Before I came to Korea I had a very short list of things I absolutely had to do, and a very long list of things that I absolutely had to eat.
Korea is known for its fabulous culinary scene and I can say now from personal experience, that it absolutely does not disappoint. But more than just flavor, the Korean food experience is deeply tied to the history and culture. There are more table manners than I will ever be able to understand, that are much less about being polite while you eat, and much more about being respectful to the age hierarchy system that dictates so much of life.
The connection between Korean history and modern Korean culture is not something I pretend to understand but something I find deeply fascinating and hope to continue to learn about for a long time.
So here’s a little peek into what I ate while I was there. If you’re not hungry by the end of this post, then I’ve done something wrong.
This is the tail end of Kimchi Jjigae night. It was spicier than I usually tolerate but so yummy that I pushed through. It’s worth noting, although very obvious, that at a lot of Korean style restaurants everything on the table is metal. The cups, the bowls, the utensils, and while it’s not strange at all it’s different from most restaurants in the US.
Departing from the more traditional, is a meal that didn’t seem different from something you could easily find in the US. So if you’re worried about finding some familiar favors while you’re in Korea, don’t be. There are plenty of modern cafe’s that serve more typical “american style” food. And it will probably be more beautifully presented than your cafe back home.
This is a lunch that we had in Busan. Busan is apparently famous for 돼지국밥 Dwaeji Gukbap which is a pork soup with rice. It wasn’t my favorite thing I ate while I was in Korea, just because it didn’t have a ton of flavor. But I was glad to try some classic Busan food while we were there.
This should be considered a national treasure. The fact that you can have delicious fried chicken delivered to your door at any given moment should be a good enough reason to up and move to Korea right now. 네네치킨, God bless you.
Yes. This is essentially a waffle filled with ice-cream and topped with a literal honeycomb. It was actually incredibly difficult to eat with the tiny spoons they gave us, but the extra effort was worth is. The street food in Myeongdong is unreal, so if you’re looking for a good place to try a lot of different types of little things head over there.
A feast fit for a queen. If I’m the queen that is. Because I love Korean convenience store food. Here we have a beautiful assortment of samgak kimbap (aka my favorite food in Korea), dried squid, cup ramen, an entire box of these chocolate cookie cake things, 식혜 sikhye which is a traditional sweet drink with rice floating in it, and melon milk. 7-11 in America needs to step it up.
Eating 팥빙수 Patbingsu is like eating a cloud, in heaven, on a winter’s day. It’s sweet creamy thinly shaved ice with red bean paste on top. And for people who have never experienced red bean, it’s not like eating your ice cream with a pile of black beans of top. Red bean is very subtly sweet and used in a lot of asian deserts. I love it.
This is another classic Korean dish, 김밥 Kimbap. We ate this in a bus terminal so I’m sure it’s not the highest quality but it was delicious so no complaints from me.
Here we have a very blurry photo of some very yummy food. This is Korean Chinese food. Similar to Peruvian Chinese food (which I learned to love in Peru) it is considered a genre of food in its own right. The black bean paste noodles on the left are called 자장면 Jajangmyeon and on the right is 탕수육 Tangsuyuk, which is sweet and sour crispy pork.
And no collection of Korean food would be complete with out a mention of Korean BBQ. This was cooked over coals in a small oven on the table. It also came with rice paper and small toppings like carrots, cucumber, and bean sprouts, to wrap up together with the BBQ-ed pork.
And last but not least. Coffee. Tom N Toms Coffee deserves a shout out because most of these Korea blog posts were brought to you from the AC and wifi of this chain coffee shop. When we were talking about how many cafe’s there are in Korea, my friend asked me if we have any other big chain coffee shops in America besides Starbucks. And I honestly couldn’t think of any. I’m sure there are some but the fact that they don’t spring to mind is telling. In Korea there are hundreds. Okay maybe not hundreds but I can not stress enough that there are so many cafe’s. I love it because sitting in a cafe with a coffee is absolutely my favorite pastime, but the fact that the Korean economy can support so many cafe’s (and they’re always packed) is truly incredible.
That’s just a small glimpse into the wonderfully fabulous food I got to eat while I was there. As someone who has a hard time with spicy food and a generally sensitive stomach I was a little worried I might have trouble somewhere along the way. But I didn’t, at all.
So is Korean food worth the hype? Yes, yes it is. And you should go find out for yourself asap.