OBSESSION: The War Between EXO and X-EXO

EXO takes the meaning of “legendary” to a whole new level with their 6th full-length album, OBSESSION.

Teaser images resembling movie theater posters reveal a battle between EXO and their anomaly version, X-EXO. Special social media pages were made just for X-EXO, and fans quickly caught on to the fact that EXO’s Twitter is written in third person while X-EXO’s is written in first, creating even more conspiracy theories. Between Twitter and Instagram, X-EXO easily gained over half a million followers in two weeks. Soon, fans became conflicted on whose side to take, questioning “Kai, Chanyeol, Sehun, Baekhyun, Chen, and Suho, who? I only know KĀI, CHANYEØL, SEHŮN, BAËKHYUN, CHËN, and SUHØ.”

Almost a year since their last comeback, EXO combines old and new sounds. For their 6th album, their voices blending together to create a single harmony seems to be their highlighting signature. With every beautifully-crafted harmony, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride. The addictive title song “Obsession” features a hip-hop dance beat, and has no problem finding itself on repeat all day. Words cannot describe the cinematic masterpiece that is the music video. Acting? On point. Visuals? Out of this world. An image of the world burning up at the end of the MV is an accurate representation of how you’ll feel after watching it. 

“Trouble” and “Jekyll” follow up the title track with the same hip-hop vibe, but progressively get softer, allowing a smooth transition into the next song. “Groove” lives up to its song title, featuring a groovy sound mixed with sophisticated, modern beats. B-sides “Ya Ya Ya” and “Baby You Are” are on the more mellow side, perfect for your everyday mood. 

Cold weather got you down? “Non Stop” radiates 24K Magic-era Bruno Mars energy, perfect for bringing the summer warmth to any gloomy day. Wrapping up their 6th album comes “Day After Day” and “Butterfly Effect,” showcasing EXO’s smooth harmonies in two different kinds of ballads: one more mellow and down-to-Earth while the other is more upbeat and light. Right when you thought the album was neatly-wrapped up with the ballads acting like a pretty bow on top, EXO pulls out the Chinese version of “Obsession,” bringing up the energy and making it automatically easy to listen to the album all over again.

Fun fact! While Xiumin and D.O are fulfilling their military service and Lay is continuing promotions in China, the other six members are spending the last half of 2019 doing their EXO Planet #5 – EXplOration tour. Lead writer Aaron Stewart-Anh went to one of EXO’s tour stops to draw inspiration for a scene for an upcoming Thor audio and ebook series. Thor: Metal Gods is a collaboration between Marvel and Serial Box Studios releasing on December 12. Stewart-Anh says that he included small details in Chapters 1, 2, and 8 that will hopefully bring a smile to EXO-L. What could it be? Be sure to find out on December 12!

With “Obsession” taking #1 on all the major real time charts, EXO’s only comeback for 2019 proves to be worth the wait. This album concept alone will go down in history.

What’s your favorite song from EXO’s OBSESSION? Let us know in the comments!

Cover Image: EXO (SM Entertainment)
Written by Sarah Wong

The Hidden Heart of Seoul

Full of many innovative and vibrant places, Seoul has become a popular destination for tourists from all around the world! Still, there are many exciting and cool locations that people miss out on while in the city. So, which attractions are hidden in the heart of Seoul? Here are five very secretive places that you can explore throughout your stay!

  • Cheonggyesan Mountain 

Located in Seocho-gu, Cheonggyesan Mountain is a perfect hiking spot for friends and families in a scenic area that is full of a nature-filled atmosphere. In fact, this mountain offers beautiful parks, temples, and forests that you are more than welcome to explore. Since it is not as well known as Bukhansan Mountain, Cheonggyesan is not as popular, but it is still visited by many locals throughout the year and rewards hikers with a magnificent view at the peak. If you come around April, you will be in for a treat since a beautiful display of pink azaleas bloom along the hiking paths. Make sure to pay this mountain a visit! 

  •  Naksan Park 

Located in Jongno-gu, Naksan Park offers its visitors a unique view of Daehangno’s sunset and night lights. Due to its historical aura, it is a famous filming location for various dramas. Even though this is the case, it is still quite secretive and very exclusive. Now, if you are looking for something truly breathtaking, you should visit the park throughout the spring. At this time, you can witness an astonishing view of the cherry blossom trees that are placed around the park. If you want to see some great views, take in some fresh air, or have a pleasant stroll, Naksan Park is the place you want to visit!

