Our laughable cooking adventure

In a bid to feed Kay nutritious food that will aid healing after his surgery, we decided to do simple cooking in the apartment.

We’d be staying in Korea for two more weeks (till Dec 16), and Seoul seems to have a dearth of eateries that serve healthy (bland) food.

Our kitchen is quite limited. There’s only one single induction stove, one microwave oven, one pot and one frying pan. And very limited cutlery and crockery.

But the biggest problem is that neither of us are much good at cooking. And, besides limited tools, we are also faced with the challenge of limited ingredients because many foodstuff and condiments are restricted, such as red meat, seafood (except fish) and salt.

With all those obstacles circling dizzily around our heads, we went shopping.






We couldn’t buy too much on our first trip to the supermarket because Kay only has one free arm and our apartment is about 10 minutes’ walk from the supermarket.

We were mostly only picking up stuff recommended in articles for convalescing patients (as much as we could find in the neighbourhood supermarket) with only scant ideas of what meals to cook out of them.

So far, we’ve cooked three meals and they’ve been quite laughable attempts. Our incompetence in the kitchen has never been more pronounced, especially when faced with limited resources.


During our shopping, we decided that brown rice is more beneficial to Kay than white rice. Besides, all the white rice in the supermarket come in, like, 10kg bags.

But we didn’t know what brown rice looked like. There was this section full of small packets of mixed grainy stuff that we couldn’t identify because it was all in Korean.

(On a related topic, we cannot find a single loaf of wholemeal, whole wheat or multi-grain bread in Seoul, which is quite puzzling.)

Anyway, we settled on this “rice” (left):


Brown rice and soy bean paste


But, it was, like:

“Is this a ricey thing? As in, used as a substitute for rice?”

“I don’t know. Seems like it.”

“Do you know how to cook it?”

“Should be the same as white rice?”

“I heard this kind of rice takes a longer time or you need to do something special with it.”

“Should be the same.”

“Okay, let’s try it anyway.”


We also bought some soy bean paste (above picture, right) to use as soup stock since we couldn’t use salt or pork bones or whatever the heck people use to cook soup.

I think it’s miso paste, although the packet has English words on it that say “soy bean paste”.


Day 1 – Dinner

Even as we started cooking, we still didn’t have a clear idea what we were going to cook.

Of course, the rice was the most obvious first step. But we were kinda undecided whether we wanted to cook rice, porridge or a rice-in-soup thingy.

In any case, we weren’t sure how much water to use for any of the above, so it was more or less like, “Let’s try this level of water and see what turns out.”

We washed the rice, then squeezed some bean paste into the pot together with the rice. We still didn’t know what we were going to make at this point of time.


Cooking rice


Of course, we needed a veggie dish so we thought eventually that the easiest way would be to just dump it in the frying pan and cook it.

We had trouble identifying vegetables when buying them.

“Let’s get spinach. I like spinach.”

“Is this spinach?”

“Looks like it.”

“Or not.”

“Well, it looks closest to spinach.”





Finally, we settled on rice, vegetables and canned mackerel. (We wanted to buy sardines because it’s recommended for bone healing but there’s no sardine in Seoul, so we figured mackerel should do the trick.)


The pathetic fruits of our hour-long labour:



The rice took the longest but it was fortunately edible:



We didn’t have garlic and cooking oil, so we just cooked our mystery veggies with butter and a few drops of light soya sauce:



The mackerel just needed to be removed from the can and microwaved:

Canned mackerel


The meal actually turned out quite tasty. I love the funny grain rice thing. The veggies tasted good enough with just soya sauce, and the mackerel, being canned food, was of course tasty, although not the most healthy.


Day 2 – Lunch

Lunch was better because I went out to buy garlic and eggs for it.


Slicing and dicing the garlic (the supermarket sold ready-peeled ones):

Dicing garlic


Dates are stamped on each individual egg. I think this is maybe the birth date (if I can call it that) because there’s a later date on the lid of the crate, which I assume is the expiry date.




Our lunch took 90 minutes to cook because we tried to soak the rice for 10 minutes before putting it to boil, thinking that might make it softer.

But it turned out to be harder. I think maybe we didn’t use enough water this time.

And we had one more dish than the night before, a plain omelette.


The one in the middle is our leftover canned mackerel:



Our garlic-veggie dish was a bit burnt cos we overcooked the garlic and the heat on the pan was too strong at one point of time.



Day 2 – Dinner

We decided to make a soup meal this time because Kay didn’t want to eat too much rice.

Also, we went out to the supermarket again and bought a fresh fish – a mackerel – cos we know we shouldn’t eat canned fish too much. (The canned ones are just calcium cos you can eat the bones.)

I don’t know why Kay likes mackerel that much. He chose the fish because I’ve never cooked fish in my life and the only edible fish I can recognise (in the uncooked and whole state) is pomfret because of its unique shape.




We marinated it with soya sauce. Trying to restrict salt in Kay’s diet. Soya sauce is not as bad, I think.

We sort of mangled it. The fish stuck to the pan (maybe cos we used just a bit of butter instead of cooking oil). And we didn’t have a spatula and had to pan-fry the fish using a spoon and chopsticks.




Our veggie dish was better this time. We didn’t burn it.


Veggies with garlic


Our soup, though, was quite, erm, let’s say, tasteless.

Inside the soup:

– Soy bean paste
– Some green leaves
– tofu
– canned chicken breast meat

We didn’t expect the canned chicken breast to be oily, so it made our soup oily. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to find fresh chicken breast in the supermarket. They only have the fatty parts or the whole chicken.


Tasteless soup


The soup was very bland but we still ate it since our priority is health and nutrition, and not taste.

But we’ll try to cook something more tasty next time.

Tonight, we’re eating out. We found from the Internet this vegetarian restaurant not too far away. Hopefully it’s still around.

Our kitchen gets a break tonight.

12 thoughts on “Our laughable cooking adventure

  1. Avatar

    You’re not using enough soy bean paste. Keep adding until the soup is totally cloudy. If that was a biggish sauce pan you probably need 2 table spoons worth. Try soy bean soup in a restaurant (it’s called dweng Jang jiggae) so u know what sort of flavour you should be aiming for.

  2. Avatar

    remind me of the time i buy my own groceries and my own meals during my oversea business trip in the US. But yours is more challenging due to the language barrier when buying food.

  3. Avatar

    @Sheylara: At the end of it all, tummies were filled with no bathroom mishaps. That’s a great day at the kitchen in my book:)

  4. Avatar

    There is a vegetarian chain in Seoul called ‘The Loving Hut’. They sell a mixture of western and korean dishes and also have a small section where you can buy wholegrain bread/rice etc.

  5. Avatar

    @Faith: Thanks for the affirmation. Haha.

    @Vandalin: Thanks! But what does cookout mean? You cook for people or whole bunch of people cook together? :P

    @KuanYik: I’m using a Lumix DMC-TZ10

    @djskyler: Thank you! Very kind of you to say so!

    @nannywen: HURRY UP AND FLY OVER!!

    @p: RIght. Thanks for the tip! :)

    @tiger4: Yeah, that’s why we only buy at the supermarket. :P Mostly, our challenge is in the limited tools plus the fact that we won’t be staying long, so can’t buy too much condiments cos we won’t be able to finish them. :P

    @RN1209: Hehe… thanks for always being so positive!

    @TesQ: Thanks for that info! Will look out for it! :)

  6. Avatar

    oh dear sheylara!! the fish, as you said, is really mangled! Hahahahaha!!

    ok you made me appreciate the skill of being able to cook.

    I think you’re having a superb adventure :) Wishing Kay a speedy recovery

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