A lot of people have been asking me about what the food is like here in Korea, and what foods we’ve eaten so far, so I thought I’d devote a whole post to food!
Basically, if we didn’t have Andrew here to guide us, we wouldn’t have tried as many delicious things as we have. He’s given us lists of things to order, and explained about the different types of restaurants. One thing that’s different is a lot of restaurants really only have one thing, or one type of food available. So if you see a pig on the restaurant’s sign, chances are they only serve pork (plus the common side dishes, like kimchi). There are a few types of restaurants that carry a variety of items, and so far that’s mostly where we’ve been eating.
Last weekend Andrew took us to a Korean beef barbeque restaurant, where they bring you whatever cuts of beef you ordered (we ordered really small, thin slices), and you bbq it on your table. There are a ton of side dishes too–we got lettuce to wrap the beef in, some sort of egg quiche type thing, some bean sprout salad, and some veggies to grill with the meat, like onions and garlic. I think we had a seafood fried rice that night too. There was probably more but I can’t remember, because we also ordered a lot of beer and soju… 🙂
The next night we went to a place where you order a soup that is also cooked at your table. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures at that meal and we had even more soju and beer than the night before, so I don’t remember everything we had, but I think it was like beef strips, mushrooms and other veggies in the soup, and we had kimchi, fish cake and some weird little crunchy fish things on the side. They are fish about the size of an earring post, and you eat the whole thing, bones, eyes, tail….everything…not my favourite!
Sunday afternoon we went to the mall and ate at the food court, which was quite an experience. Instead of ordering from the specific restaurant you want to eat at, you look at numbered plastic models of all of the food options, and order at a central counter with the number of the food you want. They give you another number, and then you go sit in the food court and wait for your number to come up on a board, which also tells your restaurant to go to. I had a curry dish and a fried pork cutlet (which the boys ate for me), Andrew had Chinese food, and Matt had a fried pork cutlet and fried rice. Oh, also, most meals here come with soup. Usually it’s broth with tofu and onions, and some sort of meat or noodles.
Other things we have eaten several times and liked are a sushi-type roll that has tuna, veggies and sometimes ham in it, and a dish made of rice cakes (basically big fat rice noodles) in a spicy red sauce, and another variation has the rice cakes plus ramen noodles. Either variation is delicious, and so far, those are my favourite dishes. Matt really enjoys the fried street food, although last night he got a hot dog type thing (aka mystery meat) wrapped in fish cake on a stick, which he ended up tossing out after about 5 bites. I told him not to do it, it looked repulsive! But he wanted to try it…guess you never know until you try! Other street food we’ve had is fried seafood, fried sweet potato, and some doughy sweet thing that was like a small elephant ear or funnel cake.
However, most of our meals so far have been at school. It’s customary to eat the school lunch with the other teachers, and if you bring your own lunch you’re not really supposed to eat with everyone else. The cost of the lunch comes out of our pay checks, but it works out to be about $1.50 at day, so that’s a pretty good deal! Plus, so far, school lunch has been pretty good. We always have a soup of some sort, kimchi, rice, some meat option (typically fried fish), and a veggie side. Sometimes there is fruit or some dessert option. Overall, it’s pretty good for $1.50 a day, and it’s making me be adventurous, because I don’t want to be rude or accidentally offend anyone by not trying something!
So anyway, so far I’ve liked almost everything I’ve tried. There are a few things I know exist here that I’m not interested in trying (intestines stuffed with meat and veggies, dog restaurants), but other than that, I’m enjoying being (semi!) adventurous and so far, so good! 🙂
For more details about life in Korea, check out this article about the 50 reasons why Seoul is the world’s greatest city. Even though we’re about an hour away from Seoul, a lot of these still apply to Gwangju-si, and even in this short time I’ve already heard about/experienced several things on this list, in Gwangju-si and/or Seoul.