  • Trickeye Museum Seoul

Showcasing the Trompe-l’oeil art technique, the Trickeye Museum is a fun place where you can interact with many optical illusions. At this museum, there is an endless amount of silly photo opportunities that are each unique. Since you can literally jump into these oversized paintings, you can become one with the art. There are even rooms that are designed to make visitors look as if they are hanging from the ceiling! Overall, the Trickeye Museum offers its visitors a marvelous opportunity to strike a variety of poses and showcase their photography skills. 

  • Poopoo Land

Known for its wacky exhibits and interactive displays, Poopoo Land is a surreal attraction that is divided into three floors. True to its name, Poopoo Land is full of colorful excrement and uncommon photo opportunities. At this wacky exhibit, you can take a picture with your companions on matching toilets, see different types of toilet paper, and go through a steep slide that was made to resemble the digestive system. If you still have an appetite, you can explore the upper levels where they have a poop-themed cafe that serves some delicious snacks, drinks, and desserts. 

  • Coffee Hanyakbang

Located between multistory buildings, Coffee Hanyakbang is found in the Euljiro area. Often described as a hidden gem, this shop offers its visitors an enjoyable cup of coffee among other things. Aside from beverages, Coffee Hanyakbang has a remarkable interior. In fact, it uses antique decorations that clash Chinese and Korean designs together. As a result, this shop creates a delightful atmosphere. Once you have a taste of their hand-dripped coffee, you won’t stop coming back!

As can be seen, there are a variety of hidden attractions that are unique to Seoul. Are there any hidden places in your country that aren’t given enough credit? If so, let us know in the comments below! 

Written by Valeria Voelkl

Sungmin Winds Up His First Solo Album with ‘Orgel’

Super Junior fans, or ELFs, have been waiting patiently for Sungmin’s return ever since he released “Daydream” for the SM Station project back in March 2018. When SM Entertainment announced the release of his first mini album, the post was filled with messages of congratulations and blue heart emojis, making sure to let him know how much he has been missed during the long hiatus. In order to keep in touch with ELFs who love him so much, Sungmin started his own YouTube channel. On LIUstudio, Sungmin uploads covers, vlogs, cooking and beauty videos, taking special care in liking each and every comment that is left on a video.

Although he hasn’t participated in any Super Junior activities since 2014, fellow members still show their support for Sungmin’s mini album. Zhoumi cheers his fellow Super Junior-M member on by posting a photo on his personal Instagram, asking fans to show a lot of interest towards Orgel. Siwon shares one of Sungmin’s promotional photos, asking for ELFs to show love for Sungmin’s song “Orgel,” highlighting the title song’s warm guitar melody. While taking a vacation in Rome, Yesung posted a picture of a merry-go-round that is seemingly similar to the one showed in Sungmin’s music video teaser #1. Seeing as they were posted on the same day, some believe that the merry-go-round picture is Yesung’s subtle way of showing his support for Sungmin’s album. 

Orgel consists of 6 songs: title song “Orgel,” “Stay,” “Zzz…,” “Rest,” and “I Pray”. “Orgel” blends acoustics, gentle music box sounds, and soothing vocals to create a melody that just makes you want to lay back and close your eyes. The music video showcases the reality of losing passion for something you love doing, but just because it is lost, doesn’t mean that it won’t ever come back. 

Following the warm and light melody in “Orgel,” “Stay” features a more down to earth tone. With lines like “I miss you. I still love you,” it brings about a feeling of longing. Living up to its name, “Rest” is the kind of song that you would want to play at the end of the day in order to melt away the stress that has been building up throughout the day. 

Out of the songs on the mini-album, Sungmin contributed in composing and lyrical writing for “Zzz…” and “I Pray.” Despite what you might think from the song title, “Zzz…” picks up the tempo with an upbeat ballad while “I Pray” is a ballad that is mellow yet comforting. During his comeback VLive broadcast, Sungmin said he hopes that the combination of his voice and the guitar would be like a gentle hug.

Sungmin filmed an album unboxing video while sharing his favorite memories from each photoshoot. Watching his face full of excitement as he reacts to the album’s design and interacts with the staff makes you think “ah. I’ve missed this.” 

