Korean food (so far)

This is now the second in what will (hopefully) be an ongoing series on Korean food. The first post was dedicated to my first experience with makgeolli (and beondegi), and you can read about it here. This one is more of an overview of the things I’ve been eating. Food is often very inexpensive in Korea. While it is true that you can get meals for $3-5 USD, most meals are slightly more coming in at the $7-10 range. Still VERY inexpensive! I still try to cook at home a good deal (because, if I eat vegetarian, it is cheaper to eat here), but I certainly eat out much more here than I did back in the States. This could also be due (in part) to the fact that Korean food is just so GOOD! So, here is a fairly incomplete list of things I’ve eaten recently, in order from least to most formal meals.

Hotteok in Seomun market

Hotteok in Seomun market

First up, we have the street food. Korea is well known for having some great street food culture and there is no keeping me from it! Above is the hotteok (Korean doughnuts, but waaaaaaaaay better) cart in Seomun market. They average 1,000 won/each, so it’s a pretty good deal (especially on a cold day)

Below is my favorite twigum lady. Twigum (pictured just out of frame, on the left) is fried food. I don’t know if it refers to anything specific, but I typically see peppers, squid, eggs, squash, and kimbap pieces. Prices range from 500-1,000 won/piece, and many places have specials if you get 3 or 5 pieces. Her stall (which is, conveniently, set up right outside my office) also has odeng (the squiggly fish cake in the center), grilled chicken hearts and intestines (I’ve had the hearts; they’re a little iron-y), and a variety of other meats on sticks.

My twigum lady

My twigum lady

Next up, we have the more cafeteria-style foods. The two major stores near me, Emart and HomePlus, both have lovely cafeterias and I’ve always been very impressed with my meals. Below is my udon (thick noodles) set with kimbap (just plain rice with seaweed around it). The food was good, but the real star was the ojingeojeot (dried squid kimchi). The dried squid gave it a slightly sweet taste and really helped to round out all the spice. The whole meal set me back about 3,000 won

Emart lunch; I think this was a kimbap and udon set

Emart lunch

Emart’s main competitor, HomePlus (owned by the British company, Tesco) has, in my opinion, a slightly better cafeteria. I went the other day and got a bibimbap (rice with stuff on top) set that was very good. They gave me enough food for two people and the rice was perfectly cooked. The toppings were generous and well seasoned. My only complaints are that the egg was fried through (I like a runny yolk) and I was turned down when I tried to refill on the fishcake kimchi. This lunch set me back 5,500 won, so it was still VERY budget friendly.

HomePlus lunch; bibimbap with soup

HomePlus lunch; bibimbap with soup

Next up is tent-food. Maybe this one would better fall between street-food and cafeteria food, but I’m also including atmosphere. I’ve posted this before, but after a somewhat cold, rainy day of hiking around town, this meal really hit the spot. Big bowls of udon and some bulgogi (marinated beef) made for a lovely meal, despite the drunk high schoolers near us. This meal was maybe 5,000 won (again, so inexpensive!)

Tent dinner! Udon with bulgogi

Tent dinner! Udon with bulgogi

And now, onto the restaurants! I get out of work at 10 pm, so sometimes I’m really too tired to cook. Enter Okaduk. Koreans do chicken like you wouldn’t believe. I typically like their oven-roasted chicken (the skin is super crispy and a little sweet, whatever they put on it is MAGICAL), but they also have really good fried chicken. A typical meal is between 8,000-10,000/person, and they always give enough to share. Add in the cheap pitchers of beer, a convenient location (literally right around the corner from school), and it’s not hard to see why we frequent this place. My biggest complaint is that the meal is usually only chicken. No rice, no veggies, nothing. They do give out sides of moo (daikon radish), but that still doesn’t feel particularly healthy.

Okaduk chicken, a work favorite

Okaduk chicken, a work favorite

One of my favorite parts of Korean meals is that they come with banchan (side dishes). Typically these can be refilled as many times as you want (and you will want to refill them), but sometimes they bring out a special dish and you only get one. I went out to sushi with a friend a while back and they brought us out a whole grilled fish before we got our sushi! The sushi itself was “meh” at best, but the banchan fish was incredible. Very fresh and grilled to perfection, we ate every single bit of that dish.

Some banchan before a mediocre sushi lunch

Some banchan before a mediocre sushi lunch

I went on a bike ride last weekend and afterwards was quite hungry. Luckily, I was in an area primarily populated by students, so cheap eats were easy to come by. I sat down and ordered what I thought was one soup, but turned out to be another (probably better) one.Yukgaejang is a Daegu specialty. A thick soup with lots of pepper paste, bean sprouts, and shredded beef, it is simmered for hours so the flavors really meld together. Add in the generous portion of rice (or use the seaweed to make mini wraps) and you’re in business. This meal set me back a staggering 7,000 (including the soda). I’m pretty sure this is what Korean dreams are made of…

