A food aficionado: Adventures in South Korea

By Anna Ing

A bite of ssam. (Image courtesy of Anna Ing.)

A bite of ssam. (Image courtesy of Anna Ing.)

Recently, I was lucky to travel and eat my way around South Korea with my little sis on her first time ever in Asia. What made it more special was the warm hospitality of my Korean friends as well as the delicious food that warmed our hearts along the way.

Our first night was a rainy night in Seoul. Jetlagged we met up with a friend in Gangnam Station area to have thick slices of samgyup sal (thick three layer pork belly) for barbecue. Seeing the lovely thick cuts of pork belly (layers of meat and fat aka fatty bacon), we had the unmarinated kind. After each big slab was cooked, it was efficiently cut up by our waitress. Then we promptly would take a piece, make a ssam aka lettuce “wrap” with it other items, such as samjjang sauce (flavored wrap dipping sauce), raw or cooked garlic, tangy sesame leaf and kimchi in each bite. The lettuce wraps makes eating the samgyupsal a healthier way to add leafy greens into this delicious meal. The complimentary clear and subtly flavored bean sprout soup and a variety of ban chan (side dishes) with a bowl of white rice were standard, but helped fill you up. Also the free refills of the side dishes is a plus. The restaurant specializes in samgyupsal, which is sold by weight. A usual Korean meal has a soup/stew, main dish, rice and ban chan. One thing is for sure: You never walk out hungry after a Korean meal.

After a lovely meal, we decided to do what Koreans do on a rainy night. We stopped by a makgeoli (Korean rice wine) bar and got some pacheon (Korean pancakes made with different ingredients). We got a great special one, which like wine, include many varieties to choose from. The variety sampler of pacheon included some with kimchi, perilla leaves, ground pork patties, a variety of vegetables and fish, all covered in an eggy pancake batter. The accompanying soy-based dipping sauce with garlic and sesame seeds gave a salty edge to the mild-tasting pancakes. It was great snack food with the rice wine, which served from a pretty gold colored tea pot into gold colored metal bowls. They were a great way to drink the subtly sweet — without being overpowering — snow white rice wine.

We hit the ground running in Seoul, with delicious foods.

This post is also available in: Chinese

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