Let’s show a lot of love for Sungmin’s very first mini-album, Orgel! Which song is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Cover Image: Sungmin (SM Entertainment)
Written by Sarah Wong

Hot Takes: Bibimbap

The sound of packaging ripping open to sweet and salty deliciousness is music to our ears, but every now and then, we love to indulge in snacks that take a little more heat. While these Korean bites take a bit more effort, it only means the results are that much more delicious!

Simple in concept, one of the worldwide famous Korean dishes, bibimbap, could be what you need for your next meal prep session. Literally translated to “mixed rice,” this dish can be versatile, and save you from spending a lot of money or wasting food. Why? Besides rice, you can put anything you like in your bowl of bibimbap from exotic combinations to simply what you have left in the fridge from the day before. Today, let’s have a look at some possible combinations for your bowl of wonders!

  • Raw Fish Bibimbap

As each bibimbap consists of various toppings on a bed of rice, the options could be endless. The appetizing red color of the raw saengseon (fish) contrasts with the green vegetables on top, such as lettuce and chives, and makes the perfect combination for a fresh lunch meal. Fun fact: There is symbolism behind bibimbap and every color in the bowl. The red-orange color of the raw fish, for example, represents the South and the heart of the human body. And yes, it will definitely steal your heart from the first try. 

  • Spicy Pork Bibimbap

Two of the most famous Korean dishes combine to make a superhero combination to satisfy your cravings. The bland taste of the rice can neutralize the spiciness of the pork chops, so even if you are not a person who can bear spicy food, the balance in this dish is perfect for you! The cucumbers and spinach add a pop of color to the picture while representing the East and the liver, which will definitely thank you for delivering all the nutrients you need for a balanced diet. 

  • Saessak Bibimbap

Bean sprouts are present in almost every bibimbap bowl as their chewy and savory taste enriches the taste of the whole meal. However, there is a special bibimbap bowl dedicated to the precious taste of bean sprouts. White vegetables, like sprouts or daikon radish, represent the West as well as our lungs, and you will probably feel like taking a deep breath and filling your body with new life from all the positive effects a bowl of saessak bibimbap brings with itself. 

  • Yakcho Bibimbap

If you want to have a good excuse to enjoy lots and lots of bibimbap, here is one: it’s actually beneficial for your health. The yakcho bibimbap comes from a town in Korea called Jecheon. This area is great for the growth of medical herbs, and locals use them not only for medicine, but food as well! This combination is one of the most famous foods in Jecheon, and who wouldn’t like to eat in abundance and not feel guilty about it? The black color of the shiitake mushrooms, nori seaweed and herbs themselves represent the kidneys, which need special care — probably a little more than every other organ — and yakcho bibimbap has got your back!

Bibimbap has an endless list of varieties, and one can design it based on preferences. There is no wrong way to make bibimbap but there is only one way to enjoy it: Eat up!

Written by Monica Boyadzhieva

K-Pop x K-Beauty!

Both K-pop and K-beauty are on the rise, gaining international love and recognition as of recent years. With K-pop’s multi-talented, stunning and personable idols and K-beauty’s magical powers in healing all and any skin concern with affordable prices, it is only understandable that both of these phenomenons have such large followings. When the two join forces and release their collaborations, you can only imagine the excitement that ensues!

  • GOT7 x It’s Skin

GOT7’s collaboration with It’s Skin consists of two mask sets: one box of masks for each member and one group mask box. The masks in one of the sets consisted of bamboo (BamBam), rose (Mark), tea tree (Yugyeom), avocado (Jackson), carrot (Jinyoung), blueberry (JB) and pomegranate (Youngjae).

Along with the purchase of these mask sets, fans were also gifted tote bags, posters, standees, and plastic files.

  • Red Velvet x Etude House

In collaboration with Red Velvet, Etude House released the Matte Lip Chic Lacquer. This super on-brand and affordable collection was a hit amongst fans. With twelve different pink and red shades in the collection, fans were surely able to find one that was perfect for them! Etude House is known for long-lasting lipsticks and this collab definitely was not an exception. 

  • EXO x Nature Republic

With EXO as the faces of Nature Republic, the collaboration between these two is quite unmissable, particularly if you’re a fan of either one. EXO and Nature Republic have been in partnership for quite a while now, and have released K-beauty ranging from makeup to skincare. From this collection, you’ll find items like face masks, lip balms, hand creams, lip tints, hair treatment and even oil-blotting paper with your favourite EXO member on the case. You’ll also catch the members promoting Nature Republic’s best-sellers, such as their aloe vera gel.

