When I wasn’t presenting at my conference in Seoul, we were eating, eating, eating! I learned that it is pretty typical to have a table covered entirely with food and drinks until there’s literally no space left so dishes started piling upon each other! It’s definitely the best way to eat in my opinion! Rather than writing a detailed post about each of the dishes I ate, I’ll showcase the food itself by displaying the photographs I took with little captions. Everyone was wondering why I was so intent on taking pictures of food, but when I’m in a new place and trying new foods, it’s just too hard to resist. This will probably be my last post on eating in Seoul, so I’ll end it with lots of pictures!
Day 1 – Dinner at the Seoul National University Hoam House
Our private room!
I ordered the top option: 한식 스페실 메뉴 [han shik special menu]. It comes with: “seasoned with shrimp, abalone, pear, chestnut,” “Today’s fried food,” “Grilled minced rib,” “Grilled dried yellowtail fish,” “Beef (brisket) and soy bean past stew and rice,” and “Fruits.”
Beautiful silverware! I found myself taking a lot of pictures of silverware.
First course: seasoned with shrimp, abalone, pear, and chestnut. Interesting combo of flavors and textures – chewy and crunchy and each bite had a hint of the ocean. It was interesting since I’ve never tasted these flavors together before!
“Today’s fried food.” This was one of the best pieces of fish I have eaten in Seoul AND in general. The flesh was so flaky and tasty and the skin was perfectly crunchy. There were a lot of bones, but I didn’t mind digging around because the meat was just that good. The highlight of the meal for me!
“Grilled minced rib.” I’m not sure why these burger-type patties are popular at 한식 [han shik] restaurants, which serve multi-course Korean food. I went out to dinner with some friends the weekend before the conference and was also served a beef patty as part of the set meal. This meat was super dry and lacking in flavor. Imagine an overcooked burger patty and this is unfortunately what this dish tasted like.
Grilled dried yellowtail fish. Oh boy…what the menu describes as “dried” is correct. This fish was DRY. Such a disappointment compared to the first fish course! It was cooked to death to the point that it was nearly inedible.
“Beef (brisket) and soy bean paste stew and rice.” It is customary to end these set course meals with stew and rice, rather than eating rice alongside the meal. This was an okay doenjang jjigae…not good, not too great.
Day 2 – Lunch at the top of Seoul National University
Walking up a giant hill and so many stairs in Seoul’s hot and humid weather while wearing conference clothes was quite the challenge, but the food at the top was worth it!
I don’t remember the name of the restaurant we ended up at, but I took a picture through the doors. It seemed like it was at the highest spot on the SNU campus!
Banquet hall! (And air conditioning as well.)
I didn’t go for a multi-course menu, but looks like no matter what there are always banchan and appetizers! I love it! One of the banchan was this salad…nothing fancy, just a salad.
More banchan! On the top (from left to right): shellfish (abalone? clam? not sure…), kimchi, and pickled beansprouts. On the front left, tuna – delicious. On the right right, jap chae (noodles), also delicious.
I was debating whether or not I should get kalbi or bulgogi, but I realized that I haven’t yet had bibimbap in Seoul yet! So when I saw the doenjang bibimbap on the menu, I couldn’t resist! This is quite possibly the best bibimbap I’ve ever tasted – the greens were so fresh and delicate and light! But what really made this great was the doenjang paste…
The doenjang bibimbap came with miso soup too (doenjang is made from soybean paste and it tastes similar to miso). This doenjang paste had little pieces of abalone in it, which gave it a more complex salty flavor than regular doenjang. I could have probably eaten an entire tub of this, but I just cleaned my plate instead. It was the perfect entree to eat before a presentation: filling yet didn’t make me feel so grossly stuffed that I’ll feel lethargic.
Dinner at Korean Restaurant
I think this was a type of 수정과 [su jong gwa] since the predominant taste was that of cinnamon. I’m not sure why or how it got so pink! It was a nice and refreshing palate cleanser and end to the meal though!
Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the restaurant that we ended up eating it, but after a long day of conference presentations, I was definitely excited for food! And there ended up being so much food, I could barely keep track of it all. Literally, dishes were piled on top of dishes because there wasn’t enough space for everything!
The table…we ended up moving to a different room because this one wasn’t big enough, but the table settings and table looked similar enough!
And then the food began and never stopped coming. Jap chae – delicious!
I intended to only take a picture of the salad, but didn’t want to reach across the table since I was already getting funny looks for snapping photos of food! I didn’t end up eating this salad but I can’t imagine that I would have missed anything.
I didn’t get a chance to ask about a lot of the food, so unfortunately I can’t identify everything accurate. The foreground was some type of seafood – oysters maybe? The background is a kimchi!
One of my favorites!!! Pumpkin with jujubes…so sweet and perfectly cooked. I think I ate more of my share of these…I couldn’t get enough of the pumpkins/squashes that I ate while in Seoul!
Broccoli with a gochujang dipping sauce
Fermented skate (홍어 hong uh) with pork belly (삼겹살 samgyeopsal) and kimchi. I had no idea what this was at the time so I just ate it without any hesitation! A few of the other Korean graduate students from UC Berkeley told us that fermented skate is one of the dishes where your family either eats it or is repulsed by it. Since I was coming in with a clean slate, I have to say that it didn’t taste so bad. I’ve never had fermented fish before and with the pork belly and super old kimchi, the taste isn’t quite as strong as I would have thought it to be. On its own though…it’s not that bad either but the aftertaste becomes super pronounced. My mouth became numb (not in a bad way but like I ate an entire stick of mint candy) and that sensation of cooling numbness stuck in my mouth for a while. I definitely would eat it again though!
A close-up of the unidentified seafood dish. Anyone have any idea what this is?
Fried mushrooms. A little oily but super delicious!
Black sesame porridge – more savory than sweet. We each got our own individual bowl. I love black sesame so I enjoyed this a lot!
Sweet sticky rice! As for what’s in the bowl in front, it’s soju!
Anchovies! These are so addicting and yummy…another one of my favorites. I’ve had some chefs describe them as “fries with eyes.”
Another variety of kimchi!
Bulgogi soup. I also ate way more than my fair share of this dish also! The beef itself was delicious, but the broth was so rich and flavorful that I kept on going back for more of the broth! It was meaty, sweet, and savory – the perfect combination of flavors! Definitely one of the best-tasting dishes at this restaurant!
Another type of soup…but I can’t really recall what specifically this is.
Another one of my favorites! Potatoes – sweet and starchy, the best. I did restrain myself with this and only took one, but I wanted to eat all of them and more!
More kimchi! You can never have enough kimchi!
I don’t know what type of fish this was, but it was dry (in a good way) and bony (in a not so good way). I’ve gotten pretty good at eating bony fish while I was in Korea, but I think I ended up eating more bones than meat with this fish…The few pieces of meat that I was able to successfully extract though were delicious!
So much food on the table~
Octopi (the tentacles were not still moving!)
Another type of fish!
Steamed egg…another one of my favorites! So good – I kept on eating more of my fair share of this dish too…
…And more fish! I love fish so I was definitely having the time of my life during this meal. And maybe the raspberry wine and soju and makgeolli helped with that too…
So. Much. Food.
The meal always ends with soup and rice. This is doenjang jjigae (bean paste soup).
…and the accompanying rice. (With raspberry wine in the background)
Of course there is still dessert! 식계 (shikkye) Rice punch! I’m not really a fan of this and I was so stuffed so I only had a little bit.
…And some sujeonggwa (cinnamon punch 수정과). Yum – the perfect refreshing end to the meal!
Overall, I had an amazing time in Seoul and I definitely took advantage of eating as much as I could! The conference eating was super nice and I definitely hope that I get a chance to go back to South Korea soon not only for research/academic purposes, but to eat!
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