Friday, June 14, 2013

Seoul Food (See What I Did There??)

As I have mentioned, FM and I lived in Seoul for four months in 2001. Outside of the Itaewon area of town (Little America), eating was a bit of a challenge. There were not a lot of restaurants staffed with English speaking workers, or in possession of menu's with English or pictures. 

Obviously, we didn't starve to death. But we also didn't get to experience much of the local food. We did okay on the drink, though.  

One thing you learn on the road is "Order what you want, eat what you get". They rarely seem to be the same thing.

That being said, I saw this sign the other day and thought, "Live octopus?". Must be a misprint.

 But no. Our colleague and friend Ned ordered the octopus at our local drinking establishment the other night. When it arrived at the table, it was still moving. Well, fluttering. But moving. Mad I didn't take a video. We ate it, and it didn't fight back, but still felt a little creepy. Although it wasn't exactly Sannajki (raw, live octopus), it was doing something on that plate.

 Which sometimes makes you very glad to see this. Although in fairness, I haven't yet ventured into a Taco Bell in Seoul.

After thirteen years of travel, we are pretty much done with seeking out the odd or unusual. My days of eating sauteed fish eyeballs and deep fried camel boogers are nearing a close.

We are not "foodies" (whatever that means), nor do I take pictures of every meal we eat (mainly because I'm usually too hungry to do it first, or I just plain forget). But we do like to eat. I'm just not planning my entire night around a certain restaurant or a certain dish.

The presence of "foreign" food outside of the Itaewon area has definitely been on the rise. While hanging around near Gangnam Station we wandered into a restaurant called Uncle 29 and had some cute little Mexican snacks.

Street food is ubiquitous in Seoul. From fish shaped fried sweet dough to actual fish like things. Tokkebi hot dogs (look like a really fat corn dog) or even hot dogs coated in french fries, meat on a stick, corn on the cob, Kimbap (rice rolls), Tteokbokki (fairly tasteless rice noodles in a very spicy sauce) and Hotteok (basically pancakes, some with sweets, nuts or vegetables). The carts give off savory and sweet aromas that can make you hungry even when you're not. 

 I'm not even sure what these things were, but the chocolate ones didn't appear to be the top sellers.

All those 6-8 year old kids who used to yell "Hello" at me and want to speak in English are now serving up food in restaurants around town. And their English has improved dramatically. It's possible for us to venture into almost any restaurant and have an English menu and order in English. The above Chicken Teriyaki was delicious.  The chicken pictured below was basically cartilage, however. Not sure that word translates properly. Very chewy and bland.

Another food that has taken the town by storm is fried chicken. KFC is here, along with Popeye's, but the local versions are available every ten meters. Korean chains that serve nothing but fried chicken, plus Mom and Pop's doing the same; all of them vying for that top spot of Best Fried Chicken in Seoul.

 Fresh squid grilled outside the zoo. Smelled delicious.

 Some of you may have noticed my sidebar of "Foods I Still Fantasize About". One of the first things I ever added to this list was a dinner of Pork Chops, coleslaw and taters at the Seoul Pub. Now, you might be saying, "REALLY?? Pork Chops in Seoul?". And they really, really, REALLY were good. 

That steak didn't suck at Wolfhounds, though. For $18, it better not!

But now they suck. So, I have to remove the pork chops from The Seoul Pub from my list and apologize to anyone who went there and ate them after they started sucking. Because they were most definitely not the same.

Sweets and pastries are also on the rise. And they even have sugar in them now! In the past you would see these delicious looking treats, then take a bite and instantly think, "WTH? Is there no sugar in here?". Think bland, dry and floury. They have it figured out, now.

We even found us some Eggs Benny the other day. Not quite the same, but a nice alternative to the hotel breakfast buffet. 

Some food is just not ready for fusion. Kimchi Pizza? Fuggetaboutit. I STILL do not like Kimchi. I don't get it. I like spicy. I like cabbage. I HATE Kimchi. Gives me a shudder.

One thing that HAS stayed the same is the serving of pickles with all pizza. Required by law. (Not really).

Deli across the street (Mama's Cafe) makes a mean Turkey sandwich as big as your head.
Macarons! Pretty sure this is a fairly new addition to the Korean palate. 
In addition to the fast-food restaurants listed, there is, of course, McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza (Sl)hut. Also, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts and Mr. Donut are everywhere. Starbucks and The Coffee Bean prevail on every corner. Dig a little deeper and you can find Baskin-Robbins, Coldstone Creamery, Subway and Quiznos. 

We don't eat there. At home. Or here. 

Okay. I might nip into the Baskin Robbins on occasion.  :-)

So, no. We are not eating Korean food every night. Nor, do I think, are the Koreans.

Eat well!

1 comment:

bill H. said...

A fun tour of the gastric offerings but you didn't mention the Italian spot just out your backdoor, are you protecting that one?