The Clog went to Korea (South if you were wondering) for a little cultural immersion. We didn’t speak the language or know what sites to see — we were just hungry.
The only Korean food we had heard of prior to our visit was that of Korean barbecue and kim chi. It’d be wise not to make assumptions on what the food is going to taste like based on what is served at local American restaurants — they prepare their food in a way that tastes good to the people in the community without paying heed to the cultural significance.
Our culture shock wasn’t scary, but intriguing. From what we learned, Korean food consists of a lot of soups and salads that are heavily centered around sea food and blanched vegetables — it’s impossible to be vegetarian in Korea unless someone’s willing to eat kim chi for every meal.
The Korean barbecue experience had nothing to do with extreme spices, noodles, oil or sauces.
All we had to do was grill the meat, nuts and mushrooms. It was extremely simple, and surprisingly delicious despite the seemingly bland approach to cooking.
But after eating meats and fish for a few days, we missed the taste of vegetables. We searched every food complex and street market, but even if the meal was tofu or crackers, it still came from a seafood base. Since eating solely Korean food is a taxing experience coming from America, we set aside the desire for cultural immersion and found a warm bowl of pasta with marinara.
It may seem counterproductive, but when in a different country, eat American food. When we ate so much Korean food, our obvious conclusion was that the food was extremely simple and “exotic”: no oil and a few ingredients. It wasn’t until we had a bowl of pasta that we could identify the effect of distinctive Korean cooking.
Now that we are back, we crave Korean-made hamburgers and Minestrone soup. The best part of travel, however, is coming back and implementing the insights we gained into the way we live. So instead of intensive pan-fry and salt, we are baking and boiling — it tastes different.