ordinary and oddinary

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Archive for the tag “spain”

Gangnam Style

Is there anybody who still hasn’t seen ‘Gangnam Style’ video?

It’s a hilarious music video you can easily find on youtube.com. Apparently over 140 million people have viewed this one and I must admit that 10 of them is mine. lol

‘Gangnam’ literally means ‘South (nam) of River (gang) and ‘Gang’ pronounces as ‘gahng’ as in ‘garden (but without the prolonged ‘r’ sound)’ not ‘gang’ as in gangster. This is located in the south part of Han river (Han-Gang), which runs across Seoul, and represents the richest town of Seoul. People who live in Gangnam are considered a bit self-important and haughty and they tend to stay in their own ‘league’. Unless you’re born there and have inherited the family wealth, buying a property in Gangnam area from scratch is almost impossible. Moving (=breaking) into Gangnam area equtes to ‘you made it!’. Parents want to move there because kids have the highest record of going to top universities, which inevitably links to their future career choices, and young couples want to live there because it will make others go green.

There are many derivative words from Gangnam, which mostly imply a slight negative (plus jealous) tone. For example, Gangnam umma (gangnam mum) is a mum who dedicates her life to find out and collect privileged study-related information for their kids. Gangnam umma forms a group of fellow selected mums to exchange information and recruits a private tutor , or goes to see (or bribe?) her kid’s teacher at school. They spend loads of £££ to increase a chance of sending their kids to the best unis. In Gangnam area, it is said that whether a kid goes to a good university or not is totally dependent upon his mum’s info-money-power.

People also say ‘She’s Gangnam choolsin (born & bred hardcore Gangnam girl).’ and it implies ‘money, typical character, outstanding appearances thanks to plastic surgery and maybe a different level. Gangnam doesn’t necessarily represent high integrity or class but mostly money and money-driven stuff. Of course there is always an exception to the rule and I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of Gangnam-ians who are just as humble as the rest of us! 🙂

Anyway this song makes a light-hearted joke about Gangnam style. As the singer Psy said in one of his interviews, ‘I don’t look like Gangnam style’, I don’t dress like Gangnam style but I keep on saying I’m Gangnam style in the music video – that’s the whole point!’. You can see different sites of Gangnam in the video. The music is catchy and the signature ‘invisible horseriding’ dance is easy to follow. It’s simply a genius!

I found this article on ABC.es and it’s great to see Psy is beginning to make it here in Europe. I hope to hear his song Gangnam style on Radio Gibraltar (Gibraltar) or Cadena Dial (Spain) very soon!


La compra semanal (weekly shopping)

I go to Mercadona almost every Saturday to do weekly grocery shopping. I try to keep the budget at about £30 worth in Euro. With the current strength of £, it works out about €36. It doesn’t vary much what I buy. I can leave Mercadona with two fully loaded large shopping bags, which is very satisfying. I buy eggs, bread, Spanish hams & sausages, fruits & vegetables in season, rice, pasta, legumes, cereal bars, milk, nuts, etc. I also buy frozen stuff at time and it lasts a few weeks.

Most of products at Mercadona is ‘marcas blancas (supermarket own brands)’. I don’t necessarily buy supermarket own brands at other places such as Morrisons, Carrefour, Hipercor etc, rather in some cases, I avoid them. However, I really like Mercadona’s. Not that I feel that I am deprived of choices, I would actively buy their brands even if there were choices that I could make. I trust their quality and taste.

Today I came across this article on ABC.es and more and more Spaniards are buying ‘marcas blancas’ and the price is a deciding factor due to the crisis. I’ve got my doubts about it whenever I go shopping in Spain, but well, it says 1/4 of the Spanish population is unemployment. I spotted Mercadona in the article and it instantly gave me smile.

Penélope Cruz doesn’t want to raise her children in LA.


Today I’m having lots of Penélope Cruz doses! 🙂

While I was browsing my beloved abc.es website, I found this article. Basically she and her husband Javier Bardem don’t want to bring up their children in LA. I think it’s only natural that you feel more comfortable in your home country. Since you can get anything & everything you want in your home country, I fully understand their future plan to move back to Madrid.

