Saturday, August 25, 2012

Topokki Man is Heaven! (떡복이맨은 하늘입니다!)


I need to clarify something. Nobody asked me to write this. I wrote this because I want to. I wanted to write something that interests me, and I wanted to write something that will be interesting to people out there who want to go on a food trip, most especially trying out Korean cuisine. I want to write this because I am just wanting to share my very good experience.

My romance with the Korean culture "officially" started when I watched "Tale Of The Gumiho," also known as "Forbidden Love." I know that there were many others before that, but I really was not attentive to the other K-dramas which were shown because I was busy with studies. After "Gumiho" came "My Girl."

For Korean songs, I remembered "Answer The Phone" by Mina in the early part of the 2000s, but I did not pay much attention to it either. The one song that got me loving it was Howl and J's "사랑인가요 (Perhaps Love)" from the K-drama "Princess Hours." But the highlight of my love for K-pop songs happened when 2NE1 came to the scene back in 2009, and for me, officially, they were the first group that I knew. Many K-pop and K-rock songs and groups came after that, and I got more familiarized with them as time went by.

Immersing into Korean culture would not be sufficient if you do not learn how to speak and write their language. I had been doing self-study using online materials, but honestly, my learning as of the present is a bit scarce. Sorry for the comparison, but if the Korean language is like patbingsu, my learning of the language is about 0.00001% of a tteok, if I can help comparing it like that.

Of course, appreciation for the Korean culture would not be complete if you have not tried eating their food. My fascination with Korean food went back to some episodes in the 2010 K-drama, "God of Study," wherein the students were eating with their teachers inside the classroom. I think it was it.

I had been trying to find some Korean restaurants here in the district, but because I was either out of budget or too lazy to get off the public transportation, I had not had my chance of getting inside big restaurants. There were instances of eating Korean food back in 2011, with my sister. But after that, I contented myself to going to Koreana convenient store or at Assi Mart.

One day, I met with an elementary/high school/up-to-know friend, and we were chatting. I told her that I wanted to try eating Korean food again, and she suggested going to Topokki Man. At first, I was no familiar as to the location, and she told me it was at Rosedale near University of San Carlos. I am familiar with the place because I live near the vicinity.

When I had the chance, I finally went there on a Saturday, at ten in the morning. Topokki Man is a small resto unlike the ones you see in other parts of the district. It has a cute ambiance filled with cute glass stickers of houses and buildings. There are also a lot of pictures inside the resto, and lots of "footprints" from customers who had fallen in love with the place and the food. I myself had fallen in love with the place because I can say it is cozy and homey.

My friend suggested baby rolls because it was her favorite. It was my first order, and of course, I really liked it. It is good news to me because this dish is affordable. Php50 anyone? ^_^

잘 먹겠습니다! (I will eat well.)

Baby rolls (꼬마김밥) [Picture c/o me ^_^]

I had also been curious as to what tteokbokki is, because during the first Korean day which was held last October 1, 2011, one ajumma in a colorful hanbok gave me tteok on a toothpick. At first, I did not know what it was, but she gave me the English term: rice cake. It was chewy, and I love it.

I think it was in the third visit to Topokki Man when I tried tteokbokki. And I tried the cheese tteokbokki. I don't know if this is true to some people who were born in the year of the Rat, but I am also born in the year of the Rat, and I love cheese. Hmmm... The taste got to me, and the memory of it stayed in my consciousness. Tteokbokki is addicting! I also love the odeng (fish cakes) with it, ah, just so perfect! By the way, tteokbokki is made of the tteok (tubular-shaped rice cakes), thin slices of fish cakes (odeng), veggies, gochujang (the pepper paste), and others. Of course, I will not tell you the other ingredients because the ones I enumerated are the basic ingredients that I see and have researched in the internet. As to what the "others" are, that is prerogative of the restaurant to keep it a secret. I don't know it either. This is all I can tell you. Tteokbokki is truly, truly delicious! 너무 너무 맛있어요! 

There are also a lot of variety of the tteokbokki, but much as I want to try the seafood variety, I am not able to because of my food allergies. If it were not for these allergies, I will not have problem with food.  

Cheese tteokbokki (치즈 떡볶이) [Picture c/o me ^_^]

I updated myself with the happenings and stuff at the Facebook page of Topokki Man when I began commenting on the page. Later on, the administrator of the page added me as friend. And of course, later on, Sajangnim posted a picture of patbingsu (팥빙수), which is shaved ice with lots of sweet red beans and other yummy ingredients such as assorted fruit bits, corn flakes, tteok bits, and ice cream. When I saw patbingsu for the first time, I realized that it looked like our halo-halo, but the owner of the resto and his staff told me that patbingsu is less sweeter than halo-halo.

Just a trivia though. Halo-halo comes from the Filipino term "halo," which means, "to mix." If you take it literally, it may mean "mix-mix," but it is actually shaved ice with the yummy ingredients. Yes, our halo-halo is indeed sweeter, must be because of the leche flan.

As to Topokki Man's patbingsu, I will not tell what other ingredients I see in the bowl. It would take out the surprise, of course. You can research what patbingsu is made of, but as to the patbingsu of this cute resto, you have to go out and try for yourself.

정말 정말 팥빙수를 좋아해요! (I really really like patbingsu) ^_^

Patbingsu (팥빙수) [Picture c/o me ^_^]

One night, that friend who introduced me to Topokki Man met with me for dinner. She is the one in the picture, hehe. Anyway, because the two of us love to eat, we ordered the food that we loved. We did not regret because it was worth it.

