Friday, March 26, 2010

Harkening Korea - The Food

I have a very low tolerance for picky eaters.

I'll be honest and truthful here - I judge. I know it's not right, but I cain't help myself.

We have an ironclad rule in this house - you have to try one bite. Unless you're Daddy and we're serving peas or other various lentils.

Every house needs one double-standard.

I have had Korean food locally and it's darn good. It's vegetabley and tangy with a kick in the pants, to boot.

Plus, jeez Louise, it's always served atop white rice. Name a person who abhors white rice and I'll call you a fibber right to your face.

So I was honestly excited for this new, authentic, culinary adventure.

I was positive that I would return home whistling Dixie about my love for Korean food. I felt a little prematurely smug about it all.

Emphasis on "premature".

In the end, it just didn't do much for me.

Call me a fool, I prefer my Dunkin' Donuts sans curried lentils.

What we noticed most distinctly was that every restaurant appeared to serve the exact same things. Granted, our understanding of the menu was limited to sporadic photos and limited broken-English phrases, but there did not appear to be a great deal of variety.

All of that being said, the food was certainly edible. We did our best to remain true to the Korean way. We ate in divey basement-level haunts and for the most part, we cleaned our plates.

We did not clean the seaweed soup bowl, but we're not here tonight to talk about bowls.

I'd like to introduce you now to my trusty friend, Bibimbap. It's not that there's anything wrong with her, she's just lacks pizazz. She's a little bland. She, like all of 'em, are served with a red hot pepper paste, which adds more heat than flavor. And still, bland, I tell you. Bland.

(I know you're probably thinking that the above picture looks good and I will say, it was the best Bibimbap go-round of the entire trip. But still, it was, well, you know.)

Then there was the whole issue of the chopsticks.

I truly do not know the affliction that makes it impossible for me to complete tasks thwhich require a bare minimum of coordination. I cannot roller skate. I cannot do a proper cartwheel. I surely to goodness cannot eat with chopsticks.

Only trouble is, there was no alternative. So I embraced the challenge and provided Cory with hours of dining entertainment. He'd pull up his chair, grab a bowl of bland, and taunt me with his mad chopsticks skills.

Spicy seafood stew, anyone? It'll put hair on your chest.

On our last night in the city, we walked a few blocks down so I could buy my last cup of beloved Orange Citron tea, then we bought a bag of miniature, nut-shaped cakes from this street vendor. They were like tiny, piping-hot cupcakes without the frosting, which may not sound too fantastic, but to us, on that night, they were a perfect last hurrah.


  1. what a bummer on the bland nature of the food...yet, like you say, so interesting to partake in another culture...really taking it all in. these memories will be so great to share with silas when he is older! :)

    love your humor :)...and your outfit in the first pic....

  2. I can cartwheel and skate but chopsticks are just crazy since there are forks in the world!They use spoons ,why the no-love for the fork?

  3. You truly make me laugh and I love hearing the happiness in your post.
    I think you made a wonderful attempt at the food and the culture. Hooray to you both!! How is it going with Silas?

  4. I'm nice and bland and blonde. Will you still be my friend?

    : )

    Julie M.

  5. Oooooh! Do I have a treat for you! My best girlfriend is a Korean/Brit adopted from Korea when she was 12 years old. When she became an adult, she set about trying to duplicate the recipes that she remembered from her childhood. Now . . . this is not her version of Bibimbap, but it is delicious. Serve it with Kimchee and rice. Her choice of vegetables to serve with this is broccoli and carrots cooked with chicken bouillon in the water. I turned the TV on to the food network one day, just as this sweet young Korean girl was telling how her Mother had made her promise to be faithful to the recipe when she demonstrated it on Boy Meets Grill. Here is the link for Bibimbap. . .

    She also shared a recipe for Kalbi or marinated short ribs which has become a family standard at our house. I made both dishes for my friend, and she wholeheartedly approved them, as do our American sensibilities.

    I hope you'll love them as much as we do!


  6. oh how I love this kind of food. And Ethopian, and Japanese and Chinese and ANYTHING! :)

  7. My father in law dislikes white rice, he will have his food served over instant mashed potatos. I love him anyway, but that's just strange. Loved the post!

