Initially I wasn’t too jazzed about Korean food. I am not sure why. Maybe since I’d never really heard of Korean restaurants being popular in any towns in America that I’ve lived, I thought it was nothing to write home about. Like many things on this trip so far, I was completely wrong and pleasantly surprised.
All of the items I indulged in were mighty tasty and I will definitely be bringing some of that vibe to my kitchen when I return.
Gogigui – or Korean Barbeque
This is a South Korean staple. It’s also a super fun and interactive way to spend your meal time. The meal begins by ordering a bottle of Soju and a platter of raw meat. The server then brings over a steaming bowl of hot coals to put in the hole in the middle of your table and covers it with a metal rack. They then load up the rack with raw meat and it cooks in front of you while you take shots of Soju and nibble on the various bowls of garnishes used to assemble your barbeque wrap. When eating in Seoul, it is super helpful to just look around and see what everyone else is doing, because otherwise you’re missing out on some pretty epic flavor combinations by just nibbling on each thing one by one. Once the meat is cooked, you take a large piece of leafy green and place your cooked meat and a little bit of everything else (kimchi, roasted garlic, onions, sauces, bean sprouts, etc.) inside your wrap. You then roll it up and try to eat it all in one bite for full flavor explosion. Each barbeque joint will probably be a little different, but it’s all super delicious and not uncommon to sit around drinking soju and nibbling on meat and garnish for an hour or two. You can tell these shops by the picture signs of raw meat outside the building or the burners on the tables through the window.
Korean Spicy Chicken Stew
Similar to Korean Barbecue, this meal was also cooked in front of us in a wok. I’m not really sure what the technical name for it is, but that’s basically the essence. It’s quite spicy, but no flavor is lost due to the spice. It’s a delicious combination of chicken, cabbage, carrots, some assortment of leafy green, and long glutinous rice cakes. To cool your mouth down, it is served with cold mashed potatoes that are sweetened up and pickled mango. Kimchi is also a staple at this meal.
Fried Pork – Korean Lunch Special
We stopped into a local joint for a little lunch one day, and ended up with a humongous meal. First you start with an entrée, then you get a box of rice topped with and over easy egg, then add an assortment of garnishes to mix in as well. It was super delicious, but quite filling. My travel companion ordered a chicken hot pot, which was essentially a pot of various parts of the chicken. It was difficult for him to eat around the bones, but I expect it was pretty tasty.
Bibimbap and Kimbap
Bibimbap is similar to Japanese sushi. You can get it in a roll or a dish. It’s filled with assorted veggies, tuna, and pickled goods. Kimbap is a big rice roll shaped like a triangle and filled with meat. Be careful not to get the ones with mayo because they can be a bit mayo-ey … unless that’s your thing… then of course mayo on. Bibimbap is a common meal eaten when mountain climbing around the mountsins in Seoul. Locals grab a roll of Bibimbap, a bottle of Soju, and head up the mountain for lunch. When in Seoul, do as the Seoulians(?) do.
There were other assorted yummies on the streets of Seoul. You could get pizza in a cone, honeycomb charved in the shape of fish, a roll filled with savory goodness, shrimp salad deep fried on a stick, basically anything on a stick really.
Craft Beer and Side Dishes
When going to a bar (but not a club), it’s usually encouraged that you order an appetizer with your beverages. If you’re in an Expat bar, often times those side dishes will be nachos, fruit salad, mozzarella sticks, and other westernized dishes.
I’m sure we only scratched the surface since we only had a few days in Seoul, but i was thoroughly satisfied with the cuisine and would highly recommend trying any of it.
Onward and Upward,