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Eating Korean; Be A 'Yes' Man

Before I get started I want to make it very clear that I'm a particularly picky eater. Please take that into account when reading about my experiences eating here in Seoul.

Korean food is God's gift to man.

There is nothing that this country offers to eat that isn't delicious to the most surprising degree. POINT BLANK.

Looks be damned. Smells be damned. Cultural differences be damned.

I'll put all of my credibility behind saying that.

Korea is the 13th country I have traveled to. Never have I been so in awe of the food. I've found that each country has it's incredible dishes. They also suffer some dishes that are not worth a second chance.

Not in Korea. Everything is delicious and I'll never be able to fully put that into the proper words.

I often felt uncomfortable with some of the dishes I chose but I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I knew I'll be here for 13 months and I have to get used to the food, both good and the bad. I felt I needed to build a new comfort zone.

My comfort zone has been everything I've consumed in the 11 days I've been in Incheon (pronounced "In-Chun") and Seoul. Don't be afraid of anything. It's all delicious (Korean: 맛있어 "mash-is-sow").

Social Feasts

From a cultural standpoint, Koreans view meals as a social setting. Best done with good friends, coworkers and or family. Individual meals aren't widely done in Korea. They're social settings where a feast almost always takes place. Dishes are shared with everyone around the table over stories and jokes.

While eating with some new friends here in Korea at a local restaurant, the owners serving us didn't understand our taking orders individually and spread our ordered items throughout the table. While watching us, they were intrigued we kept certain items to ourselves. Disclaimer: we've frequented this restaurant and have become close with the owner.

Koreans are very curious about foreigners.

Meals are almost always consumed with alcohol. Most notably, Soju. Soju is a traditional Korean clear liquor. Much like vodka but with zero sting. I believe a bit sugary but mostly tasteless (you can get Soju is flavors, however) and with no burn. It goes down easy and catches up to you quick. Careful! A good Korean beer won't disappoint either.

Don't be alarmed if you hear people slurping their noodle dishes. In Korean food culture (I've also been told it's the same thing in Japan) that is a sign of respect to the chef. It audibly lets the chef know the dish is good and the customer is enjoying it.

Eating and drinking are social settings in Korea.

Types of food

Korean food mostly consists of meat, rice, seafood, or noodles. Your dish could quite possibly consist of all three. No matter what, it is going to be delicious and you're tastebuds will thank you. Savor every bite and thank whatever god you believe in that he/she has blessed you to be indulging in such a great dish.

Where To Eat

If you want you can easily find your typical commercialized places to eat. They're good too but I encourage you to find a, "hole in the wall," place that's operated by a local. These places are where you're going to find the best food with the best deals. Feasts for cheap!

It's also where you're going to find the most intrigue from the owners and employees. They'll be fascinated with how you are enjoying the food. Don't be shocked to see them watching you. They care about your experience. You might not be able to communicate with them if you don't know Korean and they don't know English.

Remember to say, "맛있어!" (mash-is-sow)

Be Cultured!

Expand your horizons. Get out of your western food comfort zone. You. Will. Not. Regret. It.

Just remember the act of eating is a social outing. Accompany the food with a bottle of Soju or a good Korean Beer. Individual dishes aren't common. Don't be selfish and share your dishes with your mates.

If you're traveling alone, make some friends! A table full of Korean dishes and a bottle of Soju will help.

 

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