Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Garlic and Chili Peppers

Chicken Calbi
You cannot live in Japan for as long as I have and not love Japanese food. However, you cannot live in Japan for as long as I have and not be just a little sick of Japanese food. As delicious as it is, sometimes Japanese cuisine is just a little too refined, and a little too under-spiced. (Wasabi aside)

Traveling to Korea was more than just a chance to see some new sights. It was a chance to eat my way through some of the best food on the planet. I must admit, this took me by surprise. I have always enjoyed such stalwarts as bibinba and Korean BBQ, but the huge variety and tons of amazing flavors rather blindsided me.

Like most in most Asian countries, eating in Korea is about more than just sustenance. Eating out is a chance to excite your taste buds while you enjoy the company of your friends and family. The first part is covered with liberal application of chili paste and garlic in most meals. Some of the worst (best?) garlic breath of my life was on Jeju island, and not Italy as one might expect. After the more subtle flavors that predominate in Japan, I was pretty excited at the thrice daily chance to sear a few layers off of my tongue.

As mentioned, eating is very communal in Korea. Rather than pick a dish and order it for yourself, most restaurants will serve up a huge main dish, with five endlessly refillable side dishes to share. These side dishes were quite interesting. Usually composed of a variety of kimchee or two, with other various veggies, pickles and what have you. They were often mysterious, but always delicious. Top the meal off with few bottles of cheap beer and/ or soju and by the end everybody feels great.

I was happy enough to come back to okonomiyaki, sushi, shabu shabu and tonkatsu, but Korean cuisine will always hold a special spot in my pantheon of food.

Korean BBQ, one of the best things. Ever.


Mia said...

People always asked me how I could get tired of Chinese food when I lived in China. It's easy when you eat it every day. For some variety we had Japanese food.

Travelingrant said...

Right? Even being in China for ten days, I was pretty ready to NOT eat Chinese food at the end of the trip. As amazing as it was, you wanted something different every once in a while. It was the same in Korea. It was good, so good. But growing up in the States with such culinary variety at my fingertips probably spoiled me a bit.

Mia said...

Those of us from the lesser western countries have the same problem. We were spoilt by so much variety that it's easy to forget that most of the world eats the same thing day after day.

victoriasart said...

The chicken dish looks really good! I must remember to go out for Korean more often. The restaurant we went to for your sisters birthday has okinomyoki on the menu - and dad really wants to go back to try it. It was snowing and cold so he went for the Pho but I am definitely willing to go back. It was Asian influenced but Korean was not included if I remember correctly.

reisen lastminute said...
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