Friday, January 14, 2011

"Beef on a Leaf", The Korean Dining Experience

I was thinking about getting back into the swing of eating Korean food again and realized I've described the food but have never revealed a picture! So here you go!

As you can see, there are tons of dishes/sides. Nearly all of them are pickled or cold. No potatoes or salt and pepper. If you look at the meat on the left, you will notice some scissors and tongs beside each other. This is how Korean people cut their meat... With scissors! As a side note: This is also the way they cut their crab legs.
The way that this traditional meal usually goes is... You sit on the floor after you've taken off your shoes and wait for your server to bring you hot coals to place in the middle of the table top grill. After the grill is set up, you cut the meat into bite size pieces and place it on the grill. You also may place whole, raw garlic in some aluminum muffin tins to roast.
After the meat is done cooking, you don't put it on your plate. You move the cooked meat to the side of the grill to keep it warm. Then you take a piece of lettace, aka "Leaf" and hold it in your hand and fill it with whatever you would like. Similar to a tortilla... Kinda. No one has a "plate" of their own. Double dipping to them is very much okay. You simply take your chop sticks and pick up what you want on your lettuce leaf, along with everyone else. I can only eat this way with my husband. To me, everyone's germs on their chop sticks and their double dipping into every dish is too much for me to handle.
In this particular picture, the vegetable choices that you have are: picked onion, tofu and seaweed, pickled/spicy bean sprouts, whole garlic cloves, kimchi, spicy anchovies, radish and red pepper paste for dipping. Nearly all Korean food is spicy. Many things that you eat at meals like this one are colored red due to the spice they add.
Now, in America, it's considered rude and uncouth to talk with your mouth full or to "stuff" food into your mouth... Not here. This is the way all Korean's eat. Whether it be a burger, ramen soup, or beef on a leaf. They consider it a "compliment to the chef" when you slurp and shove huge bites into your mouth.
I had a very hard time adjusting to this style of dinning to say the least. The "bites" of food they eat are enormous! Picture putting 2 hard boiled eggs in your mouth at once and this is the average bite for a Korean. :|
So if you find yourself in Southeast Asia, in the tiny country of South Korea... You will now know what to expect for a dining experience. I assure you, it's like nothing you've ever seen. Oh and one more tip... Ordered bottled water for obvious reasons.

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