MP: South Florida editor Carolina spent the last week and a half eating her way through South Korea and compulsively photographing everything on her plate.
The dish pictured above almost caused a bit of a rift between myself and my boyfriend. We were wandering around Seoul at around 11 p.m. after a baseball game looking for a bite to eat on the way back to the hotel. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but he insisted on finding food, so we stopped at a cart (one of many on this particular street) that displayed meats and seafood in a box with a clear plastic cover. We pointed to the pork belly and held up one finger to indicate “one portion.”
Bad idea. Soon after tasting it, we realized that maybe two portions might have been better. My appetite suddenly appeared, and my boyfriend had to fight for what was, in reality, his snack. It doesn’t look like all that much from the photo, but trust me, that chili sauce is magical — a perfect blend of heat and flavor.
After the jump, some more of the food highlights from our 10 days in Seoul…
It took us a while to find this place, New Andong Zzimdak (recommended in this NYT article), but it was well worth the effort. This is the one dish they serve: chicken (with bones or without) with potatoes and greens and laced with chiles. We went the bone-in route, which proved a little tricky — everyone else seemed to be deftly removing every bit of meat from the bone with their chopsticks and kitchen shears. We didn’t want to look like the clumsy Westerners, but it couldn’t be avoided.
Tea time! The puffed rice cakes on the left were great, but let’s just say that the gelatinous green and white things were more of an acquired taste.
Bibimpap: rice with vegetables, beef, chili paste and usually an egg. It’s the thing to offer foreigners; by the end of the trip, we had to explain to people that no, we did not want any more bibimpap.
That’s red bean gelato on the left and black sesame on the right. Red beans are so terribly underutilized in desserts in the West. I can’t figure out why — they work great with sweets.
We ate a lot of cold noodles, as it’s a popular dish in the summer. Most come with just a hard-boiled egg on top, but this version, from Seokparang, had pieces of beef too.
Some gimbap — a Korean version of sushi that’s usually filled with veggies and ham or egg — for the road. This one, filled with pickled radishes, cucumber and imitation crab, was made by a lovely woman who operates a tiny little lunch spot next to the Gyeongju train station. We had about 10 minutes until the train’s arrival; we showed her the train ticket and she glanced at the clock and got to work. Her fingers flew.
The crazy spread from our last night in Seoul. The big items: steamed pork belly, whole roasted fish, octopus in chile sauce, tofu in some sort of broth, and fried veggies. Then of course there was rice, kimchi (we had kimchi with every single meal), pickled veggies, sweet potatoes and salad.
And dessert that night, something called patbingsu that had been recommended on Seoul Eats. I’ll start from the bottom and work up layer by layer: shaved ice, red beans, rice cakes, green tea blended with ice and milk, vanilla ice cream, and a caramel-type syrup. It was enormous, and yes, we had just finished a large meal, but we’re good at putting away lots of food.
We ate this just before heading to the airport, which is on an island in the West Sea. We took a bus to the beach and found a great spot to try the local seafood. Lunch consisted of a large bowl with rice, sashimi, veggies and seaweed and a soup chock full of clams and peppers. It made us wish we could stay a few more days.
All photos by Carolina Bolado and Nathan Hale.