Thousands of Europeans would love to retire, or have already retired, in Spain.  At the moment Spain is going through an economically challenging time, which it will be better with time, Spain has plenty to offer as a country. Call me biased but I adore Spain and its culture. 🙂


La actriz revela en una entrevista que abandonará la ciudad en un futuro

El pequeño Leo, hijo de Penélope Cruz y Javier Bardem, ha sido siempre uno de los secretos mejor guardados de la pareja de actores. La española no ha querido nunca revelar datos de su vida privada (ya conocer el nombre de su primogénito supuso bastante esfuerzo para la prensa), aunque en esta ocasión se ha permitido el lujo de dar ciertas pinceladas sobre la que será su vida futura junto a su esposo y su hijo.

Ha sido en la reivsta HarperŽs Bazaar, en la que Cruz ha asegurado que su plan de vida no pasa por continuar viviendo en Los Ángeles. «He pasado muy buenos momentos aquí, pero no me gustaría vivir aquí, pues no es el lugar en el que quiero que crezcan mis hijos». Como había dejado ver la pareja en más de una ocasión, parece que a los españoles les gustaría trasladarse de manera definitiva a Madrid.

Durante la entrevista, la española se define como una persona constantemente preocupada por todo. «Vivo preocupada cada día, e intento tener menos miedos y menos preocupaciones, pero es mi naturaleza», asegura.

Random Kindness

Yesterday the border queue was absolutely horrendous.

It must have been a madrush out because Spain’s Easter holiday starts from Thursday, one day before Gibraltar’s.  Anyway, not grasping the seriousness of the situation, we still decided to go out to Spain to buy some goodies for my family. First, we had a bite at a very nice tapas bar at Ocean viliage in Gibraltar and joined the queue at about 8:45pm.  Then I realised that Mercadona closes at 9:15pm!

We arrived at a nearby Mercadona at 9:00pm and ran like a headless chicken to get piquilo peppers, piquitos, and the usual groceries. I wanted to go to Carrefour as well, so the time was really tight. I picked a till where a few men with a small basket were standing while checking my wrist watch.

Then, one gentlman standing before me turned and asked me ‘Tiene prisa? (Are you in a hurry?’. I answered ‘Si, un poquito, (Yes, a little bit).  You know what he did? He said, ‘Pase, pase por favor (Go ahead)’.  – How nice is that!

I love this sort of random kindness. Well, Mark said (which I don’t mind accepting, ha ha ha!) it’s because I am pretty and cute. 🙂  However, I come across this very often in Spain, not particularily in any other places.

Another reson why I love Spain and Spanish people.



Grocery shopping – Morrisons vs. Mercadona

Thanks to the location I am in, I have more options in shopping in two countries: Gibraltar & Spain. It’s great in general, but not always straightforward for grocery shopping. A wise man once said ‘Ignorance is bliss’, right? 🙂

There is only one ‘proper’ supermarket in Gibraltar, which is Morrisons. It has a good selection of products. It’s not huge but well organised and well catered for different types of domestic necessities. Products are generally reliable and their cafeteria is very handy. Oh let’s not forget the nice bakery section.

However, I don’t buy everything from Morrisons. It’s convenient to head there rather than go to Spain to bring stuff back, but there are a couple of things I would like to pinpoint, and I ‘wishfully’ think Morrisons management take notice of them.

First of all, it’s pricing. I mean the opportunity is there. It’s a downright monopoly, isn’t it? No ASDA, no Sainsbury’s, and no Tesco. Morrisions doesn’t have a competitor in Gibraltar.
As a big supermarket chain, they will probably have to make the prices of most products in line with the mainland stores, however, who regulates it and how do we know that we’re paying the same for a carton of milk as the consumers in Norwich? Actually we know that we’re not paying the same. I read an article about the discrepancies in price amongst Morrisions stores from a local newspaper and Gibraltar was wholeheartedly contributing to their profit generation.

Some of the products can be easily compared to the counterparts in Spain. One might say it’s all about quality but how come a bunch of grapes could exhibit more than £3 difference per kilo? Then there are products which are cheaper in Gibraltar. So is it an arbitrage equilibrium then? I don’t think so. The pricing tends to be biased towards basic essential products, and for the rest we are too busy to check all the prices over two different markets in two different jurisdictions and currency zones.

Gibraltar is a multicultural society. Morrisons reflects that. I have few problems sourcing exotic ingredients from there, which gives a big advantage against Spanish ones. Actually it’s not 100% true any more. Nowadays there are so many expats living on the coast, many Spanish supermarkets have adapted to their consumers’ needs. I’d say Hipercor (El Corte Ingles supermarket) and Carrefour are the leaders.

