A patch of green, a basket and youIf you believe the experts, the hottest summer in a century is right around the corner. Before that burning heat arrives, why not go out to enjoy the beauty of late spring and early summer, when the trees are at their greenest?
Skies are supposed to be clear this weekend, so there’s no excuse for being a couch potato. A picnic at a nearby park or arboretum would be a perfect way to appreciate what apparently are going to be the last tolerable days for some time.
You’ll want to bring your own picnic basket, of course, unless you want to fill your stomach with tasteless store-bought stuff. We’ve asked O Jeong-mi, an artist turned cook, to share some tips for a picnic lunch that’s both tasty and easy to make. Life is short; come out and play.
Seoul is short on green space, but here and there among the skyscrapers you’ll find small parks suitable for a weekend picnic.
Along the Han River, there’s Seonyudo Park, at the southern tip of the Yanghwa Bridge. Originally a water purification plant, Seonyudo Park is an ambitious and successful case of converting an industrial site into a park.
Visitors can still see aspects of its past in places like the aquatic botanical garden. The best place to enjoy your picnic here is the cafeteria that faces the river. All you have to do is buy a soft drink to be able to use a table outside.
To reach the park, take subway line No. 2 or 6 to Hapjeong Station and use exit 1. From there, it’s a cab ride of about 1.5 kilometers (one mile). For more information, call (02) 3780-0590.
World Cup Park
In the northwestern part of the city, there’s the World Cup Park in Sangam-dong, which has a rather colorful history.
Once, it was a notorious landfill. Then the 2002 World Cup came along, and it was developed into a park. (There’s a stadium nearby, too.)
Now the place is extremely inviting, full of trees, flowers and everything else you’d want in a park.
The park itself is divided into several different, smaller sections ― Haneul (Sky) Park, Nanjucheon (Nanji Stream) Park and Pyeonghwa (Peace) Park.
Sky Park looks best toward evening; the sunsets are picture-perfect. At Nanji Stream Park, there’s a road exclusively for bicycling or inline skating.
To get to the World Cup Park, take subway line No. 6 to World Cup Stadium station and use exit 1 or 2. For more information, visit www.worldcuppark.seoul.or.kr.
Out of Seoul
If a nearby park won’t do, about an hour’s train ride from Seoul is an arboretum with a rather ambitious name, the Garden of Morning Calm (in Korean, it’s Achim Goyo Sumogwon).
A 6,000 won ($6) ticket will get you access to everything in this arboretum in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi province, where gardens and promenades of various kinds can be sampled, from a Korean traditional garden to a place known as the Garden of Eden. The arboretum is a rather commercial site that’s become quite popular among Koreans looking for a weekend getaway.
For more information about the arboretum, call (031) 584-6702 or visit www.morningcalm.co.kr.
The No. 1 priority when planning a picnic basket, says O Jeong-mi, is recipes that are easy to make and easy to carry once prepared. Here are two lunch baskets, one with Western flavors and one with Asian.
Roasted chicken with rosemary herb
Two chickens, six stems of rosemary herb, two tablespoonfuls of orange zest, two garlic cloves (chopped), two teaspoons of honey, two tablespoons of olive oil, a little salt and pepper
How to Cook
1. Clean the chickens and drain them of any remaining water.
2. Mix the other ingredients into a paste, rub it into the chickens and let them sit in the refrigerator for an hour.
3. Panfry the chickens over medium heat until they’re slightly browned.
4. Bake the chickens for one hour at about 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Roasted pork with Japanese soybean sauce
Four bowls of cooked rice; 300 grams of pork (preferably from the neck); one piece of ginger root; five garlic cloves; lettuce, pickles and sesame seeds. Sauce: 120 grams of red Japanese soybean paste; 30 grams of white Japanese soybean paste; 120 grams of sugar, one teaspoon of peanut butter; two teaspoons of cheongju (clear, strained rice wine)
How to cook
1. Slice the pork into bite-size pieces. Finely chop the garlic and ginger, rub it into the pork and leave it in a refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. To make the soybean paste sauce, panbroil the pastes, peanut butter and rice wine and boil it down slowly for about five minutes.
3. Marinate the pork in the soybean paste for an hour. Panfry the pork.
4. Make lettuce wraps by filling a piece of lettuce with a spoonful of rice, then covering the rice with pork and sesame seeds.
5. Serve with pickles.
by Chun Su-jin