When walking into Nature Republic stores, you’ll often hear them blasting EXO songs; and if you’re lucky, they might even give you EXO photocards and standees with your purchase!

  • MONSTA X x Tonymoly

Their collaboration includes a two-piece Tone Up set (which includes a tone up cushion and tone up pact), lip balm, lip tint, color hair treatment, and hand cream. Each of these items comes complete with the MONSTA X logo on the sleek black and white packaging. 

  • Wanna One x Innisfree

This collaboration was hinted at through season two of Produce 101 as some of the boys were seen meandering around in their dorms wearing cute fluffy headbands with Innisfree face masks on. Wanna One heavily promoted Innisfree’s Jeju Volcanic Color Clay Masks and were part of a campaign that showed Wanna One adorably posing with the colorful masks smeared on their faces. They also released tinted lip balms, with eleven different flavors (shades) — one for each member of Wanna One.

When K-pop and K-beauty create collaborations, it is no surprise they’re so popular with fans — not only do they feature their favorite idols, but they are also affordable and high quality!

Which K-pop x K-beauty collaboration is your favorite?

Let us know in the comments below!

Cover Image: GOT7 (JYP Entertainment) for It’s Skin
Written by Stephanie Leung

Jeju Island: A Picturesque Adventure

Known for its breathtaking landscape, Jeju Island is a natural wonder that has attracted visitors from around the globe. Home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beaches and beautiful hiking trails, Jeju Island offers the perfect getaway for just about anyone.

Now, what most individuals enjoy about Jeju Island is that they can get in touch with nature and experience many fun outdoor activities throughout their stay. For all of these reasons, this island is the perfect destination for those who want an adventurous vacation spot on an island that is full of endless wonder and excitement. So, let us explore some unforgettable activities that guests definitely do not want to miss!

  • Manjanggul Cave

As one of Jeju Island’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Manjanggul Cave is the perfect place for tourists who want to explore and experience an underworld escapade! Unbeknownst to many of its daring visitors, the Manjanggul Cave is actually a lava tunnel illuminated with multiple lights to lead your way through the space available for public access. Furthermore, the cave is in pristine condition, and it contains wildlife and impressive geological structures formed by lava. Aside from this, it is an affordable and refreshing activity that will allow you to explore one of the many wonders that our world has to offer.

  • Cheonjeyeon Falls

Otherwise known as “The Pond of God,” Cheonjeyeon Falls is a legendary sight to behold. Consisting of three waterfalls, this rocky terrain has a lush green scenery and magnificent blue waters that are unique and different. Despite the layout of the land, there is a clear path that will allow its visitors to explore and admire each of these falls. Throughout your time here, it is impossible to resist the urge of documenting your visit to these glorious waterfalls. So, if you ever visit Jeju, make sure that you do not miss out on Cheonjeyeon Falls.

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  • Hallim Park

Having much to offer, Hallim Park is a nature-filled wonderland that houses an abundant amount of flora and fauna! The best part about this park is that each garden that it contains is unique and differs as the seasons change. Furthermore, it offers its visitors access to a folk village, a small zoo, and even two caves so that everyone can enjoy it to the fullest. This park is definitely one of a kind and a popular destination that you do not want to overlook. Overall, Hallim Park is the best place for one to get in touch with nature while appreciating the scenery around them.

  • Hyeopjae Beach

After witnessing all the caves and scenic gardens that Jeju has to offer, it is about time to have some fun in the sun! The lush blue waters and breathtaking view that one comes across when visiting Hyeopjae Beach is unforgettable. Unlike many other beaches, Hyeopjae’s has white and clear sand, shallow waters, and a breathtaking view. In fact, it is impossible to miss Mt. Hallasan, which can easily be spotted from the shore. For those who want to experience a majestic paradise or just a relaxing day at the beach, Hyeopjae is a destination that you will want to check out!

What would you want to see in Jeju? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Valeria Voelkl

Cooking Tree: Aesthetically-Pleasing ASMR

Food is very important because it brings people together. In today’s modern world, the definition of sharing a meal with other people has expanded as the so-called muk-bang (먹방 – lit. “common space for eating”) concept has spread throughout the internet, bonding people from over the world over a virtual meal. Crazy, right? What’s even wilder is that now not only eating the meal but also cooking it has become a popular field to explore for many people.

