Korean Eating Culture

Today I would like to tell you out there a bit about my experience with the Korean Eating Culture. Going to a restaurant in Korea can be quite a culture shock for Westerners. First of all, in 70 % of all restaurants, you sit on the floor. If you can’t recognize the foreigners by looks (which you usually can), you certainly can by how they have to change their sitting position every 10 minutes because their legs have fallen asleep 😀

Ordering food can be quite the challenge, especially when the Korean language skills are not yet existent. The best option is to go for dinner with a Korean, of course. Unfortunately, they are not always available when the hunger comes. When I have gone to dinner with Korean friends I have always tried to remember where, what they ordered, is written on the menu, so I can now just point at it when going there again 😉 The second option is to be brave and just take a pick. Bravery can be rewarded… or punished. Korean food can be very, VERY spicy. Too spicy. My personal reaction to spicy food are the hick-ups. One of my German friends who tends to be quite brave when it comes to randomly picking the dish said that once it was so spicy that he felt dizzy! During my first encounter with a Korean on the plane, I got some good advice: “Don’t order food that is of a red colour”. And he was oh-so-right! Koreans conserve their food with chili and they love it! So red food is a no-go for me. The third and easiest option to order food are pictures or displays. Those are not that uncommon actually. In the uni cafeteria there is always one cooked version of each dish on display in a glass cabinet.

One unique (at least to me!) characteristic of Korean food are the side dished. Every Korean restaurant serves them, no matter if you want them or not, and they are free. Often the whole table is covered with zillions of little dishes filles with pickled vegetables (KIMCHI is always one of them), tofu, small pieces of pancake, potatoe and fish or seafood. You might also find the occasional bug.

Here come some of my favourite Korean dishes:

Bibimbap. This is the most well-known Korean dish. Vegetables with rice and egg. A safe bet for foreigners, because usually you can choose yourself how much red spicy sauce you want on it (not on the picture though – sorry these pictures don’t have the best quality). You like to eat everything seperately? No chance. If you haven’t mixed everything after the second time the waitress has told you to do so, she WILL come and do it for you!

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Secondly, introducing… Korean BBQ!

Korean BBQ is a very popular thing to eat in a restaurant as it is very interactive and social, because you cook it yourself on the table. And also, it involves a lot of meat, which Koreans generally like. There is the pork version (with or without grease) and the more expensive beef version.

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And now, my favourite : Andong Jjimdak. Chicken on the bone (like chicken wings) with noodels and vegetables in a brown soy-sauce-based sauce. A little bit spicy, but bearable!

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My favourite snack is this fish-shaped baked good filled with custard! This can be bought on street booths when it is still hot and crispy…yumm!

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Ok that is all for today 🙂 Oh, one more thing that I find curious here: When the meal is finished you don’t keep sitting and chatting but you leave straight away. If you want to keep spending time, you go to the next place to order food or drink. I don’t know why this is… maybe because eating out in the restaurant is usually not a special occasion like in many Western countries, as it is fairly cheap…

Why do you think this is? Open for suggestions 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely 1. Advent 🙂

Clara

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