Do you like to eat meat or fish? How about spicy or salty foods? Do you like rice or kimchi? Do you like OCTOPUS? If you said “yes” to any or all of these questions, you will probably enjoy Korean food.
I eat Korean food at least once a day, five days a week: during my school’s lunchtime. The menus typically consist of soup, rice, a side of veggies or fruit, a side of meat, and of course, kimchi. Kimchi is a fermented cabbage that has been prepared with a variety of seasonings which make it spicy; it is a traditional Korean dish that is served with every meal because it’s healthy and Koreans believe that it helps to improve digestion. There are different variations of kimchi, such as kimchi made with cucumber, radish, or green onions. Kimchi can also be used as a main ingredient for Korean dishes such as kimchi soup.
Another popular, traditional Korean dish is galbi: a meat dish made from marinated beef short ribs served with a side of lettuce which is used to wrap the cooked meat. Galbi is typically served in restaurants known as “galbi houses” where the guests sit at a table with a grill built into it and cook the meat themselves. The galbi and lettuce are served with an assortment of sides, like ssam-jang (mixed soybean and chili pepper paste), rice, and or course, kimchi.
Something else that’s really common here is street food. I have yet to build up the courage to try some though; there’s just something about food that comes off the street or from the back of a van that just seems so… unappetizing. Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is FOOD POISONING.
Rice cakes are also popular here in Korea. The one pictured below has some beans on it, as well as other foods that I couldn’t identify. That’s the problem with eating here: over half the time, I have no clue what I’m putting in my mouth.
Like in America, there are many other restaurants here that specialize in ethnic foods: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Some of my favorite meals I’ve eaten here have actually been at Japanese restaurants.
However, these “ethnic foods” are often “Koreanized,” meaning sometimes what you get is “Chinese food” that really just looks like Korean food.
Along with the ethnic food places, there are some American food places: Baskin Robbins, McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Pizza hut, The Coffee Bean, etc. Oh and if you’re wondering where the popular “date spot” is, it’s Outback Steakhouse, baby. Very expensive!
So what do I think about the food here in South Korea? I have to say that it’s taking me some getting used to. Before I came here, I was a vegetarian and didn’t eat a lot of spicy foods. Now when I go to eat lunch at school or go out to eat with my friends, it’s either “eat meat or starve.” I also have to force feed myself kimchi so I don’t look rude in front of my Korean co-workers and friends. But I’m surviving and slowly acquiring a taste for the food here. SLOWLY, but surely.