This picture pretty much describes us 100% accurately.
Jake loves us, he really does
Jake and Jordan are so bad for each other. We stopped by a McDonald’s for a bathroom break on our way to dinner. Side note: bathrooms are really hard to find in Asia, but McDs usually always has one. Anyway, Jake felt obliged to buy a drink in exchange for the use of their bathroom so I went to sit down while he and Jordan stood in line. They came back with not only two drinks but a bag of curly fries. When we’re on our way to dinner.
Because they both agreed with each other that they had to try them because we don’t have them in the US. Logical reasoning, right?
Second side note: I did try the curly fries and they were really good. McDonalds, just why don’t we have these in America?!
This post is mostly for Jake and Jordan, so the rest of you can just read along. Last year, when we were in Korea, I did a really good job (if I do say so myself) of covering Korean foods and most of what there is to know about it. But, Jake got a new camera for Christmas and sold me on the purchase by claiming the new camera would be “great for the blog!” He never needs an excuse to buy gadgets, but he usually always has one.
So, almost every dish we had here got a professional looking cover photo. Which I now feel obliged to show everyone. Because it really is top notch photography.
Jordan had never tried Korean food before coming on this trip, so this can serve as a guide for her to tell people what she had. (You’re welcome, Jordan!) I feel like I should also tell you that she had never used chopsticks either. And at most restaurants, they dug out a couple of random forks for her and I because they got tired of seeing us struggle.
Andong Jjimdak: this is my absolute favorite Korean dish. Andong is a province in Korea and is known for “country food”. Jjim means stewed and dak translates to chicken in Korean, so it is chicken that has been simmered in a delicious soy based sauce with carrots and potatoes and served with glass sweet potato noodles. It is so good! And this picture makes me want some right now.
Bulgogi: a Korean classic, bul means fire, gogi means meat. So it’s a grilled meat dish. We usually have this one with beef. It’s thinly sliced and marinated in a sauce made of garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and mashed apple or pear (to add sweetness) The first time I had this, one of my friends cooked it for me at home. And after adding the raw beef to the marinade, stuck her finger in it to taste it to make sure it was right. Why she waited til she had the raw beef in to taste the marinade, I’ll never know. But, that’s what I remember most about this dish.
We cooked it at our table
Kimbap: this is a Korean snack food that is similar to sushi. Kim means seaweed and bap is rice. We had this at the same market I wrote about last year. The one where I had the pig intestines stuffed with the blood noodles? If this isn’t ringing a bell, you can go back to the beginning and read about it. Anyway, these particular kimbap are called mayak (which loosely translates to drug) because they are small and addictive. They have Korean radish, carrot, and scrambled eggs in them and they’re coated with sesame oil.
They’re the little rolls over by the staring lady
Bimbibap: another rice dish (did you notice bap in the name?), this one is a standard. Bimbi means mixed. It’s served in a stone pot that is roughly 396 degrees (it’s seriously hot, don’t touch). And when it’s served, you mix it around really quick to cook the egg that’s been cracked on top. It’s kinda bland because they serve the sauces on the side so you can make it how you like.
Ssambap: notice “bap” again. More rice! Ssam means wrapped. These are essentially lettuce wraps you make at your table. You order your meat, which you grill at the table (AKA Korean BBQ) and then are brought a basket of “leaves” and all the sides. You put rice, meat, sauce, and garlic in the leaf and enjoy! And this dish is even better because it always comes with a show, which consists of a lady coming to your table with a slab of meat and kitchen scissors and cutting your meat for you while babbling in Korean. A true two for one deal.
Ttopokki: pronounced “top-okie”, this is honestly not one of my faves. It’s chewy rice cakes simmered in a spicy sauce. I don’t like the texture and I don’t like the spice, so this one isn’t really for me. But, I’ll eat it when I have to.
Samgyetang: this was a new one for me and I really enjoyed it. Sam means ginseng, gye means chicken and tang translates to soup. So, ginseng chicken soup. It’s served with a whole small chicken, which you tear apart with chopsticks and dip into a small saucer filled with a salt and pepper mixture. (Jake tried to put the salt and pepper in his soup, which is apparently a no-no. Don’t deviate from the custom.) The chicken is stuffed with sticky rice, so it takes a little eating before you locate your rice. It comes with a little whole ginseng in the soup, which is prized for its major health benefits and can be super expensive.
Also praised for its “medicinal properties”, a round of ginseng liquor on the side. We were told that old Koreans have a little every day as medicine. And I know why, because that’s exactly what it tastes like.
Bingsoo: a Korean meal with friends is never complete until you’ve left the restaurant and located a dessert cafe. And bingsoo is, by far, our favorite. It consists of milk ice flakes that are the consistency of powdery snow, with various toppings, depending on how you order it. It’s served in a big bowl and meant to be shared, so you must have it with friends.
Injeolmi bingsoo is Jake’s favorite. It is topped with a roasted soybean powder, sliced almonds, and little chewy rice cakes. Then, doused with a good helping of sweetened condensed milk.
Strawberry shortcake bingsoo was Jordan’s favorite. It was my first time to try this variety and it didn’t disappoint. It consists of a layer of shortcake on the bottom, a layer of strawberries, a layer of whipped cream, a layer of the milk ice flakes and a scoop of vanilla ice cream buried in the middle. Sounds awful, right?
There were a few dishes we couldn’t convince Jordan to try though.
This one is a pork leg that you pick up and eat like a turkey leg at the state fair. Except you pick it up by the hoof, from this steaming bucket, so maybe next time.
And as tempting as this lady is making octopus look, we decided to skip out on that one too. Seeing as how the cut the legs off the octopus and serve them to you still moving, with the suction cups sticking to your tongue as you fight to swallow it, I thought I could miss that experience for now.