I re-learned a new word today: 미식가, which I suppose, could be translated as "foodie." Now I'm no gastronomy expert like my big sis, who frequents the likes of Gary Danko and has probably visited nearly all Michelin Star recipients in the SF Bay Area, but I've definitely gone through the "foodie-wannabe/foodie-in-training" stage over the past several years. It becomes slightly more challenging when your diet is restricted to chicken and fish, but the point is, I have a strong appreciation for good food.
I've yet to experience many "fine dining" Korean restaurants in the States, Europe, or even here in Seoul, but so far, what I've been tasting is pretty darn yummy. What's even better, is that in Korea, you can get a warm, hearty, and delicious meal for the bargain price of $5-$7 a head (and you don't tip, either). So what have I eaten? To put it quite simply, A LOT. ^^ Mostly I've stuck to the "basics" that I grew up with, i.e. your standard 순두부찌개 (soondubu chigae), 자장면 (jajangmyun), 김밥 (kimbap), 비빔밥 (bibimbap), 된장찌개 (dengjang chigae), 냉면 (naengmyun), 잡채 (japchae), etc. Take a look...
If you've been to a Korean restaurant before, you probably know that the main dish is served with complimentary 반찬 (banchan), typically side dishes consisting of kimchee, namul, or different types of jun. I've discovered that my Junghee Imo (Aunty Junghee) is the unmistakable victor when it comes to making banchan. Breakfast by Junghee Imo might typically look like this...
I've also been having a little too much fun snacking, despite attempts to heed my uncle's half joking "살 빼!" advice. ^^
They make it too easy...
- The rest stops here are AMAZING - food and snack courts of dreams. You can find everything from udon, egg sandwiches, freshly roasted chestnuts, ika, to warm hodo kwaja (Korean walnut cakes typically stuffed with azuki bean). It ain't no Roy Rogers, folks.
- The food courts in the department stores never cease to tempt me. The clerks shout at you to come try the freshly made batch of deep fried tempura, chicken skewers straight off the grill... I could go on and on. One interesting thing about food courts here is that you typically pay for your meal first at a central cash register, then wait at the designated restaurant until your number is called.
- The stuff off the street is pretty darn good too. Last September, I tried kimbap rolled in a fried egg for the first time. And how can you resist heart shaped waffles filled with cream?!
- I've always had a weak spot for Korean packaged snacks. Most recently, green tea cereal. Yes, green tea cereal. I'm also beginning to think that Pepero and I need to be separated for a couple weeks. We have a love/hate relationship, and most things are best consumed in moderation.
- When you want to go out for a beer, you can't just have a beer... there's this bad habit called anju, basically side dishes to accompany the alcohol. ^^ I call it "a second dinner" but apparently it's "just anju."
- Last but not least, the cafes here are sooooo much fun! There are dozens to choose from, each with their own personality, and the coffee's good too! Where else, but in Korea, can you find a sweet potato latte?! Mix that with good conversation and you're in heaven.