Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Korea
My breakfast is eaten at home, though I always get a vending machine instant coffee with the bits of change in my pocket.
For those more in tune with breakfast, there are loads of breakfast cereals and toast and spread and fruit selections available. Traditional Korean breakfast is seaweed soup with turnip and often fish, served with rice and kimchi.
Lunch for me is something from a “pojang macha” (side-street cart selling food) or a quick “ajima” (Korean mother) cafe or “shik dang” (hole-in-the-wall restaurant) where I have a soup or noodles or kimbab (kimpop) or virtually any plate of food for anywhere from 2000 Won to 5000 Won ($2-5USD).
You can do noodles or deep fried squid even cheaper or one of my favorites, oudaeng. Ask. Try. Enjoy.
Dinner is often a Korean BBQ house for me or a Chicken Hof (pub). I love Korean chicken. The sauces are AMAZING. Do try them.
The bbq houses are also something to behold. One of the locals’ favorites is All You Can Eat Galbi at New Seoul Restaurant (새서울식당) by Nowon Station (노원역). Dinner there can be as cheap as 5000 Won for one. Best to dine with a partner and get a couple orders. It will be served together, you cook together, you use scissors to cut the meat, you lay it on a lettuce leaf or catnip leaf and put on your special favorites to dress it, that could be kimchi or garlic or garlic cooked in seasame oil or bean sprouts or any number of combinations from the “pancheon” that is set on your table and constantly refilled each time a side dish plate empties. YUM YUM YUM.
Korean food is really different from Japanese or Chinese cuisines. Short grain sticky rice is the staple food of the Korean diet, and virtually every meal is served with kimchi, a fermented cabbage, garlic and pepper dish (think sauerkraut with hot sauce). Some people develop quite an affinity for it and other people can’t stand it, but face it, if you choose to live in Korea you will be eating it a lot. Kimchi, the national dish, is served with breakfast, lunch and dinner and if you don’t like it when you first get there, you may find yourself craving it only months after and upon your return home you might even drive 30 minutes out of your way just to get “good” kimchi.
Korean food tends to be spicy and includes liberal amounts of garlic. If you can’t eat spicy food I suppose you can ask for non spicy food, but that is similar to walking into KFC and saying you don’t eat chicken. Cheap nutritious food can be bought everywhere in Korea. Popular dishes include kimbap- which is the Korean version of the California roll – vegetables and egg rolled in a seaweed wrap, mandu, which are meat dumplings which are steamed, deep fried or served in soup, kalbi, or Korean short ribs, pulgogi, which is grilled marinated beef, and bebimbap which is fresh vegetables and an egg mixed with rice. Korea also has a fantastic array of soups and stews, including naengmyon – cold buckwheat noodles – perfect on a hot summer day, kalbi tang, or beef soup, tubu chigae, tofu soup, samgyetang, ginseng chicken soup and kong kuk su, a noodle dish made in a soy milk broth. There is also a vast array of seafood dishes in Korea, including raw fish, or sashimi.Generally before a meal in Korea you will be given a hot, wet towel to wash your face and hands with.
Koreans eat their rice with a spoon and everything else with chopsticks – if you don’t know how to use chopsticks you will learn. The degree of difficulty is ratcheted up in Korea because they use slick metal chopsticks rather than bamboo or wooden ones. Personally I love this concept because they are recycled. This is one of the few environmentally friendly practises you will see in Korea – a country where cookies are INDIVIDUALLY wrapped inside a box of cookies… a genuine source of frustration for any person concerned about our environment.