Food in South Korea?

Tab
Bento-ing from: › Finland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.

Hello everyone!
I'll be traveling to South Korea in June and as I love to taste new foods and try out new things I'm really waiting forward to the trip! We'll be staying at the Seoul area and maybe a few days in Jeju.
Any suggestions what foods I definately should try out (in addition to kimchi, of course!), good dishes or even restaurants?
What about bento, is there any bento culture in Korea? Is there a possibility to buy bento boxes or other equipment?
What foods or spices etc would make a good souvenir or I should maybe bring home with me?

If you have any info or opinions I'd love to hear it!
Thanks in advance :)

T

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maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 week 2 days ago.
Re: Food in South Korea?

Unfortunately I've never been to South Korea, but I don't think that bentos are part of the traditional culture there...though I have heard that the concept of packed lunches is getting more popular. Korean cuisine in general is delicious - it can often be more spicy, but not always so. As far as great (and lightweight) gifts to bring home, people love Korean nori seaweed (which is flavored with salt, sometimes spices, brushed with oil and lightly grilled), or Korean chili pepper.

If you have a chance to do so, try going to some local Korean restaurants in your area before you go, to get a feel for what to expect!

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Freedomfighter826
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: Food in South Korea?

I think packed lunches is pretty normal in Korea. I've never been there though, so it's just the impression I've gotten. I don't think it's to the same level as it is in Japan. But usually when I go to korean markets they always have quite a bit of Bento supplies (korean made). The majority of them are rather simple though. But I really like them. I bought a really nice stainless steel korean lunch box from a korean market that is just awesome. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is I think you'll be able to find some really nice lunch box equipment in Korea. I know Korean ginseng is pretty big (maybe expensive though). But I think that might make a good souvenir :).

Lori
Re: Food in South Korea?

I currently live in Seoul. It's not unusual for the elementary set and preschoolers to take lunches to school, but schools generally provide hot meals or the older kids eat at local restaurants/fast food spots. Yeah, even Seoul has fast food. The majority of the working folks also eat out, which seems to be the major way most Seoulites eat. However, there are those who pack a lunch/dinner from home. A lot of the things packed into lunches are similar to those found in Japan. Not a surprise, since Japan occupied Korea several times, most recently the last century up until they were kicked out in WW2. So Japanese cooking has had an influence here. You will find pork cutlets, rice stuffed omelets (Omaurice), and kimbap- the seaweed wrapped rice rolls are everywhere. It's possible to find suitable bento style lunch boxes at the stores and markets all over. My DH carries one every day, made by Lock n Lock, which comes with three containers and a handy zip carry case. So far as dishes to try, well everyone goes for bulgogi, kalbi ribs (thin cut beef ribs, yummm), and a rice dish called bimbimbap. Honestly, just about everything I've tried has been good. The only thing I have yet to try and won't likely are the silkworm pupae. But if you are adventurous, well... You will discover kimchi is a lot more than cabbage too, and comes in various levels of heat. Most restaurants are willing to tone down the heat for non-Koreans on request, if not almost automatically. When you order, you will also get a variety of side dishes meant to be shared. They will include seaweed salad, bean sprouts, pickled radish, and other various room temperature veggie dishes. Usually the variety depends on what is currently in season, though sprouts and rice are always there. Korean chopsticks are also shaped differently than you may be used to, and have a flat side as opposed to being round. You also eat rice with a spoon, not chopsticks. They do not usually have drinks with a meal, aside from water, either. You generally don't find salt on the table either, nor do they cook with a lot of it- by western standards, and some folks will notice that. One other thing that catches folks off guard, you may see a pile of shoes when you enter the restaurant. If so, you are expected to remove your shoes before you step onto the main floor. So wear nice socks, holes are considered rustic and bare feet are not polite. Not a problem if you are in a big restaurant, or some place like Outback Steakhouse. Yeah, they are here too. But some of the best meals will be from little mom and pop type places, so don't avoid them. Enjoy your trip too. June tends to be warm, and in Jeju it's hot. And a last warning, if you have asthma or any kind of respiratory problems, make a trip to a pharmacy and buy a mask to keep on hand in case of a yellow dust storm. That blows in from China off the Gobi desert, and high levels can and do make people really sick. When it gets yellowish dust on things or the air looks foggy, you will need that mask outside. Otherwise, enjoy the trip and don't be afraid to try all the food. It's really good.

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
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Re: Food in South Korea?

You make me want to visit!

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Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Tab
Bento-ing from: › Finland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Food in South Korea?

Thank you for your advice! Can't wait to try out all that lovely food (except maybe silkworm pupae - or who knows, thay might be delicious!).

anon.
Re: Food in South Korea?

Packed lunches are actually pretty common in Korea, although much less so today than in the past. Doshirak (도시락) is pretty much the Korean equivalent of bento. Give it a quick Google search for examples. Takes me back to elementary school when we would sit there comparing what our moms packed us..

Chiyo
Re: Food in South Korea?

I was just in Seoul about 2 weeks ago! I absolutely love Korean food! Anything at a street vendor is FANTASTIC! Dduk Bokki (rice cake with a spicy chili sauce), Mandu Twigim (fried dumplings) or well anything “twigim” is amazing (yache twigim – deep fried veggies, koguma twigim – fried sweet potato, or gimbap twigim – fried gim bap). At restaurants gim bap (a roll of rice, kimchi, eggs, and other veggies that looks kind of like a mini maki roll), bibimbap (a hot stone bowl with rice and assorted toppings) is fantastic as well, ginseng chicken soup is unique too! Bulgogi is one of the most amazing things South Korea has created (in my slightly biased opinion)! I would suggest going to a restaurant where it is cooked in front of you (i.e. Korean barbeque) but already prepared is fantastic too!
I would basically try everything you can while you are there. Most of it is fantastic and you’ll develop favorites of your own to go back to. Don’t be afraid to try the street vendor food- I know lots of people who won’t try it because of experiences in other countries. South Korea has one of the most impressive street food opportunities I’ve ever seen :). One word of advice – stay away from a purple looking sausage called “suhn dae” (순대) unless you like blood sausage. It is the only thing that I don’t particularly care for in South Korean cuisine (I didn’t see a lot of it though, so don’t be too nervous).

P.S. You’ll get used to the metal chopsticks pretty quickly!

Tab
Bento-ing from: › Finland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Food in South Korea?

Yes, my goal is to try as many different dishes as possible during my stay! :)
Did many of the restaurants have english menus or plastic display models of food (my korean language skills are nonexistent.) or how did you manage ordering?
I'm also looking forward to browse through some local dept. stores for bento equipment - I've been planning to order from the web but I might wait until I see what I can find in Seoul.
I wish it was already June!
T

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