Okay, so final dispatch about South Korea. This one focuses on the food, that is, the food we sat down for, and, in most cases, cooked ourselves. The food in South Korea was generally far spicier than in Japan, but often served in a very practical, no-frills manner. The top stone bowls were probably the mildest dishes of the whole trip. On the left was a kind of abalone goulash and on the right was the house specialty, ginseng chicken. There were glass jars of ginseng (which looks like a skinny, hairy ginger root) all over the restaurant, and really all over Seoul. Not sure what the medicinal purpose is supposed to be, but the taste is just extremely subtle.
Every meal in Korea comes with all you can eat kimchi on the side. Somewhere in between the temples, we ducked into a tiny shop for an afternoon snack of cheesy rice. Yummy!
At dinner time, all the dishes come out. Honestly, all we did was point to the kind of meat that we wanted and all this other stuff came out to accompany it. Some of it was tastier than others.
Following the cryptic directions in our awful Fodor's guidebook, we somehow managed to find a famous potsticker joint (after failing to find our previous three choices). They only have 4 options on their menu, so we chose three of them: soba noodles in a spicy sauce, thick noodles in a broth with I think ground beef and of course the potstickers, which were pretty amazing.
And we had to do the thickcut bacon cooked at the table with all the fixins. Once it is fully cooked, the proprietor comes around with big scissors and cuts the bacon into bite size portions. Dip the bacon piece into the sauce and place it in the lettuce leaf, roll, and Voila!
Truth be told, we had the bacon thing several times. If you have never had the experience of eating kimchi soaked in bacon fat, you must run now, NOW, to Korea, or at least to your local Korean BBQ. Hopefully they too will have the grill propped up like so.
And finally I got my bibimbap. This is the perfect meal. Veggies, pickled things, kimchi, rice and an egg served in a hot stone bowl so that the bottom gets crispy like paella.
But over a 10 day trip, we didn't ALWAYS eat the local fare. Sometimes we dipped back into the familiar. In the shopping district near Jagalchi, we found a burger joint with all of the burgers named after states. I went with the Texas burger, which had BBQ sauce and was thus the only one that had any actual connection to its namesake.
But while we were eating our burgers up on the second floor, we looked across the street at the strangest thing. This coffee shop has set up little semi-private cubicle rooms for its customers. Each room has a tv and a pile of pillows and I guess folks rent by the hour and just lounge a bit between shopping. Couples cuddled, girlfriends gossiped and displayed their shopping finds and one exhausted mom slept while her kid jumped on the couch and waved to people out the window. Fascinating.
More meats and miscellaneous sides.
And for something different, imagine throwing all those ingredients into a pot...here is kimchi and bacon stew. Awesomeness in a pot.