Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ulsan Grand Park and the 'Hot Temple'

Ashley and I on our tandem
Last weekend we took a trip over to Ulsan to visit our friends from home who are also living and working in Korea. It was lovely to get out of Masan after a few quiet weekends at home and it was nice to get some fresh air in Ulsan Grand Park which is quite frankly, the nicest park area I have been to in the whole of Korea. It was a little crisp to be out on bikes, but for 3,000won each (around one pound fifty) we were able to rent them for an hour. We soon warmed up when we faced 'the hill'. Ash and I shared a tandem and seemed to pick up a lot more speed than the boys! It was so much fun. They even had a miniature road with a viaduct bridge and traffic signs, plus a rare Korean roundabout! It was strange cycling around it the wrong way. It would be a great place to take kids and Ash said she has taken her kindergarten kids on day trips there numerous times. They have a petting zoo with cows and sheep (not so exotic for us English folk) and a huge butterfly greenhouse. There is also a massive play area and space age permanent inflatable white trampoline. It was a great place to spend an afternoon, but we chose to sit in the afternoon sun sipping some rice wine from our mitten clad paws!

After the cycling, we decided to get a quick bite to eat at the 'Hot Temple'. I haven't seen one of these places before but it looked somewhat like a snack food chain restaurant. The branding, as usual in Korea, was a little strange and there were some quirky misspelled quotes on the red walls: a stark reminder of the spicy food to come!
There were various set menu options to share so we chose the mid range selection which included a spicy pot of ttokboekki- a rice cake dish in a spicy red pepper sauce which came in a reassuring large teddy bear mug.
Second on our set menu was a bowl of mixed 튀김 (TwiGim, deep-fried food). This included some potato wedges, dumplings and fish cakes. You dipped these fried treats into the ttoekbokki  hot sauce and relished in the heat. Perfect for a cold day.


튀김 (TwiGim, deep-fried food)

I love how in Korea, they seem to put the most random collection of things together and they love anything with English writing on, whether it is relevant or not. This is why it was so sweet to see these 'World of Peter Rabbit'  serving plates in a restaurant branded for spicy food.

Once we had all sufficiently warmed our cockles eating this truly spicy treat, we were served the final dish: a huge bowl of patbingsu (팥빙수)- a mixed bowl of ice shavings topped with all manner of sweetness. Here there was a bunch of tinned fruit cocktail, condensed milk and sweet red beans. The sweet and cool flavours are fantastic in the summer, but used to cool your mouth after eating Hot Temple's finest, that was also a great time to eat this traditional Korean dessert. It is certainly healthier eating a bowl of ice shavings with beans mixed in that sharing a huge bowl of ice cream. Koreans love sugar, but they also love anything they can attach a health label to. 
This little corner of Ulsan showed us the best bits of Korea; social eating, cheap outside fun and interesting foods. It was a good day.

팥빙수 Patbinsu

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