Korean Food

I used to be a very picky eater. Austin has helped me to get over many of my aversions to yogurt and peppers and tomatoes. Korean food has given me many opportunities to try new things. We live in a hotel so we go out to eat at least one meal a day, so we have had everything from McDonald’s and Jamba Juice to traditional meals. Here are some of my favorites:

Learn more from Wikipedia!

– BBQ meat: One of the more popular food options here involves picking different cuts of meat  (some marinated, some not) off the menu and cooking it over hot coals that are put in the middle of the table.The important utensils here are tongs and scissors- to make the meat chopstick friendly and to make it cook faster they cut the meat with scissors into smaller pieces. With the meat, there comes a delightful parade of side dishes- some to cook over the coals and some to be eaten raw. We have had different shredded vegetable salads- usually with shredded green onions and other things with a sesame or soy vinaigrette type sauce.

Cabbage Kimchi- the kind I don’t like
Learn more about Kimchi!

There are usually several different types of kimchi- the traditional cabbage kimchi in the red sauce is a little salty for me, so I usually go for the radish kimchi which is still sour but less salty. Depending on where we went there were other types though- on Jeju we had seaweed kimchi that was actually delish! There is usually a little dish filled with sesame oil and salt and pepper that you can dip the meat into after cooking it that I personally like. We have had raw tiny crab claws, something that I think was rolled up pig ear in paste, and the usual garlic to roast on the coals. When we went to BBQ in Seoul, they put some kimchi down on this side part of the roasting area and then poured egg in so it was like a spicy omelette. Also, we always order rice for Landon and he eats this along with some meat once it cools off. Sometimes they serve the meal with fresh lettuce leaves that I use to put meat into. This meal is eaten only with chopsticks, and I am surprised that I have not starved yet. Somehow the food manages to make it into my mouth. Both Austin and I feel like toddlers trying to use chopsticks, the tongs and the scissors correctly during meals. I’m sure we provide endless entertainment to Koreans everywhere we go! This is probably one of my favorite types of Korean food, but somewhat dicey to eat with Landon there, so we have not gone as much as I would like.

How to make radish kimchi- and photo cred
Photo cred
Sweet recipe here, and photo cred

– Broiled fish/fish restaurants: So there is sushi here that they serve with sauces and lettuce and other side dishes. But the actual fish is just cut up sitting on your plate. In fact, you can pick out your fish (swimming around in a tank) for them to cut up and serve to you. Not my idea of a fun time. I like eating fish, but I don’t like being the one to point to a fish and say, “YOU SHALL DIE SO I CAN EAT YOU RAW!’ Plus Landon can’t eat raw fish, so we haven’t gone for sashimi. It takes some doing to find, but there are restaurants that will serve broiled fish instead. This fish is seriously the best fish I have ever eaten. The places we have eaten it are right on small harbors and ports in Sokcho and Jeju, where we can see the fishing boats, so you know it has to be fresh. The fish itself they do fairly simply- gut it, rub it with some salt, and broil whole with skin on. YUM! This also came with side dishes, I think it can be regional what comes alongside. In Sokcho, we had tofu that was cooked and covered in some sort of sesame sauce that made it delicious. We also had the requisite several types of kimchi, with the only one I don’t enjoy being the traditional cabbage kimchi that is too salty for me. In Jeju, they had several different types of seaweed, some that had been made into kimchi and was kind of spicy, and another kind that I think was just raw sheets of seaweed. They showed us how to dip it in a spicy sauce and that was also much better than I thought it was going to be. Fish also comes with yummy soups that are made from fish stock and have veggies in them. The star of the show, though, has to be the broiled fish. We thought that the sight of a whole fish with its eye looking at you would freak us (and Landon!) out, but the fish itself is so yummy it makes up for it.

Photo cred

– Dak Galbi or Cheesy Rice: Austin heard about this place from a friend and we were all going to go there to eat, but then Landon didn’t take a nap and we didn’t think he would make it eating at a restaurant at 8:00 at night. Anyway, we wandered around the Hongik University area and found a restaurant serving cheesy rice and decided to try it out. It is really cheap, so that was a plus. What they do is cook marinated chicken (on a pan in front of you), then cut it down so it is in small pieces, then add in rice, red pepper paste, kimchi, dried seaweed, and other spices. They mix it all together until well blended, then add in some mozzarella cheese, and cover it with the rice until the cheese gets nice and melty. It was spicy, but definitely comfort food. Again, it came with side dishes of cold kimchi soup (not my favorite), a yummy shredded cabbage salad with kiwi dressing, and kimchi. Landon had to eat plain rice because it was too spicy for him. I wasn’t sure if it would be too spicy, so I gave him some. If you need a good laugh, give something slightly spicy to a toddler. He spits it out then rubs his tongue with his hand trying to get the spice off. It was sad, but I encouraged him to drink water and plain rice to help. That is the thing about Korean spicy- at first, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the heat gets you in the aftertaste and keeps burning long after the meal.