Are you a fan of the aesthetically-pleasing desserts that constantly pop on your Instagram feed? Well, now you can make them yourself! Based in South Korea, Cooking Tree follows recipes thoroughly and makes something messy, like cooking, actually look pretty and organized. The ASMR sounds of simple actions like mixing the butter and eggs or spreading the cream increase your appetite and you can’t help but keep watching!

Strawberry chap-ssal (sticky rice) cakes are a reminder of why we love spring with all its cute little cherry blossoms. Now you can have these beautiful cherry blossoms throughout the whole year, even in the middle of winter!

Are you a cheese lover or a cheesecake lover? Either way, it doesn’t matter because here is the best of both worlds! It’s a very quirky idea to make cheesecake in the shape of cheese, right? And it gets even better – there is real Emmental cheese inside!  Jerry would risk it all to get away from Tom for just one bite of it!

It is mind-blowing how good-looking a cake can be. It would be a pity even to take a bite from it, but this mango tiramisu is the definition of summer – fresh, colorful and juicy. Tiramisu is the type of dessert that anyone can make, so you have no excuse not to treat your friends to this temptation. Maybe even try making it together, visually and audibly pleasing your senses while doing so!

The matcha green tea and Pepero sticks are just some of the symbols of Korean culture so if you are looking for something diverse and out of the ordinary, this is a recipe you should try! The “fence” of Pepero sticks cannot hide the amazing work inside that is simple yet so spectacular!

What about something more on the bitter spectrum? The grapefruit pound cake is for all the people who prefer light formula cakes that blend the sweetness of the whipped cream with the sour and refreshing taste of the grapefruit! The red of the fruit gives a nice contrast to the white of the cream and the whole outlook of this tiny pound cake makes it so aesthetically-pleasing!

Summer is unforgivably hot and sometimes even our sweet tooth might be suffering. So, instead of indulging ourselves with sugar, Cooking Tree suggests healthy snacks for the days when you just wish there was an A/C attached to your body. These watermelon popsicles are fun and quick-to-follow; and the blend of lemon juice, kiwi and watermelon milk give everything a nice finish not only taste-wise but also visually. It’s an interesting twist on the simple fruit turned into a popsicle!

Finally, to wrap up with a less of a chance of catching cavities, here is one of Cooking Tree’s salty recipes that will make your jaw drop (if it already hasn’t). Just by the sound of cutting this deep dish pizza, we can all feel our mouths watering. The climax comes when all that dripping, melted cheese makes your heart feel and look the same way, and if you aren’t rushing to the kitchen to recreate this recipe already, what are you waiting for?

Are you into ASMR muk-bangs? Which one of the dishes inspired you to recreate it yourself? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Cover Image: (x)
Written by Monica Boyadzhieva

The Korean Celebration Experience: What to Know Before Attending

Countries all over the world celebrate milestones in different ways, and Korea has its own unique way of enjoying traditions year-round. Whether it’s just one year after your birth, your first confession on Valentine’s Day, or your wedding day, Korea has you covered for an endless supply of activities, foods, and gatherings to keep you busy on some important holidays. Want to know what to wear to your friend’s wedding? Need to buy a gift for someone on Christmas? Have no fear! We’ve compiled a quick rundown of some major Korean celebrations and how to do them right. 

  • Wedding

Weddings in Korea have changed over time, but they still hold on to some of their traditional aspects. For example, The bride and groom will often get married wearing hanbok (한복: traditional Korean dress), and the women on the bride’s side will often attend the ceremony wearing hanbok as well. The bride and groom will both have their hair and makeup done if it is desired. They will greet their wedding guests before the ceremony, which usually only lasts 20-30 minutes. Wedding guests will bring a white envelope with money inside, the amount dependent on the relationship they have with the bride or groom. Registries and gifts are not usually present at Korean wedding ceremonies. 

