Friday, February 27, 2009


Here's the much anticipated food post! Like pretty much all cultures, food is an extremely important aspect of life in Korea. What is unique to Korean food is their array of side dishes that accompany every meal. No matter what, the server brings around 6 or 7 all you can eat side dishes that vary depending on the restaurant but almost always feature kimchi (spicy cabbage). Back a home, I can tell prepackaged kimchi from fresh kimchi (I prefer the latter), but here, it seems like a mix of the two. I must say, we have it pretty darn good back in Vancouver when it comes to Korean food in terms of authenticity.

Every meal comes with rice (unless it's in your dish already). Rice is called pahp - this term is also used to describe a meal.

The first meal I had was in the school cafeteria for lunch on the first day of orientation. We got a meal coupon where we could pick as many dishes we wanted. Can you say Mooooo? Let's just say my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach as I couldn't finish even a quarter of this! My tray is on the right. My favourite was the pancake and the dukbokki. They have that purple bean rice here - a healthier version.
The KUBA buddy guys reminded us of how, if we happen to run out of money, we can whine to a Korean boy: "Oppa! Pahp-sa chuseyoooo!" (preferably to one we know... not a random guy), meaning, "Please give me food". Oppa is a term of endearment girls use towards an older guy. The KUBA guys claim they feel a sense of "wow, this girl called me Oppa, I should buy them food" when called Oppa and told us of how some girls have cleaned out their wallets from overuse of this phrase... they just can't say no!

Second day of orientation in a different cafeteria:
The kitchen staff were very friendly.They call the white soup on the right of my tray (bottom right) "cereal". It's a lot like watered down (and tasteless) jook even though it has shrimp in it.
During the Seoul City Tour, we got to eat at this restaurant in an alley in the Insadong district.
It was a very quaint, narrow, and cute restauant with three floors and cozy decor.
Table setting... You know what's funny? Koreans are so surprised at how well I use chopsticks and have even congratulated me for picking it up so fast! haha!! I love Korean chopsticks -- they're different from Japanese (pointed ends) and Chinese chopsticks (thick rounded ends) as they're flat and more rectangular. I pick up food so much easier with them.
For $6CDN, we got a spread like this. By far my favourite meal! The black pot contained Bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), and the orange dish in the middle was a spicy meat-based dish with a really long name I can't remember (even Koreans say that name is long).
The table beside us: (L-R) Natalya, Ji Yeon (KUBA buddy), Mami from Japan (can speak Japanese, Korean, and English (w/ hardly any accent) fluently!), and Ji Hee (KUBA buddy).
Koreans love side profiles... AK wearing my sunnies (looks good, no?)
What I've noticed is that Koreans hardly drink anything while they eat. With every meal, they only have small cups (usually metal in lower-end places) and a small pitcher of water. Maybe that's why they have so many coffee and tea shops everywhere!

This was my first experience eating out with only foreigners. We had the hardest time communicating because everything was in Korean + only I could read (though only a little and I didn't know what it meant)... so we somewhat randomly chose one and it happened to be this spicy octopus and beef hotpot/stew thing for $7.50CDN/person.The other 3 enjoyed this immensely -- so much, we came back with 5 others the next day for lunch.The next day @ the same restaurant:
A curry seafood hot pot/stew with spam slices + some sort of weiner.
We ended up switching pots w/ the table next to us because we had more people sharing.
Also came with a box of purple rice with egg slices on top. This pot was extremely spicy. We ordered ramen (instant noodles) to cook inside.
Right outside campus, they have this fast food chain called Isaac where they make these sandwiches with cabbage, pickles, sauce, egg, and meat in it. The toast is buttered on both sides (ihh) but it tastes really good for $2!
Sheena from Singapore helping me order.
Before the club, we stopped at this restaurant. People are allowed to smoke in restaurants as the 2 guys in front of me were.. but surprisingly, I didn't smell anything at all!
Soju here is $2-3CDN compared to $11-14 back in Vancouver. I learned that you never just order Soju by itself -- you order a meal with it or you look like an alcoholic haha

Koreans also have specific table manners but I'll post on that another day once I learn more about it.

In the subway, they have so many of these dessert snacks. I tried this waffle yesterday ($1) where they slather either vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate in a fresh waffle and fold it in half.
My goodness it can be quite messy to eat in the subway.. especially since they don't have garbage cans anywhere!

The 2 high-end coffee places here are Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. They're seriously expensive and are all 2-3 stories high. When you order from them, they give you a little electronic device that will beep when your drink is ready for pick-up. Yesterday, I paid $4CDN for a grande Tazo Tea (what usually costs only $2 at home for a Venti!). The Coffee Bean is even more expensive and they're everywhere like Starbucks. I paid $6.50CDN for a regular Chai latte!!!!! Never again.. but I was desperate and was in a time crunch.

Restaurants are almost always packed with people and it's a place where people gather to socialize. Funnily enough, they don't sit and chat after they finish eating -- they leave and head to a coffee shop! Yesterday, 4 of us + 2 local koreans (penpals of one of the exchange students) went to a sushi restaurant in Hongdae called Four Men where the sushi comes around on a conveyer belt and you pick whatever you want -- each plate was a little less than $1CDN. Because it was so busy, we had a time limit of 50 minutes! We waited 30 min to eat. Really fresh food.
2 tables away.. how many plates 2 guys ate.. the server is counting how many plates...

Street food will be another post on it's own. They sell some really interesting things.


  1. OMGOSH 1. I totally LOL when you said you can't only order soju or ppl would think you are alcoholic AND 2. The first thing Tei taught be when he saw me was to say to korean guys, "Oppa pahp sa chusaeyo." HAHAHAHAHHAHA so apparently it really works! I tried it out on my co-worker and he was like don't say that it's not a good phrase...and I'm like I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS! and he's said oh really =( alright I'll go get you a snack HAHAHAHHA...
    so yea apparently it does work HEEE..

  2. Wow! Really entertaining and educational photoblog hehe :D Glad you're having so much fun! Really makes me want to go on exchange for my last semester...

  3. i love that oppa pahp sa chusaeyo bit!!!!!!! hahaha!!!

    and i'm uber jealous of the food you're eating!!!!! :) <3