Recipe and photo cred

– Noodles: Pho/Udon noodle soup/etc: Just like in the U.S. we eat a lot of Mexican food, there are dishes that Koreans eat imported from other areas. I am in love with Udon noodles. They are very thick and chewy and just yummy. At breakfast there is a noodle soup bar where I add bokchoy, sprouts and baby mushrooms to the noodles and they put it the water for a little while (just to get the veggies a little less crisp) and it is so yummy. I add soy sauce and a little spice and it is great. We have had pho at a restaurant before and it was very yummy as well- more oniony than the noodle soup was delicious either way. I have had Pad Thai here and other noodle dishes as well, although because I have my favorites I haven’t ventured to eat the cold noodle dishes that they serve here.

Photo cred recipe

– Bibimbap: When I read the guidebook on Korean food I was nervous and thought my go-to option would be bibimbap. This is a rice dish that usually has an egg on top and then lots of different fresh veggies piled on top of a bed of plain rice. When I ordered it came with a dipping sauce that made it yummy, but just the veggies and rice didn’t really hit the spot. There is a kind you can get with marinated raw beef, but I passed on that. I like my beef well cooked, so I guess I’m not that adventurous.

– Bulgogi: This is grilled, marinated beef. You can get a bulgogi burger at McDonald’s here that has the marinated flavor, and I haven’t personally eaten much bolgogi, but it is good. That is all

Pic cred

– Street food: Street food is yummy. There are usually several types of battered and fried veggies and shrimp- sometimes whole, sometimes shelled. You pick which ones you want, and then they re-fry them in this disgusting looking hot oil. Then you eat it. There is also a more chinese type chicken with a sauce that is sweet and pretty good. There are also rice dumplings in a spicy sauce that are very cheap and filling. When I was walking to the park one day, it was just as school was letting out and a shop was handing out these rice dumplings to kids walking by. They gave me one too, in a little dixie cup. I see lots of kids with this after school so I think it must be a common after school snack. There are a few sit-down restaurants that serve this type of food and one time we had a yummy soup with ribbons of something in it. Later I learned that was fish cake. This is another common thing I see. At Naksan beach, we had yummy pancakes with cinnamon and sugar in them. They were $1 each and I should have bought 10.

Recipe here

– Kimbap: Austin wants these for lunch sometimes when we settle down in the states so I bought a bamboo mat to make them! They are “sushi” rolls in that you take white rice and spread it on sheets of dried seaweed. Then you add whatever you want to the inside- the ones I have had have carrots, herbs, a stick of kimchi, stick of egg, and a stick of ham or dollop of tuna. Then you roll it up, slice it and have a nice filling portable meal.

– Fried chicken: It is funny to me how many “chicken and beer” restaurants there are here. We finally caved and went to one this past week. We ordered a salad, the chicken, and a side of fresh potato chips for Landon to munch on. The salad had an interesting honey vinaigrette, beautiful greens, tomatoes, and pineapple. It was covered with parmesan cheese. It was surprisingly good although the tomatoes were too acidic for the rest of the ingredients in the salad. Next came our chicken, which to our surprise came on a bed of chips. So we had tons of chips. Landon didn’t really like the chips, so he ate mostly chicken. It was good! We would go back, I think.

Red Bean Ice Flake

– Ice Flakes: A traditional Korean dessert made with shaved ice and milk and whatever flavorings you want. Sometimes they come with ice cream on top. Austin and I have had a cookies and cream and berry ice flake, and both were pretty yummy! There is a very traditional red bean ice flake that Austin does not want to try, but I am determined to try it before we leave. The beans are sweet at least!

The best thing about Korea is that there are tons of food options. We have had tacos, nachos, pizza, crepes, Subway, Krispy Kreme, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. We want Chipotle, but we can wait until we’re back in the U.S. I also miss sourdough bread, and good breads in general. There is bread here, but it is all sweet for some reason.


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