Sunday, 18 December 2011

LoKo: Korean Dance Workshop in London

The workshop is full swing - there's me in black and bright pink converse! 
 As someone who has spent a lot of time trying to learn K-pop dance routines off videos on youtube (and frequently failed or given up), I found a smart solution while surfing facebook where I found a London based Korean dance workshop! Held on the 18th December, I quickly signed up and waited with anticipation for the day...

So, Sunday morning and I was up and out early to go to my first workshop which was held up in Finsbury Park. Run by the recently formed "LoKo" Group, their increasingly popular previous dance workshops have had nothing but great success with the most recent one even being taken by none other than a choreographer from SM Entertainment! I was really hyped having seen the amazing 9 song remixed playlist that we'd be dancing too including Mr Simple, Dr Feel Good, I Am The Best, Fiction, Neverland, Hot Summer, Cry Cry, The Boys and Paradise (which was definitely the most popular song on the day...all that thrusting!)

We danced from 10-5 stopping only for an hour or so for lunch. We were taught by Caroline, Isabelle and Tammy who each taught three of the nine songs. All were really great - going through the choreography at a pace that everyone could follow before throwing in the music - just to keep us all on our toes!!! We all had great fun learning the dance whether it was the thrusting in Infinite's Paradise, Minzy's dance solo from I Am The Best or the infamously difficult penguin dance from B2ST's Fiction, we all had a really good time. It was a pretty tough day but I think everyone really enjoyed themselves and it was well worth the effort at the end.
I had so much fun and for anyone who is based in London, I would highly recommend coming along to the next workshop. As clichéd as it sounds, I made lots of new friends and got to spend most of the day dancing to Kpop and my breaks chatting to everyone about everything Korean. I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down and have a chat with some fellow bloggers from KoreanClassMassive so if you get the chance, you should definitely go and check out their blog - After that, we did a few final run-throughs of the dance before everyone went home...knowing that tomorrow they probably wouldn't be able to move...!

                                                               All in all - a great day!
A class photo at the end of the workshop

Me with Tammy - one of the workshop teachers and also a good friend of mine from last year's MBC

Mid Drama Review : Brain (브레인)

I think it has something to do with my secret childhood obsession with becoming a doctor but I am an absolute sucker for medical dramas. Having watched 산부인과 여의사 earlier in the year (definitely worth watching although the end is a bit....) I have been on the lookout for another medical-based Korean drama for a while. Enter Brain - well paced, intriguing, well balanced and believable, it follows the lives of a group neurosurgeons at the prestigious Chunha University Hospital. 

The plotline centers around Lee Kang-Hoon (Shin Ha-Kyun) an exceptionally talented but equally exceptionally arrogant neurosurgeon from a poor background who basically had to fight his way, tooth and nail, to get to where he is now and his rival classmate, Joon-Suk (Jo Dong-Hyeok), who comes from a family of doctors and was, for want of a better phrase, born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The relationship between the two doctors is significantly influenced by their interactions with Kim Sang-Chul (Jung Jin-Young), a renowned surgeon and well liked professor, popular with both his peers and his patients.

I have to admit I've actually become really fond of many of the supporting actors/actresses in this series. I know I'm fond of them because I can remember their names - I always take this as a strong hint! Choi Jung-Won presents a well developed character as feisty, confident yet warm hearted resident Dr Yun Ji-Hye. While a little wimpish at the start, her encounters with Lee Kang-Hoon give her the opportunity to shine and learn to stand up for herself. My real favourite however has to be Head Nurse Hong Eun-Sook, played by Im Ji-Eun. I confess, I am slightly biased as I have supported her since watching her in God of Study (공부의 신) but she never fails to impress, delivering a solid performance providing a depth to her character that is rare in the world of Korean dramas. 

There are a number of things I really like about this drama. 
1. It doesn't really follow the stereotypical Korean drama plot (poor girl, rich boy, strange meeting, fall in love, horrible get me!).While still predictable in parts, as most dramas are, it still manages to captivate the viewer and the various twists in the plot make for interesting, somewhat unexpected events leaving us, as viewers, wondering what is going to follow...

