Kimchi, a dish consisting of fermented vegetables and seasonings, is one food that I will definitely be trying to find when I'm back in Texas. I didn't know that I was such a fan of Korean food, but it was one of the best parts of our trip to South Korea. Kimchi is probably the most famous staple of Korean food, and can be found at just about any restaurant you go to. I'm not sure if my taste buds have changed while living in Japan (when I first went to Korea with my brother in 2006 the slightest taste of Kimchi made me want to hurl), but I couldn't get enough of it when Michelle and I were there. Much like chips at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, kimchi was served as an appetizer before every meal and was free of charge. However, unlike chips at a Mexican restaurant, which are salted fat-fried tortillas, kimchi is generally considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. Low calories, tons of dietary fiber, vitamin A, C, iron and even a lactic acid bacteria that aids in digestion can all be found in kimchi. The taste was great; that the stuff was so healthy was just an added bonus.
Korean food in general is very tasty and healthy, but surprisingly different from Japanese food. Of course a lot of things are similar - tofu and rice are staples in both country's diets - but some of the ingredients and methods of cooking differ substantially. In Korea everything is spicy. Red pepper is the most important ingredient in a Korean dish. Beef and chicken are also extremely popular and are usually the main source of protein. A Korean "dish" is not just one plate either. Usually it comes served as one main plate accompanied by anywhere from 5 to 10 side plates, each consisting of a different root or vegetable (most fermented and spicy). In Japan the food is much less spicy and fish seems to be the protein of choice. In addition, Koreans usually mix their rice into their main dish, while in Japan this is considered rude. Another interesting observation was that in Korea EVERYONE used stainless steel chopsticks. In Japan only wooden chopsticks are used. Whatever the reason, stainless steel chopsticks were much more difficult to use than their wooden cousins.
Here are a couple quick photos that highlight some of our favorite Korean dishes that we had on the trip:
|Michelle cutting up some kimchi before we dive into Seolleongtang, a beef bone stock broth filled with vegetables and strips of beef. The kimchi was all-you-could-eat and in a container built into the table.|
|Traditional "bibimbap" - rice topped with seasoned vegetables and a meat (in this case squid)|
|Michelle's vegetable "bibimbap" after mixing|
|"Bulgogi" - shredded beef marinated in soy sauce, onions and peppers put in a broth with noodles|
|"Galbi", or Korean Bar-B-Que, was one of our favorites. We were already familiar with the process since this type of food has become very popular in Japan.|
|After grilling the "galbi", you made a lettuce wrap that contained the grilled meat, vegetables, kimchi, potato salad and salt, and threw it all down the hatch. Win.|
|The food wasn't the only thing delicious - "Citron Tea" might be the best tea I have ever had. I drank gallons of the stuff while in Korea.|