Korean food

Korean food is great!
If you are a fussy or picky eater you are in trouble, though. If you are willing to try new stuff and like kimchee you are in for a treat. It would be a really good idea to go to a Korean restaurant before coming over.  If you hate everything you see, don't come over.


Kimchee is sort of a general term for a whole bunch of fermented cabbage and turnip or radishes. Its a bit like sauerkraut, only spicier and much more varied. Its not at all rotten tasting and the variety of flavours is wonderful. Kimchee is served at every meal. At any one time my food booth lady will serve me 2 or 3 kinds. Some people really like it others don't.
In the fall there is a huge flurry of kimchee making in november.  That's when all the ladies make the kimchee for the winter.

What is a Korean meal?

Typically a meal is a bowl of soup, some rice, lots of little side dishes and some tea of some kind. Even if you just go in a shop for a bowl of noodles you're sure to get some pickled veggie or other. The concept of a single main dish is more nebulous. There might be a main dish or lots of small dishes. There is usually some fish in one form or another.

Most Korean food is quite spicy, often quite a lot. It doesn't take very long to get used to particularly if you already like Indian food or Ethiopian meals. In this country they use a teaspoon to add pepper to food. (I'm not kidding, my food lady keeps a teaspoon in her chili bowl and one in her pepper bowl)

Don't worry if you are a little sensitive. There are some dishes that are really mild. They often serve a sauce along with them  that can straighten you hair, or curl it tight, though.

So far my favorite meal is chiggae. Its a sort of stew with tofu, onion and whatever my lady shopkeeper can get her hands on. She makes a kimchee chiggae with bits of pork, tofu garlic and onions and kimchee. She also makes a fish version. I've seen also a tripe variety appear. It didn't look too appetizing but it was pretty good. (Remember, keep an open mind. a lot more bits get eaten in Korea than in Canada or the States)

There is also lots of pancake affairs with onions in them. They are ok and the same ladies often seem to sell boiled pork heads along with them.

One of my favorite food is something called sounday. I'm not too sure of the spelling. Its really blood pudding with rice noodles in a sausage casing. It sounds disgusting but its really good. It's also cheap. You will see what appears to be long sausages steaming in the markets, that's it.

Mild Korean Food

A nice safe food is mandu. Its a sort of dumpling. Its either served in soup or alone. If it's a soup its galled mandu gook. It sometimes finds its way in a bowl of noodles. Mandu is filled with various things. Here the most common seems to be a mixture of tofu (called toubou here) and various vegetable bits. I've seen pork versions and a kimchee version as well.

Another mild meal that's pretty well balanced is bipimbap. Its a big bowl of rice with various veggies, including spinach and bean sprouts and seaweed along with some meat usually pork, and a fried egg on top. There is usually a big glob of hot sauce but its not mixed in so you can take some of it out.

Just about everything seems to have sesame seed in it. They use lots of sesame oil and also sesame leaves are sold in the market.

Seafood is a staple in Korea

There are lots of different kinds of seaweed.  Some fine hair like ones and big kelp like leaves and just about everything in between.  It's pretty good but sometimes a bit rubbery.

There is an astonishing collection of fish available.  Fresh and  dried fish are everywhere.  it's quite interesting to walk through a fish market. In the market the fish is often salted and sold fresh. I guess it keeps longer.

If you can develop a passion for dried squid It will serve you well in your stay!

Raw fish is available here and is great.  I once had squid so fresh the  tentacles were still moving.  It was a bit too fresh for my little sensitivities. Raw fish is usually more expensive. It has to be very fresh.

Western food in Korea

One of the favorite meal of a lot of Westerners  is pulgogi or kalbi. Its beef cooked at the table. Again there are lots of little side dishes and rice served with it. Its expensive but good for a special meal.

Western food is not much to talk about though and Koreans have a special interpretation of what western food should be like. If you like corn pizza with mayonnaise you'll love it.

There is a KFC in Wonju and it tastes just like any other KFC I've ever seen. There are various hamburger joints, among them Lotteria.  Vegetarian eating

Its hard to be vegetarian here. If you eat fish it helps. The concept of being vegetarian is just not well understood.  Beef broth with no chunks of beef is  vegetarian in Korean  way of thinking.  If you cook then its easy and you can find beans and tofu easily.  Eggs are available everywhere and peanuts are also readily available. If you can find a place that cooks temple food then you can have true vegetarian food, Its not common though.

its not hard to get milk although it tends to be full fat, but cheese other than mozzarella or process slices is virtually non existent here. Maybe Seoul has a cheese shop, Wonju doesn't.

A snack Korean Style

This morning some of my lady students brought me a present, a packet of soy covered grasshoppers. It's a bit hard to put the first one in your mouth, but it helps not to look at it. It was crunchy and quite good. She keeps it in her fridge as snack food. Her kids love it.

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