2. It doesn't rely on eye candy. Now, first things first, I'm not saying that the actors in this drama aren't attractive - they are! - but I just don't get the feeling that they're relying on their looks rather than their skills as actors. Consequently, this results in a much more conclusive presentation. There are no huge bursts of overacting nor does it feel fake or "cold". 

3. As already mentioned, I'm a sucker for medical dramas and a big fan of Im Ji-Eun! 

I'm generally rather disappointed with the lack of press dramas such as Brain receive just because they don't have a 'pretty' line up.... *cough* Pretty/Flower Boys in the Ramyun Shop *cough* I wish people would look beyond the gleaming white smiles and cute faces of the likes of Cha Chi-soo*. I mean, it's not that I dislike Pretty Boys in the Flower Shop, I do like it and I'm watching it at the moment - I guess it just frustrates me that awesome dramas like Brain get sidelined and pass under the radar.... >< 

This is only a mid-drama review so I won't say anymore but if you haven't seen it, you know what you should spend the rest of the day / evening doing! 


*A further reference to the Pretty/Flower Boys in the Ramyun Shop drama. 

Kpop on the BBC...! it was on BBC Asia and it was broadcast from Singapore...but still!

This morning at exactly 05:01 am GMT (no, I wasn't awake for this, I was just mooching the website today and found it!), BBC Asia presented a piece titled "K-pop singer 'honoured' at the MTV awards" following 2NE1's success at the MTV awards in New York having been voted "New Band of the Year".

It included an interview, conducted in English, with the lead singer, CL, of 2NE1, a Korean pop girl group formed in 2009, as well as footage from the MV of the Japanese version of "I Am The Best" and also performance footage of "Fire".

CL answered a number of questions including where she believed the future lay for K-pop and it's appeal on a more global basis, particularly regarding the language barrier.

I was actually really pleased to see such coverage as it just goes to show how far the Hallyu wave is spreading. Congratulations to 2NE1 for their recent success and I can't wait to see what's coming next!

If you wish to watch the original interview via BBC iplayer, follow the link below

(Credits to BBC Asia - Singapore)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

One year anniversary of MBC The Birth of a Star Competition

Exactly one year ago to this day, I was getting off a plane to land in Korea to participate in the famous MBC 위대한탄생 competition. I managed to get past the primary Youtube round so I was then invited to go to Seoul, Korea for the next round.
(Here you can see my original audition video :

It was all a little crazy, none of us really knew whether we were coming or going but I rocked up to London Heathrow airport in time to catch my flight. In the queue to board, I was lucky enough to meet another UK based contestant, Tammy, who was also flying out for the competition.

We flew Korean Air - I have to admit that I'm a sucker for plane food and the food they served was actually pretty good. We got Bibimbap and a little thing of kimchi - really rather cute :D

When we arrived in Seoul, it was snowing fairly heavily and it was absolutely freezing. Around 5 of us were arriving at similar times - we all quickly realised we had not really come dressed for a Korean winter!! Having just landed, many of us coming off long haul flights, we were asked by the camera crews to do a variety of things to provide footage for the show. We had to go back through the arrivals gate and pretend to arrive (again) in the airport and walk through the gate with looks of happiness and amazement on our faces, then walk into the terminal and then come back out a few times together, pretending to be best friends already - I even got asked to walk around the airport Korean...which left many of the people in the airport rather confused!

We arrived at our 'officetel' (kind of like a long-stay hotel...except we weren't long stay) close to the MBC Studios and the next day it was off to the TV studios for our official auditions! Here is a picture of Tammy and I while we were waiting to audition in the dressing rooms;

Although neither of us passed, we had a really good day and I made lots of friends from all over the world.
In fact, those of us that didn't pass took the opportunity to go have a look around, eat some good food and go to 노래방! (Korean karaoke!)

