Spicy Korean life

Korea is known for its’ spicy food, specially kimchi. I think in most of the restaurants you get a free side of kimchi with your meal, which usually is not that expensive to begin with.

Side dishes to hotpot

The meal is a social event, where it is not uncommon to share, grill food together or to eat from the same small plates. Usually food is eaten with metallic chopsticks and a spoon. Scissors are used to cut meat and other food into pieces before serving.

Korean bar food: various fried stuff such as fish paste cakes, washed down with soju and magkeolli

 

Koreans eat a lot of meat. And by a lot, I mean a lot. However, it is possible to find non-meaty foods as well. There are numerous Korean barbecue restaurants, since meat is cheap and apparently rather good quality, too. And when Koreans go drinking, unlike in Finland, they order food as well. Healthy? Could be, if the food wasn’t all (deep)fried.

The bar food is similar, if not the same to the food that can be bought on the streets.

Tokbokki, fish paste and meat skewers and savoury pancake

There are food vendors and stalls in almost every street, and oddly enough most of them seem to sell the same stuff: rice cake stew tokbokki, skewers with fish paste&rice cakes and/or meat, savory pancakes, fried dumplings and the “sushi” rolls.  Generous amount of oil is used for everything, and most are probably rather spicy, too.

“street cooked” dinner, washed down with magkeolli (white fermented rice alcohol)

The “restaurant” stalls are also located in the various markets of Seoul, and in some streets and parks.

Market food
Market food

When a sweet craving hits, not to worry! On the streets, you can easily find the solution.

Fried “fish”cakes with sweet chocolate or bean filling

No pictures of the most famous sweet treat: hotteok pancake.

I wanted to end this post with the Korean equivalent of the Japanese “ittadakimasu” which can be translated to “bon appétit”. Unfortunately I have no clue how Koreans begin their meals.

 

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Japanistic Korea

Seoul and Beppu are different like night and day (go figure: one has 1 Starbucks, the other has coffee shops for probably every third adult of the 10.5 million inhabitants). In Seoul, I found many differences between Japan and Korea, but the countries do have some things in common as well.

 

Incheon in the foggy frisk morning

Beautiful views

Traditional Hanok village

Beautiful architecture and history

Navigation (or passing a car) can be a challenge!

Small side streets with no names

 

My first meal in Korea: bimbap with free sides of kimchi, pickled daikon and Korean soup!

Similar, delicious cuisine

Schisandra tea with pine nuts

Appreciation for  high quality tea.

When it comes to tea, I definitely prefer the Korean one. The various possibilities: Schisandra, jujube, ginseng, and all the other other herbs: the variations and possibilities seemed to be endless! Japanese matcha and sencha are nothing compared to these various powerhouses. The bimbap, or Korean sushi, on the other hand was not that convincing. Usually the Korean sushi roll consists of spam/ham, surimi (fake crab) and mayo, which are not the ingredients I’d want to put on my roll. The nori is seasoned with some oil (grape, olive or other), and there is no soy sauce for dipping. The Korean soup is not as delicious as miso, but it comes for free with the divine kimchi and daikon, with refills! Point to Japan for this dish, point to Korea for the drinks!

 

Both of the countries also use a sign language I cannot understand. The difference is that in Japan I can at least read hiragana and katakana, whereas in Korea I had no clue what most of the signs or texts said. Luckily it is possible to manage without knowing Korean. For some reason, I automatically and accidentally spoke what little Japanese I can in the shops and restaurants. Maybe the numerous Japanese tourists had some to do with that, or then I am turning more Japanese than I thought I would.