My Korea, Your Words: Food

Written by on August 13, 2013 in Lifestyle

Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying, “An army moves on its stomach.” The same could be said for my travels throughout Korea. While many will say that Korea is great for music, sights, and shopping, the nation is equally fantastic for satisfying taste buds. This week, I turn to this delicious topic as I share my Korea in your words.

The truth of the matter is this video was incredibly hard to make. It’s possible to make an hour-long show just on street food alone, so trying to sift through the comments from readers and viewers to make a short, concise, and meaningful video was challenging. The final video (below) not only reflects the suggestions of what foods to include in the video, but also the experiences of eating them and accompanying emotions.

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The video opens with one of my favorite Korean foods: pajeon (파전). This green onion pancake is probably one of the best foods in the nation – not only because it tastes fantastic, but also because it’s meant to be shared – as with most of Korean food. I chose this scene because when I think of eating pajeon, I always think about eating it after a long hike. In this clip, we see the hands of a talented ajumma (older woman) making haemul pajeon (seafood) on Seorak Mountain.

When talking about Korean food, to many the first word that comes to mind is spicy. In fact, when speaking with many of my Korean friends, they routinely ask me if Korean food is too spicy for my palate. It isn’t and one of my favorites is tteokbokki (떡볶이). These soft, chewy rice cakes smothered in red-hot red pepper sauce. What better way to heat up the body than from the inside on a cold, winter’s day?

Another aspect of Korean food is its glorious presentation. What’s the most important meal of the day? Breakfast. What looks amazing on a table? A full Korean breakfast. It’s much more than just rice and kimchi (although they are present). On the table are an assortment of greens, cucumber soup (oi naengguk), and grilled fish.

However, if you ask the average person off the street about Korean food, they will typically respond with kimchi and Korean barbecue. That’s exactly what appears next. After marinating thinly cut strips of meat, it’s time to grill them on the tabletop stove. Wrap them up in lettuce leaves and pop them it in your mouth. Your stomach will thank you.

Korean food is a collection of flavors. While a number of dishes exemplify this, budae jjigae (부대찌개) is probably one of the more unique to do so. Originating in the surroundings of Uijeongbu, this dish is probably Korea’s most famous fusion of ingredients.

While not an indigenous food of Korea, anyone who has ever tried the nation’s take on fried chicken will tell you hands down it’s the best. How can any Korean food video not include some variety of fried chicken?

Another staple of the Korean diet is the gimbap (김밥). This rolled snack is a favorite of many and the perfect thing to take on the go when hiking or picnicking. While we’re speaking of a rice-based dish, kimchi bokeumbap, or kimchi fried rice, is great as a snack or as a meal. Especially when topped with a fried egg.

Korean’s are famous for tying one on at night. Their all-night parties are the stuff of legend. Unfortunately, that often means the following morning isn’t pleasant. However, a quick trip to many restaurants has the cure – haejangguk, or hangover soup. While there are a number of varieties made across the region, I’m partial to those with beef or pork mixed in.

Ultimately, Korean food is best enjoyed with friends. Across the nation you’ll find many fine dining establishments, but to have the most fun eating, head down to the local market, pull up a stool, and eat & drink the night away.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.