Original tteokbokki, kimchi, and bibimbap [Picture c/o me ^_^]

I had been telling my cousin about this cute resto, but because of her time, she was unable to go visit. One Saturday evening, however, I was talking to her about bringing some tteokbokki and yummy Topokki Man treats over to her boarding house when she suggested going there "now." I agreed to go with her and her brother because I was soooo looking for tteokbokki. See? Tteokbokki is so addicting! ^_^

My cousin told me that her Korean students suggested her about eating the fish cakes. By the way, there are times when the resto is so busy that Sajangnim himself serves the guests. At that time that my cousins and I went, it was a very hectic day, so Sajangnim served us the fish cakes. My cousin asked for the Korean term, and Sajangnim told us that it is called "odeng," as it was derived from the Japanese. When I researched, the Korean odeng was derived from the Japanese oden. When I saw the fish cake on sticks, I suddenly remembered Lee Min Ho's role as Go Jun Pyo eating fish cakes with Geum Jan Di's appa and namdongsaeng in "Boys Over Flowers." Ah~~~ another great and memorable K-drama.

Verdict: yummy! ^_^

Fish cake or odeng (오뎅) [Picture c/o me ^_^]

Ramyeon is also part of Korean cuisine, so we ordered it as well. The serving is worth sharing with three to four people. So you see, Korean dining is also all about fellowship. With dishes served like that, it can really be shared with friends and family. Sharing is loving. ^_^

Ramyeon (라면)[Picture c/o me ^_^]

There are a lot of dishes that I need to try when I have the time. Maybe my next agendum is to eat mango float, Topokki Man style!

Other things that endear me to Topokki Man are the politeness, smiles, and friendliness flowing out from Sajangnim and his staff.


This is the first thing that they will greet you when you come in, whether you are a Korean customer or not. When you are comfortably seated, the staff will give hand you the menu. If you are not familiar with the food, you can ask the staff for recommendation. I suggest you should try the food without hesitation.

When you are in Rome, be like a Roman.

Just like that. Do not come to this place if you are not willing to adapt to the culture. If you are not willing to learn new stuff, no one is forcing you. So, if you take the recommendation that the staff gives you, take it wholeheartedly. Eating new food is a learning experience. 

Music videos, anyone? There was one afternoon last July when I went in the resto to eat the half-serving of ramyeon, but I ended up ordering curry. By the way, the curry is delicious too, but I had not taken some photos of it. Speaking of music videos, the first MV I saw on the television screen in the restaurant was that of DBSK. Though I am not a fan of SM Entertainment, I like DBSK. Later on, "Pinocchio" and "Hot Summer" by f(x) was shown. I so so so love "Pinocchio." I was also happy to see Park Bom's "Please Don't Cry." You see, I really love Park Bom, and I love 2NE1. My happiness was complete that day when I saw IU's "You and I" and "Good Day." In another occasion, the first video I saw was Jung Jin Woon's "You Walking Towards Me," from "Dream High 2" soundtrack. If my sister had watched it at that time, she would be screaming for joy. The other videos I saw were from KARA, Secret, Sistar, and Miss A, my other favorite.

I also got acquainted with the owner of the resto, but I call him Sajangnim. That is a polite way to address someone who holds a big position in a large company, or someone who runs a business. Sajangnim is also helpful and very friendly. One time, when I was eating tteokbokki while reading an English book (which was found in the bookshelf), Sajangnim handed me a rolled-up lettuce. He explained to me that it is samgyupsal. When I bit into it, I found out that inside the lettuce was some rice and the piece of meat. As to the whole coverage of what samgyupsal actually is, you can lean on to Mr. Google. But on my ocular inspection, those were the ingredients I saw. What can I say about samgyupsal? Delicious!

잘 먹었습니다! (I ate well/ I had eaten well.)

My aunt once suggested that I post a picture of myself having a good time at Topokki Man. Not that I am afraid of cameras. I want others but myself to be subjects in a photo. And since many people were leaving their marks at Topokki Man, I thought it would also be nice to leave a note of appreciation. I left this note on the day when Sajangnim gave me samgyupsal.

Picture c/o Sajangnim ^_^

For the benefit of those who do not know how to read in Korean, I will explain what I have written thus (the body of the note only):

Ah~~ The food is so good... And affordable!!! ^_^ My heart is happy!!!! Topokki Man is heaven... Thank you very much!

All my experiences can really tell that for me, Topokki Man is heaven. Even the younger friends of my sister asked me for directions. Even another cousin wanted me to take her and her husband some other time. Sure! Why not?

It is always my pleasure to accommodate friends and family members if they want to eat. For me, there are ways to bond with people, but hearts bind together when people eat together. While eating Korean food, you not only bond with the people whom you are with, you are also learning another culture.

It's great, is it not?

네, 맞아요. (Yes, that's right.)

Finally, when you leave the store, they will give another greeting.


At first, it confused me with another greeting, but as I tried to make a mind map, it was no longer confusing. And in a polite society, of course, you always thank the services of people who served you.

"Kamsahamnida. Annyeonghigeseyo." 

So that ends one day of encounter in Topokki Man. But rest assured, I will go back when I have time and try the other dishes.

Indeed, Topokki Man is heaven! ^_^

좋은 하루 되세요!