Look at Daniel still wearing his audition sticker ^^ We all had an amazing time and funnily enough, we actually all still keep in touch via a facebook group...except we're all a little depressed at the moment, reminiscing over the times we had in Seoul exactly one year ago. What I wouldn't give to have the chance to go back now...!

RECIPE: 김치찌개 (Kimchi Jjigae aka Kimchi Stew)

So today I woke up and decided I really, really wanted 김치찌개 - kimchi stew! I was cold, outside it was cold, everything was just...cold. On days like this, some kind of 찌개 is exactly what you need to warm you up from the inside out!

I'd never actually made it before and I had some leftover kimchi in the fridge so thought I ought as well put it to good use~!

I used the recipe from Korean-cuisine.blogspot (see credit link below) but I had to admit I didn't entirely follow it. I'm kind of like that with recipes, which is probably why it doesn't look as "reddish" as it's supposedly meant too! I also cooked it in a saucepan, which again is a big no-no, but hey, I'm living in a student dormitory - one must make do!

Kimchi stew can be made either with or without meat depending on preferences and it's a really good meal in the sense that you can kind of throw anything you want in there. Leftover carrots- pop them in. The mushrooms you promised yourself you'd use..and haven't yet quite managed too - in they go. It's a really good "clean-out-your-fridge" meal - and it's also pretty simple to make!

For substitute ingredients etc, please see below.

This shows the vegetarian recipe version:

What you're going to need :
-Garlic (fresh, minced, whatever - it's all good!)
-Kimchi and kimchi juice
-Tofu  (around 200-250g should do)
-고추장 (Korean red pepper paste)
-Sesame oil (doesn't taste as good but easily substituted for olive oil, vegetable oil etc)
-Onions - one large one is probably enough
-Meat (if you want it)

1. Heat up a dolsot bowl (if you have one, otherwise a saucepan is fine) with about 1tbsp of sesame oil  and add 3/4 tbsp of minced garlic.

(If you want meat, around now is the time to add it / cook it)
2. Add onions. Add as little or as much as you want. I added about half an onion, cut into medium sized  

3. Add kimchi, again, as much as you want. Generally, the more the better. If your kimchi is well fermented then you shouldn't really need to add any 고추장 (Go-chu-jang, Korean red pepper paste), if not, you can add more to thicken the stew.

4. Add kimchi juices - I pretty much just drained what was in the bag but I've heard they actually sell it in some stores (?) so if you feel an urge, I'm sure this is equally good to use! Most recipes recommend around 5-6 teaspoons but in true, random recipe style, I just added all I had!

5. Add enough water to cover everything that is in the bowl or pan. Remember, alot of the water will boil off, so feel free to be quite liberal with the amount of water.

6. Then add tofu and mushrooms. I would recommend cutting the tofu into fairly medium sized blocks before adding it to the stew.

7. Leave to stew for as long as possible - as a general rule, the longer the better as it really brings out the flavour. I left mine for 45 minutes.

8. To finish, garnish with sliced spring onions and serve with rice.

Enjoy! :) 

 Yours should probably look nicer than mine...I kind of just threw everything in there - but it tasted amazing!
Me and my 김치찌개!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Back in the day~

So hey and welcome to my blog :) I'm Anna ... which I guess you probably know! I've never really blogged before...I've written for school papers, made video blogs for my youtube channel but this is the first time I'm putting pen to paper...or fingers to keyboard so to speak :) So, a quick overview I guess. This is going to a place for me to share my travel experiences and my photos from all around the world...and I travel quite a bit so it should be interesting..I hope! I'll also post song/album/drama reviews as well as my experiences of Korean culture ; concerts, restaurants, meetings etc as well as links to new covers on my youtube page- all here :) So stay tuned, the best is yet to come and without further ado, let the show begin! 

<--- This is a picture from earlier in the month when I was in Paris - goodness, here in England it's so cold...I think I've forgotten what the sun is.....