Sunday, 17 March 2013

Food Stories from Seoul, Korea

Recently I went to Seoul for the first time for work.  I was super excited as I do love Korean food and I always love going to a country I've never been to before.
Here are some of the meals I had in the few days I was there.
I was wondering the streets of Myeong-Dong, one of Seouls main shopping districts in 4 degree, but sunny weather and my stomach was growling.  Not remembering where I had seen some hot pot restaurants I wondered for a bit and looked at a menu stuck on a wall when I was suddenly whisked into the elevator by an elderly lady shoving the menu into my hand and before I knew it I was in a busy restaurant and sat down at a table.  I looked at the menu properly this time and it was a BBQ and hot pot restaurant, although most people seemed to be BBQ'ing.  So I went ok, I'll have the beef and one rice, pointing to the picture on the menu.
The many banchan sides came out.  Some I hadn't seen in Sydney before.  There was a plate of raw garlic cloves, didn't touch that. The bean sprouts were my fave.  Buttery yet fresh.  The dish in the middle with the two browney looking things with sesame seeds is a version of the white jelly things I have eaten at Seoul-Ria.  I still don't know what it is. I think its radish or rice cake??  Anyway the  beef was delicious although a bit chewy.  Wrapped in the lettuce leaf with some chilli sauce & sesame oil, it reminded me of my BBQ experience back in Tokyo. 

Next highlight was the ultimate street food.  It was lunch time but I didn't have the time to find a place to eat and I was starving, so I decided to go for it.  I had seen this amazing creation the first day I was in town but my stomach wasn't hungry then.  But this time I walked up to the stall with the creations freshly being deep fried and pulled out 2000 won, $1.70 to pay the lady and pointed.  She smiled, lifted this hot chip covered hot dog out of the oil, pricked it with a skewer, drained it of the oil and asked me if I wanted tomato sauce with it.  Yes! I said, and then she wrapped a few serviettes around the wooden stick and handed it over.  I don't know what to call it, but the hot dog chip steroids looked amazing. 
First bite, all chip and sauce.  Second bite, a bit of bread, which was a bit sweet!  Third bite, finally got to the sausage!  I must admit the chips were the best bit.  If there was less bread I think I would've enjoyed this streetfood more.  It was quite hard to eat without getting it all over your face.  Overall a bit of a let down.

On my to-eat list in Korea is one of my fave dishes, Spicy Tofu and Seafood soup.  I found this in a food court above one of the many fashion malls in Dongdaemun.
Again when I ordered the soup I got banchan which I was happy about.  I had never seen beef as banchan before but who cares it was so yummy, with a strong seasame but sweet flavour.  I also got a side of Deokbokki.  Everyday I saw people eating this on the side of the street.  They are little rice cakes shaped into cylinders and cooked in a spicy chilli sauce.  The rice cakes were chewier than I thought, but still nice.  I also could've had a bowl of rice but I told the lady I didn't want it and they thought I was a bit strange.  But lady I just ate that whole plate of Deokbokki and banchan!  Oh well.
Then the soup arrived.  Boiling and bubbling hot as it came out in the stone pot.  It definitely warmed me up, although it could've been done with a bit more chilli heat.  There was a good amount of seafood and tofu and I loved breaking the egg yoke into the broth and seeing it cook.   All this was only 6000 won, about $5.20.  Mmmm I feel like this again now.

On the last day I decided to eat on the street again, this time for dinner in Namadeun.  An area known for the markets that sell everything from spoons to kidswear to cosmetics and also wholesale markets.  There was a lot on offer in terms of food, I didn't know what to get!  I settled on this stall where the lady really welcomed me in, but yes in the end she ripped me off.  So a lesson learnt ask how much before you point at the delicious food you want cooked up and sit down to eat it!!
Still a bit pissed off about this whole experience but the food was ok.  Everyone gets a bowl of this mussel soup, which was like a salty, seafoody broth.  Warmed me up quickly while I waited for my pork and shallot skewers and japchae noodles.  Japchae are glass noodles made from potato starch and is very popular in Korea.  It was cooked in a sticky, tomatoey, chilli sauce.  Quite nice I must admit.

I definitely want to go back and try more Korean food, more unusual dishes, seeing as we are lucky that all the way over here in Australia we do get pretty authentic and good Korean food already.

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