Yukgaejang, maybe. If it is, it is a Daegu specialty

Yukgaejang, maybe. If it is, it is a Daegu specialty

And finally, my newest love; shabu-shabu. I always love hotpot meals, but Korea has Vietnamese style places that take it to a whole new level. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese dish that has spread around the world (for a very obvious reason; it’s delicious). So I’m eating a Japanese dish in the Vietnamese style in Korea. Confusing, right? BUT SO GOOD. There are three rounds to shabu-shabu, so come hungry. Round one is the wrap round. They bring out a plate piled high with veggies and you can add some into the pot of broth (especially the mushrooms and greens), and start adding meat very slowly. Once everything is nicely cooked, you take a rice paper wrapper (the circle things), dip it in hot water or broth, set it on your little plate, and start adding uncooked veggies, sauces, and finally a piece of meat. The key is not to add too much, because then your roll won’t close! I’m guilty of this all the time…

Shabu shabu, aka the new love of my life

Shabu shabu, aka the new love of my life

After you’ve eaten your fill of rolls, they will bring some more broth to add to the pot (it gets low, some people like to just eat the broth as soup) and dump in the noodles. Sometimes rice noodles, sometimes delicious homemade buckwheat udon, they create a soup that is to die for. Remember all the meat and veggies that were thrown in earlier? They have now cooked down and imparted their flavor into the broth, so it tastes a little like heaven.

I really really love the noodle part.

I really really love the noodle part.

Round three involves the host pouring out most of the remaining broth and adding in rice, more veggies, and an egg to create a porridge-like ending to the meal. Usually I can only eat a few bites of this, but the rice is really delicious (I need to remember to save room for this!). And there it is, a three course meal for about 10,000/person.

This concludes my essay on Korean food (so far). I’ll make sure to update on things I eat in the future, since I clearly like to eat 🙂

I’m here!

Well, I’ve been in Korea almost 24 hours! Between Thursday and right now (Sunday afternoon in Korea), I think I’ve slept about 10 hours, and most of those were last night after I arrived. I was just too excited 🙂

My plane food; mostly for my sister because she wanted to see what it looked like.

My plane food; mostly for my sister because she wanted to see what it looked like.

After a little trouble getting from the airport to the hotel (I tried too hard to follow instructions and didn’t use my common sense), I got in at 11ish local time last night and almost immediately crashed. Unfortunately I was up at 6:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was fine, but I’m exhausted now. I just got back from a nice walk around town and I need to try and stay awake…we’ll see how that goes.

Today I ate some breakfast and then went out for a few hours. I walked around the Gangnam neighborhood a little (where I’m staying) and then braved the Seoul metro to get over to Meyong-Dong. My original intention was to walk straight to the Namdaemun Market, but I got side tracked by Namsan park and even stumbled into Shinsegae.

Gangnam is a nice neighborhood, but it seemed a little quiet when I left this morning. Maybe because it was Sunday? I’m not sure. On my way back it was hoppin’, but it was nice and empty this morning.

My lunch today; tuna kimbop with soup and kimche

My lunch today; tuna kimbop with soup and kimchi. This was 3,000 Won (about $3 USD) and filled me up for the rest of my adventures!

For my dad: KEBAB! Sadly they were closed

For my dad: KEBAB! Sadly they were closed. I’m sure I’ll find another place in Daegu 🙂

After Gangnam, I got on the subway and headed towards the downtown area of Meyong-Dong. I was headed towards the market when I saw this amazing view of the mountains from the subway exit. One of the reasons I love “unscripted” travel days is that I get to do things like go wherever I want! I headed over to what ended up being Namsan Park. It was a little crowded with tour groups, but the snow made everything incredibly beautiful. Also, MOUNTAINS! Being from the midwest, those are something totally different for me…

A woman making hotteok on the street- cinnamon and sugar filled pancakes

A woman making hotteok on the street outside of the subway- cinnamon and sugar filled pancakes fried in oil.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Namsan Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

Namsan Hanok Village

Pots of kimche brewing on someone's roof!

Pots of kimchi brewing on someone’s roof!

I then wandered towards the market (FINALLY!) and was a little excited. There were stalls upon stalls of food, clothes, homegoods, etc. I really think they had everything a person could ever want. Of COURSE I was interested in the food. I saw a ton of people eating fried fishcakes on sticks, hotteok, filled pastries of all sorts…everything! There were even snails 🙂 It was almost overwhelming with the mixture of all the different smells, sounds, and things to see. Markets are probably my favorite places to visit in foreign countries and Namdaemun did not disappoint. I would definitely love to go back on a weekday, just to see it when it’s REALLY open.

Snails to eat!

Snails to eat in Namdaemun Market!

Along one of the alleyways in Namdaemun  Market

Along one of the alleyways in Namdaemun Market

A food vendor with all the raw ingredients you could ever want.

A food vendor with all the raw ingredients you could ever want.

I ended up exiting (completely unintentionally) right in front of a large Korean department store, Shinsegae. The part I really enjoyed was the bottom floor with the food! There were little areas of the store, almost like different vendors, specializing in various things. There was a fish area, a meat area, a kimchi area, a pastry area, etc. It was great to look around, but unfortunately the prices were a bit high for my tastes (or maybe my tastes are too high for my prices?). If I were super rich and lived in Seoul, this is totally where I would shop.

Fish in Shinsegae

Dried fish in Shinsegae

Also, since I didn’t snap a ton of pics there, I did make this short Shinsegae video to show you a little of what it looks like. Yes, I’m in the pastry section 🙂

Alright, I’m going to try not to fall asleep and then head out to dinner with some of the other people who are here for training. This week will probably be quite busy, so I don’t expect to blog much more. I hope this is enough to hold over until I get to Daegu!