Friday, June 14, 2013

Siska Hasheosseoyo?

External of my fear of chopsticks, I am very excited about the wonderful foods that await me in Korea.

As part of my continued preparation for this trip I've been reading a great travel book and have learned somethings about Korean food and dining behaviors that I was either not previously aware or did not fully understand.

"sticky" rice
For example, while I knew (based on my 2009 trip) that rice is served with nearly every meal I was not aware of the importance that rice played in the meal.  Apparently, Koreans view rice as the main dish of the meal rather than a meat or other protein based item as would be considered the primary dish in Western cultures.  In fact, the title of this blog "Siska Hasheosseoyo?" is a common Korean street greeting and literally translates to "Have you eaten rice?"  I'm glad that I like rice <grin>.

Following rice, kim-chi (sometimes "gimchi") is considered the next most important component to a Korean meal.  Kim-chi is actually THE dish for which Korea is most well known outside of the peninsula (especially since rice is a major element to the diets of many other Asian cultures).  Kim-chi consists of cabbage and white radishes mixed with red-pepper and garlic and then pickled to help preserve the concoction (Seoul Garden in Mid-West City, OK makes a very nice cucumber kim-chi).  I've recently learned that kim-chi can be a great source of Vitamin C.  Depending upon the season, other vegetables such as chives, pumpkin, and eggplant may go through a similar preservation process for a more "exotic" kim-chi.

kalbi short ribs
bulgogi beef
Bibimbap is a dish that one of my friends got the other night at Seoul Garden and it looked wonderful; I am interested in trying this dish of boiled rice mixed with vegetables and protein (like bulgogi beef) and all served in an earthenware pot...sometimes a fried egg is served as a topper.  A dish that I have enjoyed before and look forward to having again is kalbi short ribs which are marinated and barbecued similar to bulgogi.  This brings me to the one item which I am most excited to eat is bulgogi beef (chicken and pork are other common ways to prepare bulgogi) which is essentially strips of red beef marinated and then grilled over a charcoal brazier.  It's often spicy and those who know me well know of my love for spicy Cajun foods!!

The only time on my previous trip when I wanted to "give up" on Korean food was Thanksgiving night.  That 2009 trip included the traditional American holiday and my body, perhaps nostalgic for family & traditional foods, was simply craving turkey.  The first dish served at the very nice restaurant our group went to included squid.  While I politely picked my way through the dish (along with the chopstick issues), I just wanted something "American".  A friend in the group felt the same way and on the way back to the hotel he and I stopped at a "haven" of American culinary delights...McDonald's.  The funniest part was that I walked in, noticed that they had a bulgogi burger, and ended up eating something with a Korean flare anyway <grin>.

I'm excited to get back over there and roam some of those wonderful culinary remote roads!!

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