A few days following the wedding reception, the bride and groom will greet their families together in one setting. This is called pyebaek (펴백) and begins with the newlywed couple performing a traditional deep bow towards the older couples. This is followed by traditional games, such as throwing chestnuts at the bride, who will attempt to catch them in the skirt of her hanbok. The number of chestnuts caught corresponds to the number of children her and her husband will have during their marriage. Sometimes, the groom will carry the bride and her family members on his back to signify how well he can provide support. The family plays a big role in Korean weddings; traditionally, the groom’s family will purchase a house for the couple while the bride’s family will supply the furniture. This is less common with modern marriages but still occurs from time to time. 

  • First Birthday 

Birthdays in Korea are traditionally celebrated with a bowl of miyeokguk (미역국: seaweed soup). It is said that this soup provides enormous health benefits to support you through another year of life, but be careful! It should not be eaten on days of importance such as exam days, as the slippery seaweed could cause you to lose control and miss the mark on your test. Koreans whose birthdays fall on exam days are often hesitant to risk messing up on an exam and will wait until the next morning to have their birthday dish. 

Although yearly birthday celebrations are fun to participate in and can be the source of many good memories, the main event is definitely the first birthday celebration. In Korean, this is called doljanchi (돌잔치) and is a large event for family and friends to attend. The main attraction is the doljabi (돌잡이), or fortune-telling activity. The baby, dressed in hanbok, is placed in front of an assortment of items. They are encouraged to pick one or two items from the group, which correspond to a future job or gift. For example, a spool of thread indicates a long and healthy life, a pencil indicates good studies, and a gavel predicts the child will be a judge or prosecutor. Families will often throw in a few fun objects as well, such as a soccer ball or microphone, in hopes that their child is destined to be a pro athlete or singer. In addition to the doljabi, families will play games such as trivia about the baby for prizes, or betting on the outcome of the doljabi.

  • Christmas

Holidays in Korea often fall into one of two categories: fun with family or fun with a significant other. These holidays may be quite different from the ones celebrated in your country, even if they share some basic characteristics. Christmas, for example, is a holiday celebrated globally. Although it has religious origins, Christmas in Korea has become more centered around enjoying time with a significant other by exchanging gifts or going out on a date. Some popular activities enjoyed on Christmas are ice skating, sledding, or attending events at the famous Lotte World Amusement Park. You may be disappointed to hear that decorating your house in tinsel and tiny elves is not customary in Korea, but have no fear! Public places such as department stores and parks are usually decked out in everything merry and jolly. Gift-giving is typically reserved for couples instead of family members, so some families will attend church on Christmas to celebrate the more religious aspect of the holiday with their loved ones. 

  • Chuseok

Many countries have their own holiday meant for giving thanks and being with family, and Korea is no exception! Chuseok (추석) is celebrated in September, and is known as the “holiday of bountiful harvest.” Families get together during this time to give thanks to their ancestors, enjoy delicious food, and share stories. Some foods commonly enjoyed during Chuseok include songpyeon (송편: rice cake filled with sesame seeds, black beans, honey cinnamon, chestnut, etc) and modeumjeon (모듬전: fried pancake with zucchini, shrimp, and fish). Families will also pay a visit to the graves of their ancestors to pay respects, in addition to holding memorial services. This holiday is filled with lots of love and joy for family, and is definitely one to try participating in if you find yourself in Korea in September. 

  • Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s day… a day singles all over the world dread every February. In Korea, Valentine’s day actually lasts three months (twelve months if you count all of the lesser celebrated “couples’ days”), and consists of Valentine’s day on February 14, White Day on March 14, and Black Day one month later.

The official day of Valentine’s Day is reserved for girls to give chocolates, often homemade, to express their affections. While this holiday can also be celebrated among friends around the world, in Korea it is strictly a couples holiday. White Day, one month later, is a day of response for the boys who received chocolates the month before. They will gift girls with flowers, chocolate, or clothing. And finally, Black Day. In March, the single people of Korea get together for one day and enjoy jjajangmyeon (자장면: black bean noodles) to celebrate, or wallow in, their singleness.

So, if the thought of not having a Valentine this year makes you want to curl up in bed and binge Netflix for all of February, you can relax and look forward to the delicious noodle meal waiting for you just around the corner. 

We hope this guide to Korean celebrations has helped you feel more confident in attending your next event! Did any aspect of traditional Korean culture shock you? If not, which celebration are you most excited to add to your calendar? Let us know in the comments below!