Secondly (but lastly, yes I’m complaining about only two!), it’s the market control. There must be a better term for this and I should know for an (ancient) marketing major, but anyway their timing of some production is questionable. One corner I like a lot at Morrisions is a roast chicken counter. They roast whole chickens, chicken parts and some pork parts. They smell nice and are so fresh. The oven is always roasting something, you know it’s in rolling motion. That’s why it quizzes me even more.

Why do they not have my favorite chicken thighs at lunch time? Or rather, why do they not have anything left when I turn up at lunch time?
They are usually all sold out or some dry unappetising pieces left. There is absolute abundance of whole roast chickens at any time but I cannot buy and eat it for my lunch. I want a meal deal composed of a few chicken thighs or drumsticks with a containerful of chips. I’m not the only one. I saw many disappointed faces turning away due to lack of chicken parts for lunch. There is a clearly lucrative (=desperate!) market there and Morrisons don’t seem to care to exploit it. Their attitude is like, ‘We make chicken roasts whenever we feel like it.’ No market research or strategy involved in this area, I have to say.

Well I see the same at bakery section. My favourite rolls are always unavailable and they tend to make an offer of £1.29 for 5 (undesired and boring) rolls. Duh! I’m sure that I’m not the only one that is fond of that particular bread roll. I want my roll, not just any roll!

I would say that I do 85% of the major grocery shopping in Spain and 15% in Morrisons. What I usually buy at Morrisons are stuff which are not available or more expensive in Spain (snacks of British origin, i.e. walkers, tofu, bean sprouts, most of Asian ingredients, kitchen stuff etc.) or it has better selection (apples and some vegetables) or transportability (fresh meat, frozen stuff, bottled drinks, etc). Of course these are not set-in-stone rules as shopping is not always a rational activity.

In Spain, my favourite supermarket by a large margin is Mercadona, followed by Hipercor and Carrefour. I like the localness and humbleness of Mercadona. They have a huge range of ‘Hacendado (own brand)’ products and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with their quality. It feels like a less posh version of Marks & Spencer’s.

source: google image

To tell the truth, I wanted to write about this snack called ‘Rosegones‘, then the post got out of control again, intertwining with my deep-rooted rants against Morrisons!

OK, here is my (sort of) deduction.
I’ve recently discovered this delightful ‘Rosegones’, of course it’s hacendado. This tastes similar to biscotti but it is more rustic and has generous almond quantity. Also it feels unpretentious enough not to be accompanied with an illy espresso. If you can, get one from any Mercadona. It’s located in the breakfast/cereal section. If you can’t, make your own using this Spanish recipe webpage. It doesn’t look too complicated to make. It’s apparently a typical Valencian dessert eaten around Christmas. Yum Yum Yum!

Source: google image

Preparation for the trip – 2

4) Nocilla

This is Spain’s answer for Nutella. I have to say I score this higher than Nutella. Nocilla is hazelnut chocolate spread like Nutella, but it tastes like more chocolatey and softer to spoon. As far as I know it is sold only in Spain and outsells Nutella. If you go to any supermarket in Spain, you will know what I mean. You can spread it on a toast but you can eat it as a Lindt chocolate substitute. Mark likes it firm from the fridge and I like it at room temperature.  I like the Duo one (blue) as you can have two great flavours in one jar!

5) Turrón

Turrón is typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts, and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake. It is consumed as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain. There are two types of Turrón in Spain. One is hard (Turrón duro: the one you can see whole almonds) and the other one is soft (Turrón blando: golden block in the photo). I like both and they are very very delicious (=fattening)!

6) Tomate Frito

Many years ago, when I was invited to one of my Spanish friends, she cooked a bowl of pasta. It looked like an ordinary tomato based pasta at a first glance. However once I tasted it, oh dear, this was a road to the new world! obviously it was tomato sauce but it had an incredible depth to it. I didn’t know what it was. The colour was slightly orangey and smelled a bit more fragrant but there was nothing more than I could tell visually. Later I asked her how she made it. She said it was very simple because she used a pack of tomate frito and a bit of herb. Tomate frito. That’s the first time I was introduced to this delightedly fried tomato sauce.

Wikipedia says:
Tomate Frito is a pureed tomato sauce  with a hint of onion and garlic, that can be used as a base ingredient or enjoyed simply for its own flavour. It is distinct from most tomato sauces because the tomatoes have been fried, and its ingredients include a small amount of vegetable oil.

