I've been killing allot of time by watching Bizarre Foods on youtube. For those not familiar with the show, its a travel show were the host travels the world trying local cuisine. As I was watching I realized that I have been in South Korea for three weeks and I have still not written a blog about food. Well folks that is about to change.
Korea food is all served family style so grabbing a snack for one is extremely limited outside of the grocery store. One of the few options for solo dinning is Kimbap, the picture at the head of this post (Do you like the Beanie Baby? As the only non-Canadian at my school I inherited from the teachers before me.). "Kim" means seaweed and "bap" means rice. Kimbap is like a fishless sushi roll filled with pickled vegetables and a little egg and ham. Its a good snack to take to work for a 77 cents (1,000 won). Kimbap,the one sandwich sold in my area (thank goodness its fantastic) and a few flat dumpling carts are the only way to get out alone.
Next segment on bizarre foods with Katie is bar food. You've heard the saying that "New York is the city that new sleeps", well that may be right but the entire country of South Korea sleeps even less. Even in far out Sangin suburb of Deagu (population only 2.5 compared to Seoul's 11 million) people walk the streets until dawn everyday of the week. The drinking scene in Korea is huge and this makes up a large chunk of the night owls. A few nights ago a large group of teachers and Kaitlyn visiting family went out for makkolli (milky rice wine) and bamboo soju. The makkolli has a very pleasant neutral flavor and contains flakes of ice. Its served in traditional metal teapots who's likenesses adorn every makkolli bar. The bamboo soju is served by the shot is poured from a bamboo stem piece. Although soju is usually made from sweet potatoes, this soju is made from bamboo and tastes exactly like sweet apple cider.
If the makkolli is in the yellow bowl and the soju in the glass, then what is the brown stuff? That my readers is a traditional Korean snack pondegi aka silk worm larva. These little fellas are sold in large tubs in by some of the vegetable vendors and let me tell you their smell could knock over a lineman from 10 yards away. Once it makes it to the table however the smell is knocked down to strongly soy saucy. Other Korean bar foods include large cereal balls that taste just like Fruit Loops but it was pondegi that I had to write home about. The taste is bitter soy but the texture, the gusher-like pop was awful. I knew too well what I was eating. My curiosity was suppressed at one larva and I commenced to eat a entire bowl of Fruit Loops to dilute the flavor.
The last information I want to share about Korea food (for now..) is about side dishes. Yesterday I went out with Kaitlyn and her family for a traditional Korea meal, served sitting on the floor and in multiple courses. Anytime you buy food in Korea it comes with side dishes, usually a small plate of Kimchi and something else pickled. However, in this opulent traditional feast this side dishes stole the show. Six of us were sharing these things, fyi!
We started with a delectable pumpkin soup and a cold brine soup.
A salad and ice noodles (cold clear noodles served with vegetables).
Flounder shashimi (1st i've had all trip), soy noodles and spicy cooked tuna.
Batter fried mushrooms.
Sizzling spicy mussels.
Pork bacon and steak mushrooms with noodles.
Bulgogi served as stew with shredded beef.
This is the part of the meal were we asked our Korean friend if we were done. She laughed at us...
A cold spinach dish with many more pickled vegetables. See the pickles? Those are all incredibly sweet here.
Finally the main event, rice with beans and peas served in a hot pot. After you eat the rice you pour bowling water in with the burnt rice left in the bowl to make a soup. Koreans love burnt rice flavor, they even make candy out of it. I thought it was too bland hot, watery rice.
Dessert was coffee, asian pears and watermelon. Whew!
I hope everyone enjoyed this epic introduction to Korean food. I'm sure I'll have more to share very soon!