Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seoul Food

As you may know, I'm in Korea and while here I wanted to try some of the local foods. On day one I headed out with a local guide to see the sights and taste some of the local favorites.

If you know me well, you know I don't let Kevin have kimchi in our refrigerator. It has a very bad habit of smelling up my other fresh foods and because of its strong odor, I usually can't get it to my lips. However, the kimchi here is not the same as we get in Chicago.

I've come to learn that kimchi is any one of numerous traditional Korean salt cured and fermented dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings. Its most common form is the spicy baechu (Chinese cabbage) variety. Kimchi can be traced back to ancient times. In modern times however, the main spice and source of 'heat' for most Kimchis is a paste made from red chili peppers (which of course they did not have in ancient times as chilis come from the Americas.) Kimchi from the northern parts of Korea where Seoul is located, tend to have less salt as well as less red chilli and usually do not have brined seafood for seasoning. Perhaps as such, I really enjoyed it at lunch this afternoon. My guide tells me that the various types and seasonal varieties of kimchi must be stored at precise temperatures and that some folks even have special refrigerators to accomplish this task. Perhaps that's the problem with the kimchi we get at home.

Along with the kimchi and a variety of other dishes that are included with your main dish order, I had Yuk Gae Jang (or spicy beef and vegetable soup, shown above). It had lots of beef and using metal chopsticks, you put the pieces of meat and vegetable on your rice and pick up some of both together. It was served boiling hot and was very tasty as well. You then consume the broth with a spoon. My guide didn't even make fun of my lack of good chopstick skills!

Later in the afternoon we toured the main wholesale market in Seoul, and the largest market in Korea. It was very impressive. We came upon the food shops and I was pleased to find the 'food on a stick' section which I had seen previously on TV. They had quite a variety of offerings, most of which I could not identify. But they did have the deep fried fish paste I had seen prepared and I also found two teens buying something that looked pretty strange. My guide talked with them and they explained it was a hot dog covered in potatoes (left) Other varieties were also present but I'll leave you to guess just what they might be.

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