Cover Image: MAMAMOO’s Solar (RBW Entertainment) and Eric Nam (Stone Music Entertainment) in We Got Married (MBC)
Written by Abby Kotar

ASTRO Lights Up with ‘Blue Flame’ Comeback

Back with their 6th mini album, Blue Flame, boy group ASTRO shoots straight for fans’ hearts with a dark twist on your typical fairytale charm. Though the album is composed of only five songs, the six-member group under Fantagio Entertainment proves to fans how much they’ve matured in concepts. Being quite the contrast to their previous bright and fresh album, Blue Flame shows how versatile ASTRO can be. 

Opening song and title track “Blue Flame” is the group’s attempt to try out a different music style as they talk about their love burning hot for a special someone. A fusion of house music, reggaeton and sensual lyrics play well with the song’s equally-enticing music video. Its dark concept displays the members in all black suits and a mysterious yet dreamy atmosphere reminiscent of popular princess movie Beauty and the Beast. With a white rose encapsulated by a clear vase and scenes of a wolf which portray the beast, you’ll mistake the members for your very own Prince Charmings. 

Next on the album is “Go&Stop,” a song full of life and Latin-inspired beats. With upbeat piano and flute notes that carry throughout the song, trying to stop listening once you’ve started will be difficult! Keeping the mood alive is “All About You.” Filled with smooth, catchy techno beats, it will have you dancing along before the chorus drops.

“When The Wind Blows” switches things up with piano notes that quickly speed up only to slow back down once we are met with Sanha and MoonBin’s soothing vocals. It’s a passionate song written by the groups very own member Rocky that has fans in love with the heartfelt lyrics. To end the album is “You’re my world,” in which the group shows appreciation to their fans for having a hand to hold when things get hard. 

The group makes sure to keep a close bond with their fans through their Twitter account @offclASTRO, in which they constantly upload videos and pictures talking about their day. However, if you’re looking to get deeper insight to what the members are up to on a day-to-day basis, you can check out their official YouTube channel. It’s filled with member vlogs, dance practice videos and the group’s official music videos.

ASTRO’s first full-length album, All Light, was released in January 2019, earning them their first music program win on SBS MTV’s The Show. The group never stopped working hard, shortly afterwards announcing a continuation tour, The 2nd ASTROAD, which embarked cities all across Asia and North America. If you thought that was it, the group surprised fans with their Japanese debut album Venus, which included three original Japanesse tracks as well as three remakes of their Korean singles “Baby,” “Always You,” and “All Night.”

Despite having a busy year, ASTRO gives fans a torch to carry in the dark with Blue Flame. Make sure to keep holding the members’ hands through their journey to take over the world. What’s your favorite song off of the new album? Let us know in the comments below!

Cover Image: ASTRO (Fantagio Entertainment)
Written by Briseida Rivera

Hot Takes: Korean Fried Chicken

The sound of packaging ripping open to sweet and salty deliciousness is music to our ears, but every now and then, we love to indulge in snacks that take a little more heat. While these Korean bites take a bit more effort, it only means the results are that much more delicious!

Everyone has heard of it, the famous crispy deliciousness that is Korean fried chicken. In Korea, fried chicken dishes are usually referred to as chikin (치킨) which is the shortened form of peuraideu chikin (프라이드 치킨; coming from the English fried chicken). But there’s a differentiation:

  • Huraideu chikin (흐라이드 치킨) refers to fried chicken that isn’t seasoned after being fried.
  • Yangnyeom chikin (양념 치킨) refers to any fried chicken dish that is seasoned after frying.

What makes it so irresistible is the addicting sweet and spicy sauce in combination with the crispy crust. Usually, you’d use a mix of flour and egg whites (or the whole egg) to make the crust; however, in Korea, only cornstarch or potato starch is used to coat the chicken. Cornstarch “batter” makes for a very crispy and crunchy chicken while a flour and egg batter makes the fried chicken crispy but still soft because of how much oil it’ll soak up. The chicken pieces are fried twice for a short amount of time as opposed to frying it once for a long time until golden brown. The first time around, it’s fried at a lower temperature. In the second round, it’s fried at a higher temperature. This frying process makes the crust crunchier and also less greasy.

Whether it’s a snack, side dish or main dish – here’s how to get the maximum out of this delicious meal!