  8. You may want to borrow my excuse about the no cartwheel thing. I just boast that in our family we're not athletic and coordinated, but we're all GENIUSES! :)

  9. What a great post - the only time a had Korean food was in Manhattan at a business lunch many years ago. I heaped a pile of what I thought was fried onion rings onto my plate - nope, it was jellyfish. Forced them down to be polite. Have not had Korean food since. Thank you for sharing, Lori

  10. Checking in....I just read about 5-6 of your last posts over a nice cup of coffee. (My entire family is still upstairs's Sat. yay.) I enjoyed catching up with your latest..... Wow. Amazing.
    Sending hugs and prayers my friend. Blessings to your family.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  11. Tell me about you being judgmental in the food department - I think I lost marks when I told you I don't like goat cheese or beets ;) At least I tried them though, right? haha

    I'm glad you were the one trying the Korean food. I don't fancy myself that picky of a girl -- I have the same rule as you in our house, but that food just didn't look that yummy. And I CAN NOT do chopsticks :(

  12. I'm sure Calvin is LOVING seeing the pictures from where he was born! What a great experience to have and share with your boys.

  13. I am extremely impressed. I am a food wimp. Don't even eat potluck food unless I know the bringer. I would have to survive on granola bars in a foreign country. I have a question about Flower Patch Farmboy peas? How does that work when you are serving the haute cuisine Baloney Boats? I just can't imagine them pea-less.

  14. I loved seeing the land of my precious grandsons. They are such a beautiful people and this post makes me want to learn more...any books I could read?? I am so glad you took some pics of your trip. I guess this is where I thank Cory for the "beast"!!Also hope Cal is feeling better give my love to the babies.

  15. Hmmmm....the dad in your house sounnds a lot like the dad in my house when it comes to peas! I'm totally with you on the whole picky eater thing too. But I have to say, I wield a mean chopstick (or two!)

    Very enlightening about the food, though.


  16. foiledsarahjane (via Rick's cracked out computer)March 27, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    I forget if you have tried Bi Bim BOB at Sunny's or not? Same thing or seriously the version served up by Sunny (and Sunny) is DIVINE! But, I get ya. I tried Bi Bim Bap at that Seoul Garden on McKinley and it was SO gross! Did you have some kimchee?

  17. bummer when the food looks good, but it's not:(
    sounds kind of like japanese, too plain & bland, not like chinese/cantonese or thai.

    i agree with ya all the way about the food pickiness, and on the double standards too:)

  18. The brown rice health nut thing drives me well..nuts. I'm Korean for goodness sakes. It's medium or short grain calrose white rice in this house. And as for the food. I had the same thing happen to me when we went to Japan. I was all "I am so Asian and I love all things Asian and Sushi is my fave..." and all that smugness. Than we got there and every meal was disgusting. Americanized Korean food is probably WAY better than the authentic I'd imagine if you come from the states as we do. And as for the chopsticks...Why do you think Asian people are so skinny ;) I joke. :) Loving the pictures.

  19. They are such a beautiful people! The young man selling food on the street is so handsome...reminds me of my handsome grandsons. I am so thankful God has blessed us with our diverse family. Have you yet thought about where number four will come from?? I guess we need to read more about this chapter first. SEND US PICTURES OF SILAS. I AM WAITING AND WATCHING DAILY.

  20. How fun this post was...I love that you shared what you did and ate!!! You are a trooper with chopsticks too...and what a great last hurrah those cupcakes:)

  21. Can relate to that one. I felt the same way about China's food. It looked delicious but definitely lacked in flavor unless it was HOT and then it was just HOT. I lost 10 lbs in the two weeks we were in China. We even found a Papa John's Pizza place and a McDonald's. Those were even strange tasting to us. I ate my fair share of rice though. I would do it all over again in a second! OH, wait, we did LOVE the Peking Duck! It was scrumptious!

  22. I'm deflated. Shanny, just when our friendship was blossoming full of junk love, I find that you will judge me on my eating habits. I'm am the pickiest of picky eaters. I WON'T try one bite if I don't like the looks of it....oh dear me. I have no idea how I got as voluptous as I did with these eating habits....but I hope we can get past this and remain friends.

  23. Sounds like you picked the wrong Korean restaurant! I love the ones with little BBQ grills built right into the center of the table. They bring you pieces of deliciously marinated beef or chicken or shrimp and you can grill them yourself (or let the server do it). YUM. Also, the best thing about Korean food is the sauces: many fiery, some tart, all salty. (And I love salt.) It does get a little warm with that grill there and all so it's best in the winter, and so much fun for a special occasion.