Korean Experience: Food

20 Jun

Everyone knows that Korean BBQ is supposed to be delicious.  Let me tell you this: Korean food (in general) IS delicious. And spicy. And healthy.  And fresh. And filling.  And cheap.  And abundant in the city of Seoul.

I lived in a neighborhood called Seodaemung-gu which is pretty much occupied by young college kids and other young professionals, so there are quite a lot of eateries along the streets.  Add street vendors and you have a dining bazaar.  It is not unusual to have at least 30 restaurants on one block.  Food is life here and eating is considered a social event.

Once, I committed a dining faux pas.  I walked into a Bulgogi restaurant and ordered take out.  TAKE OUT!!!  You could hear a pin drop.  The owner kindly asked if I wanted to call my friends to join me but my American fast-food mentality wanted take-out.  No one eats bulgogi alone.  In fact no one dines out alone.  I had to endure stares while the owner set up my table, cooked my meat (another no-no … one is supposed to cook their own food on the table) and packed them off in foil and plastic bags (yup – no to-go boxes either – everyone cleans up their plates).

On my way up to my room, the owner of the coffee shop two floors down asked what I had in the bag.  When I told him, even he asked why I did not go out to eat with someone.  I sighed in exasperation.  The following week, I went back to the same restaurant – two girls I had met at a night club in tow – to seek redemption.  I picked a table by the door so everyone could see that I was a reformed Seoul diner.

This dish below is (bibim) naeng myung.  The bibim part means red or spicy which is optional.  Guess who had what?  LOL.  My Korean guests seem surprised every time I opt for spicy versions.  The meat came free.  Yay!  We came in with the early crowd because by the time we were done with lunch, there was a line stretching all the way down the stairs into the street.  Delish!

One of the reasons there are so many restaurants in Seoul is that each restaurant deals in specialties.  Very few restaurants have varying items in their menu list.  You have either a soup restaurant (each restaurant could specialize in a type of soup), seafood restaurant, noodles, fusion, chicken wings, beef bbq, pork bbq etc.  Each Korean dish is served with mini side dishes made up stuff like Kimchi, rice, broth, artichokes, beansprouts – these side dishes are called banchan.

Food is eaten with chop sticks and soups are eaten with long-handled spoons.  Eating is communal with main meals in the middle of the table where everyone can pick up pieces with their chopsticks and add to their individual bowls.  If you are a health nut and afraid to share germs, you may not be a big fan of sharing meals like this.  However, you get used to this quickly.  People hardly get sick from sharing food as far as I can tell.

This dish below is a Japanese soup dish adopted by Korean diners.  I think the name is cheepsae or something like that…not 100 percent sure:

Basically all meat and veggies are raw and cut up in the big broth and cooked right there on the table by the guests:

And then when everything is eaten and a bowl of rice and spices is brought to the table and a waitress and a pudding like mixture is made with the leftover broth … IMO this was better than the actual main dish!

I came down with something in the middle of my stay so my sonsaegnim (teacher/tutor) took me out for some Kimchi Chigae.  This is was spicy and good.

And the day I left, she took me out for breakfast.  We had some Sollongtang:

I would say … my most favorite part of being in Seoul was the food.  There is nothing like the Korean dining experience.  It is unique and part of the cultural fabric of the Korean people.  They equate food with medicine and now I see why.

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23 Responses to “Korean Experience: Food”

  1. LG June 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    1sttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 9:03 am #

      That was fast …. lol.

  2. Amaka June 20, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I have a hair routine on my blog http://amakatacoma.blogspot.com/2011/06/hair-routine.html

  3. taynement June 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    I bet you were in heaven. Sigh, When am i going to learn to use chopsticks?:(

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      chopsticks are not too hard to use but I use them differently because of my carpel tunnel … funny thing is, you have no option. There are no forks. None.

      • Ginger June 25, 2011 at 11:13 am #

        Thanks for the warning. I had wondered about that. Guess anyone going to Korea should travel with forks :).

  4. Myne Whitman June 20, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    I can’t eat with chopsticks and I’m sure they’ll also disapprove of that, maybe I’ll only eat soups, lol. The food does look interesting.

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      I tried to get out of using chopsticks but restaurants don’t have forks. None.

  5. 'Lara June 21, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    This is so like Malaysia, everyone eats out with restaurants everywhere…I guess it is an Asian culture minus India sha.

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 9:02 am #

      Yes, I guess dining out is pretty much an Asian culture. It was amazing to walk around at night and see lots of people just hanging out – eating, drinking and having fun.

  6. Mamuje June 21, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Reading this is making my mouth water and I am thinking of Korean tonight. It may not be as authentic but still got some flavor and would surpress this greed 🙂

    Seem like you had such an amazing experience. Nice

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 9:03 am #

      I miss Korean food. Especially the way they have all the fresh ingredients on the table and you get to cook right there. In yankee that would have been bad news waiting to happen – lawsuits and such with people claiming their stoves blew up or something.

  7. EDJ June 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    This is really making me hungry.
    But is that raw bacon on the right in the 2nd pic though? Also a huge platter of veggies in the 3rd pic?

    I like Korean food and I can see that Seoul may have to go on my list of places to visit if just to eat! lol

    • lucidlilith June 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      It was pork … the name gogi means meat so “bulgogi” is fire meat because it is cooked over an open flame. Bulgogi could also be chicken and pork.

  8. Afrobabe June 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Now you’ve made me hungry…starving actually!

    • lucidlilith June 22, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Yeah – Korean food does that to you. Imagine walking down the street and seeing all that food!!!

  9. Vera Ezimora June 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Awwww. You make me want to travel! In fact, I do want to travel. LOL @ no forks. For real? Na him be say wahala don shele. I’ll be eating that food forever.

    Clearly, you had too much fun!

    • lucidlilith June 22, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Girl … if I had to pick another job, I would have loved to be a travel writer.

  10. Tomi June 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Next place to visit! Korea:)
    My mouth was watering as I read through your post!
    Are you back?

    • lucidlilith June 22, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Yeah! I have been back for a week and a half now. I already miss the place.

  11. BBB June 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    I’d love to visit asia some time
    food looks amazing

    • lucidlilith June 22, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      It is amazing……and the women stay freakishly skinny.

  12. Ginger June 25, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    No wonder Asians are so slim and fresh. Their food beats Western hamburgers and chips any time and they are easy to cook arent they?

    p.s. What happened to the Lucid eyes page pix? I dont like change (petulant lip protruding)

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