The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Seoul Trip Day 1: Korean Dinner in Bukchon

At the end of our first day in Seoul, after walking for a couple of hours in Bukchon Village looking at hanoks (Korean traditional houses), we were ready to sit down for a rest and enjoy a good Korean dinner. We had looked unsuccessfully for a recommended restaurant for about half an hour before giving up and entering the next restaurant serving Korean food. I don't even know the name of this place, but the food was good, and the ladies who served us were motherly types who kept bringing refills of the banchan (small complimentary dishes). Not much English is spoken here (nor at most places in Seoul, as we would discover over the next couple of days), but there is an English menu so it wasn't an impossible feat to place an order. We were served several types of banchan, that we could have really just gotten one small dish and filled up just fine on that and the banchan - and this would have been perfectly acceptable, but we were in Korea to try actual Korean food, and it would be no fun to order only one dish. I was looking for dishes that contained vegetables, but I forgot that there are usually a lot of vegetables in banchan, which had included delicious deep fried anchovies, chapchae (stirfried sweet potatoes noodles), seasoned sheets of seaweed, pickled onions, daikon and of course the ubiquitous kimchi.

The myriad of banchan:

We ordered a dish called Namwon Gukbap (an ox bone and soybean paste stew with Chinese cabbage and rice) which was recommended by one of the servers, and Jeyuk Bokkeum (spicy pork and vegetable). The ox bone soup was a simple but rich beefy broth with vegetables, good to warm up with on cool spring nights. There was hardly any protein in it (as to be expected for the relatively cheap price), but this would make a good dinner for one on the budget. The pork came out on sizzling in a hot plate, and it was red colour (as most Korean dishes are) with plenty of meat. The serving size was unexpectedly huge, and obviously this is a dish meant for sharing in a group.

Ox bone soup with rice, and the sizzling spicy pork:

The food was good, but we really should have gotten only one dish because we were struggling to finish everything. I guess we know that for next time (well, you'd think we would have remembered, but as you'll see in the following posts, we forgot how generous serving sizes were).

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