Yes, tomatoes have been fried before they were made to a sauce. Come to think of it, I once watched an Italian cookery program where the chef was making a tomato sauce from scratch. He started frying tomato in olive oil. By doing this, the tomato sauce reaches another level. So aromatic and sumptuous. This comes in a pack like below, I use Orlando or Apis most of the times.

7) Maltesers
This is not a Spanish confectionery but I read it somewhere that Koreans like this one very much. So I’m going to get some from Morrisons.

8) Ventresca de Atun (Tuna belly)

Ventresca de Atun is high grade belly cut tuna packed in olive oil and it does taste mesmerisingly succulent. I once bought this (Oritz brand one) to make a special tuna salad for Mark’s dad’s birthday and remember it was quite pricey by a large notch compared to normal tinned tuna. Since then, if my budget permits, I choose this one over others and make a great salad with pimiento asado.

Well, I will have to start shopping soon. 5-10 of each, I’m thinking.

Preparation for the trip – 1

I’ve already started the countdown to my Korean trip.
This is my itinerary.

From Gibraltar
To Heathrow (London)
Depart 17 Mar 2012 14:55
Arrive 17 Mar 2012 16:55

From Heathrow (London)
To Seoul ICN 
Depart  17 Mar 2012 21:00 
Arrive 18 Mar 2012 16:50

It’s a 2-week stay and I’m going divide my time with the family and the friends. My plan is to spend the first week with the family and friends in Daegu then the second with my good friends in Seoul. With a bit of ambition, I would like to take a few classes (short & sweet baking) as well.

My nephew (my brother’s first born) was born on 14 November, 2011, hence it’s going to be the first time to see him in person. Thanks to the iphone, I’ve had no difficulty to fully enjoy my little additions (I’ve got two more nieces from my sister.) though.  People ask me if I’m excited to see him for the first time. Then I answer ‘yyyyyyyes!!!!’ on autopilot. Well, yes I am but it’s not like when I went to cinema to watch ‘Back to the Future’ for the first time kind of pure and raw excitement. I’m happy for my brother.

And my parents. I think physical distance increses psychological closeness. Of course I miss them and I am immensely grateful for everything they have done for me. I feel sad to see them getting older every day. I find it strange yet interesting to see them adjusting to their roles (grand parents, parents-in-law, retired people, etc).

It’s also a bit difficult to view them objectively when they do or say something in a different role suit as I’ve only known them as my lovely parents. Well I guess it’s not just about my parents. My sister, my brother and even I myself have all had to accept different roles as our lives go on. Sometimes two roles of equal importance clash and call for an immediate solution. And I have been witnessing this a lot lately in my family.

That’s that.
Now fun stuff!

Though they say not to bring anything back, but I do enjoy their lit-up faces when I give the right stuff to them as a present. This time I’ve decide to buy yummy Spanish snacks. There are a wealth of great foodies I’d love to introduce to my family and friends. However, some of them are not viable to carry with me. I’m not going to smuggle a leg of giant  Jamón Serrano or a wheel of Queso Manchego this time. Hmmm they are yummy by the way. 🙂

My shortlist is as follows:

1) Olives

I’ve tried a few brands and to me this tastes the best. Fragata is not too salty and comes with various flavours. I can get them at Morrisions in Gibraltar or Carrefour in Spain.

2) Dulce de Membrillo

This is a quince paste that is practically the national snack of Spain when paired with Manchego cheese or sheep’s milk cheese. A quince is a hard fruit that looks like a cross between an apple and a pear. Dulce de Mebrillo is less jellylike and has got more texture than a normal marmalade. I accidently bought one for diabetes and it was surprisingly nice. It was still sweet enough for me. I cut it in a nice bloc and eat it as its own when I feel like eating something sweet after dinner.  

El Quijote brand is found everywhere and it costs me about 2 euro or less I think.

3) Pimiento del Piquillo

Wikipedia says ‘ Piquillo peppers are hand picked during two harvests between September and December. They are roasted over embers, which gives them a distinct sweet, spicy flavour, more akin to bell peppers than chile peppers, despite their small size. They are then peeled and de-seeded by hand, before being packed into jars or tins for sale.’ I love stuffed piquillos with cheese.

Another pepper I can’t live without is ‘pimiento asado rojo y verde tiras’, which is translated to be ‘(fire) roasted red and green peppers strips’. They are absolutely delectable. I make a gorgeously refreshing salad with onions, pepper corns, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. It comes in a packet like this and I normally get it from Mercadona. They are available at all supermarkets in Spain, of course.

<To be continued>

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