actually based around the traditional dynastic Chinese monarchy of old, and not the more modern one-party-state communist stuff. So basically we have people wearing traditional clothes and drinking tea, while practicing archery and horseback riding, IN THE FUTURE!

But of course this is science fiction! So we need some cool science-fictiony future stuff! So yeah, basically the entire population of the world lives in a giant tower made of tempered plastic and the rest of the world has been transformed into farms and plantations which provide food for the billions of people living in the giant tower! There is also some mention of casual space travel although its not explored too much in this installment. There is also tonnes of next gen technology that makes appearances throughout the novel.

What I found most interesting about the setting was the tower itself, and how it was divided into levels. The highest level being home to the elite; company owners, royalty etc. and the lowest level being a waste filled cesspool home to humans who have suffered generations of malnutrition and have pretty much reverted back to neanderthals. Pretty interesting stuff!

Another interesting factor is that the writer doesn't make so much distinction as to who the good guys and bad guys are until fairly late in the novel, but even then there are a lot of gray areas. It's pretty cool. There is also a lot of attention to detail and some great world-building, but despite that, its quite easy to read and flows well. I can't help but think that in lieu of China's rising economic prosperity, this book is a little more relevant than it was in the late 80's when it first came out.

      
Released in 2011, the first prequel to the Chung Kuo series, available in any major bookstore.


















In truth, after it was recommended to me, it was hard to find this book without going online. I had to peruse a number of used bookstores as it seems to have gone out of print. The reason for this however, is that the series is being re-released and revamped over the next few years, by a new publisher with added content and additional volumes by the author, that can be found here! http://www.chung-kuo.net/ They have already released a prequel to the first volume just this year called Son of Heaven which is available just about anywhere. Check it out! (if you want.)

P.S.: I like China.

-Alex

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bangover

What up pointless sequel?! Well apparently that's what people have been telling me about The Hangover Part II; which I saw just the other day.

Hangovers are generally terrible. The sense of dizziness and disorientation accompanied by nausea and an often brutal headache; the way your bodily functions just don't seem to work right etc. etc. Well suffice it to say The Hangover part II was not as bad as a real hangover. In fact it was rather watchable, although, unlike a really bad hangover, not really all that remarkable. There were some funny scenes and the characters were interesting enough. I was actually curious to see how the film would end as well! But I have never seen the first one so I assume some references were lost on me. Anyway, as a film, not all the great, but not all that bad either. I have a feeling that if you absolutely LOVED the first one, you will like this one too.

The "wolf pack" in Bangkok.
So why am I even talking about this film? Well cause it took place in Thailand and if you're not a ridiculous person, you know that Thailand is located in South East Asia. This here's a blog about East Asian stuff, so after seeing this movie I just had to blog about it. Well, I suppose I should talk about the way Thailand was portrayed in the film... and in regards to that.. well, there's not much to say really. It basically follows the formula you would expect from a Hollywood comedy taking place in a foreign country. It wastes no time in exploiting the easily recognizable stereotypes and cultural "elements" that Thailand is known for among the target audience. Something along the lines of"Thailand! Yeah! That's that Asian place, with kickboxing and she-males and crime and drugs and elephants and stuff!" It would be way easier to rip on this film if there wasn't some truth in that summary. 

I've never been to Thailand, but I know quite few people who have, and have seen a number of Thai films and have read a number of books about Thai culture and Bangkok especially. And, well... wouldn't you know it; based on the accounts of travelers and various writers who have spent time in Bangkok, its apparently not all that difficult to find just about any of those things that I listed above, with the possible exception of elephants; you would probably need to get further into the countryside to see a lot of them. Now this film is a comedy, so obviously it's exaggerated. That is to say that the real Bangkok is pretty much a city like any other. Yes, Bangkok is quite famous for being sexually diverse, no, not every woman in Bangkok was originally a man. Yes, Bangkok is home to number of gangs and criminals, but then again, so is every city... ever. I guess what I'm saying is when you watch this film don't take it as a constructive commentary on Bangkokian society (is that even a word?). But you didn't need me to tell you that right? RIGHT!?

-Alex

PS: Zack Ggalifianakis's's's character has this absurd flashback scene which is actually quite hilarious : ) But its the best scene in the movie and every other scene doesn't come close its funniness : (