As we have begun to adjust to life in Korea, we thought it would be fun to tell you a little more about the customs and culture here in our new home. Check back often as we will update periodically with the interesting finds we make here.
Today, we wanted to tell you about Korean food. If you’ve never been to a Korean restaurant, you’re missing out!
First, you should know about the three staples of a Korean diet: Kimchi, Rice, and Soup. All three of these items are eaten for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Kimchi is… and acquired taste. =) There are many different types of Kimchi, but mostly it consists of either cubed radish or cabbage leaves, smothered in a distinctive, spicy red paste. Seriouly… three meals a day.
As you probably know, Koreans, like in a lot of Asian countries, still use chopsticks. In the words of Jerry Seinfeild, “They’ve seen the fork. They know about the fork.” However, these are not the chopsticks you might see at P.F. Changs. These chopsticks are metal and flat and very difficult to grasp. (I used to think I was pretty good with chopsticks until I came here.) So, eating is always a fun endeavor.
Along with the three constants you will find at any Korean table, you will also see several side dishes. These can be anything from extremely small, garlic roasted tiny fish (complete with head and eyes), to bean sprouts in spicy sauce. There is usually some sort of meat, though we may not recognize it because of the shape or the spicy sauce. You may also notice that a lot of things here can be described as spicy. We have yet to taste dog, but plan to try it pretty soon.
Griffin and I have decided that it would be a good idea to try at least one new Korean dish each week. My co-teacher has said he is happy to make recommendations.
Now that you have eaten your spicy meal it’s time to discard your leftovers. That’s right, if you didn’t eat it just go ahead and put it in your soup. That’s what everyone does here for easy discard.
You may have noticed that I did not mention drinks. Here in Korea, it is customary to wait until you finish your meal before you have a drink. In our schools, the water coolers are actually outside the cafeteria and you pick up a cup on your way out. This is difficult for me given the spicy foods. The cups are always tiny and we have wondered how Koreans don’t become dehydrated during the day.
After your meal, don’t forget your toothbrush. We quickly noticed that most of the students and staff members keep a toothbrush and toothpaste at school and quickly dash off to the restroom to brush their teeth after lunch. In an effort to fit in, we went right out and bought spare toothbrushes and toothpastes to keep at our respective schools!
At home we keep our food pretty Western. We do purchase some Korean food and definitely try new recipes, however you will find hotdogs and sandwich dressings in our apartment on any given day. Unfortunately, the Korean version of saurkraut is… Kimchi! We won’t be putting that on our hotdogs!
Check back soon for more updates about our assimilation into Korean cultures.
Valerie and Griffin