  • Dakgangjeong (닭강정)

When referring to Korean fried chicken, what people usually mean is the version with the sweet and spicy gochujang-based sauce called dakgangjeong. It’s a very popular street food, often enjoyed with tteokbokki (떡볶이). The street food comes with boneless chicken while the traditional version is usually made from a whole chicken that is cut up. The main ingredient for the sweet and spicy sauce is gochujang — adjust the amount of it depending on how spicy you want it. For a non-spicy version, just replace gochujang with ketchup.

  • Kkanpunggi (깐풍기)

For a sweet and sour delight, kkanpunggi is your way to go. Originally, it’s a Chinese dish, but has been transformed into a Korean-Chinese one. Kkanpunggi is garlic fried chicken with a garlic and soy sauce-based sauce, usually garnished with peppers and onions. It’s perfect for all those that love a good mixture of sweet and sour, and not too spicy!

  • Orange  Chicken

Everyone knows Panda Express’ orange chicken — it’s famous all around the world! However, it’s not accessible everywhere, and you definitely don’t need to go out of your way to buy it when you can easily make it at home. The sauce is made with fresh orange juice; but if you’re lazy, just substitute it with orange jam! The sweet and tangy sauce can be spiced up with just a little bit of gochujang or gochugaru if you wish.

  • Honey Butter Fried Chicken (허니버터치킨)

Want something simple and low effort? Your wishes have been heard! This dish has been created by Maangchi, who was inspired by Korean honey butter chips and decided to incorporate this yummy and comforting flavor into fried chicken. The sauce is made with butter, garlic, honey, and soy sauce. It’s the perfect alternative for anyone that doesn’t like eating spicy!

Have these made you hungry? You’re impatient and can’t wait to make yourself a delicious meal? We’ve got you! Here are some tips for preparing your fried chicken:

  • Don’t put too many pieces into the pan while frying; it will lower the oil temperature. This allows the chicken to soak up a lot more oil as you’ll have to fry it longer to get the heat back up again.
  • If you’re frying multiple batches, put them on a rack to rest. If possible, in an oven! This keeps the chicken warm while you’re preparing everything else and prevents it from getting soggy in the meantime.
  • Made too much and wondering how to store your chicken without it getting soggy? Put it in a paper towel-lined container and store in the fridge! The paper towel will absorb any moisture. Reheat in the oven, and it’ll become crispy again!

Often, the fried chicken itself is already the main dish and the star of the show. If you want to incorporate some other side dishes to make a giant, hearty meal, here are some ideas:

  • Fried rice

This one is a no-brainer, fried rice is quick and easy to make! Add whatever you’d like to your rice and fry. Here are some personal favorites: Garlic fried rice and kimchi fried rice.

Garlic fried rice is made by simply frying the rice with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and butter. Usually, I don’t add anything else to it, however, in this recipe, it’s suggested to add a sunny-side-up egg (yummy!).

Kimchi fried rice is a little more complex: Fry up onion and bacon first. Diced carrots and kimchi are added in the second step. Everything is cooked until tender, then add the rice. For the last step, add some bibimbap sauce and the leftover kimchi juice for extra taste and spiciness. If that sounds like too many steps, here’s an easy recipe from MyKoreanKitchen!

  • Fried Chicken Burger

If you saw this coming, props to you! I didn’t think of this one until I made dakgangjeong and entrusted a friend with frying the chicken. Instead of cutting it into small pieces, she decided to leave it in bigger chunks. This brought me to the idea, why not use these as burger patties? You can top it with kimchi, Korean coleslaw or pickled carrots and daikon radish. The Korean coleslaw is spicy, consisting of cabbage, carrots, and onions that have been marinated with a gochujang based sauce. Pickled carrots and daikon radish are non-spicy but delicious nonetheless! It’s made by soaking carrots and radish in a sugar and vinegar mixture for a couple of hours. 

  • Rabokki (라볶이)

Hands down, an absolute favorite dish to have fried chicken with. Rabokki is ramyeon (라면), tteokbokki, and mandu (만두) cooked in the typical tteokbokki sauce (broth and gochujang). The fried chicken adds some crispy and crunchy texture to the chewy ramyeon and tteokbokki. Plus, everything is delightfully spicy (just make sure to have a glass of milk on hand when it gets too much).

If you’ve gotten hungry while reading this article, now is the perfect time to invite some friends and have a huge feast. Don’t forget to let us know what you’ll be making!

Curious about other articles in the Hot Takes series? Here are some you should check out:

Written by Tran Trieu