So, a couple of weeks ago I had another work trip to Korea! It's crazy how I never visited while living in Beijing for almost 5 years, and now I've been there – always for work – a total of three times in just over two years! I have made it a point to visit one day, on holidays, with the habib (who's never set foot in the land of the morning calm).
Of course, being there for work means I had very little time to do anything. But what time I had, I used! This will be just a series of three simple posts, starting with one of my favourite things – food!
In fact, even arriving and departing from Korea I got to enjoy traditional Korean fare! On the way there, the menu included bibimbap (비빔밥), which is basically white rice, sauteed and seasoned vegetables, soy sauce, fermented soybean paste, and gojuchang (a thick red spicy sauce). All this was presented separately for you to mix! With a little card with instructions! Cute, cool, and yummy! And on the departure flight, when I thought I was going to enjoy another bowl of bibimbap, surprise! I got ssambap (쌈밥)! Ssambap is green leaves of many kinds for wrapping meat or some other filling together with a thick nut-based sauce, white rice, green peppers, and kimchi (I guess ingredients vary a lot). Delicious!
During my stay, I had as many bowls of happiness as I could. I had bibimbap at a cute place in Seorae Village, accompanied as usual by soup and a number of side dishes (banchan). Then at another nearby place I had my favourite among favourites – dolsot (돌솥) bibimbap, which is served in a very hot stone bowl which cooks the ingredients right at your table! I can't have enough of that! And on my last day, at the airport, I had jajangmyeon (자장면), which is actually a Korean dish of Chinese origin (zhajiangmian, 炸醬麵) made of noodles and a thick, black, bean-based sauce. I hadn't had that in ages, since it does exist in China, but it isn't that common there. Lucky to have found it at the airport!
Of course, banchan (반찬), or side dishes, is de rigueur at most meals. there's always something green, something pickled, something spicy, maybe a soup... you could probably even have a whole meal just on banchan. It's probably one of the best features of Korean cuisine!
Since this is the only Asian place I've been to since we left China in 2009, I decided I was going to have Asian food all the time, including for breakfast! So, in the morning, I paid close attention to what other Koreans were getting at the buffet, and I followed suit. One day I had a bowl of mixed rice, some seasoned veggies and seaweed, and tofu. Another day I had a bowl of noodles with some shichimi and greens. Another day I had dim sum... I enjoyed that greatly! The food at the buffet looked delicious, all of it, I bet I missed on some really nice "western" items. But my Asian breakfasts were the best!
Finally, coffee... I don't know why, but Koreans like their coffee exactly like I do: strong, not acidic in the least. Seoul must be one of the very few places where I've consistently had coffee I loved! Perfect taste, perfect size, perfect presentation... This one here is an inced espresso at the National Hangeul Museum (more on that in another post). Accompanied by a delicious raspberry macaron. Oh, so good. So good.