I lived in Seoul for a little more than six years. People always ask, "How did you like food in Korea?"
I enjoy Korean food. I haven't eaten it in the States since I left, but I'm not rushing to because I'm pretty sure the Korean food in Korea is better than the Korean food in an American strip mall.
Most people know about Korean barbeque, and while you can find one of the many styles of BBQ on just about every street in Seoul, it's not my favorite. It's kind of hard to mess up cooking meat over a fire. Well, it is pretty easy to mess up. You can burn it, spoil it, drench it in ketchup and all other ways. So find a nice piece of meat, a decent fire, maybe a sauce and bing bang boom, you're fine.
However, Korea has much more to offer than just meat. Most Koreans eat kimchi with every meal. If you don't know what it is, it's a spicy pickled cabbage. Unless you've had it, it's kind of hard to describe.
The unsung hero of Korean food is fried chicken. Spin a circle, walk in any direction for five minutes and you'll find a chicken hof (bar). You'll never look at KFC again. And if you do eat KFC, why?
You can crunch through extra crispy, but there are so many more choices. Garlic, spicy, sweet and spicy-as-hell. A neat thing, you always pair it with beer. Chee-Meck (chicken and beer) is an event, not a meal.
Our friends in Seoul eat a lot more seafood than we do. They eat some raw fish, but sushi is Japanese, so there are only a few sushi spots. Also, Chinese food in Korea isn't like Chinese food China, which isn't like Chinese food in the U.S.
Korean Chinese food is generally noodles with onions, a few specks of some kind of meat and a thick black sauce that tastes a bit like soy sauce, but, well, you've kind of got to eat it to understand. It's cheap and filling. Your other choices in a Korean Chinese restaurant are a gumbo-style seafood noodle soup or really, really deeply deep fried pork with a sweet dipping sauce.
OK, but we're in Asia. You want to know about weird stuff.
First off, many Korean foods supposedly help out with your body's problems. Korean gals will eat chicken feet or pigs' feet for healthier skin. Chicken feet taste like spicy, bubble gum-covered rocks. Pigs' feet are kind of like ridiculously spicy BBQ ribs.
Blood soup (spicy and meaty), ramen (tastes like hot water, salt and MSG), sausage stew (salty and slimy) and kimchi soup (spicy, porky and savory) will cure hangovers. On my block, I had three different 24-hour restaurants that specialized in hangover food — which is very helpful when you're living in one of the hardest-drinking countries in the world. As for ramen, every corner store sells a plethora of instant noodles. Think of the cereal aisle in our supermarkets — that's how Korea treats ramen.
Feeling sick? Drink some green tea. Does your body need some fixing? Some saunas feature hot tubs full of green tea. Just don't, you know, drink the sauna's hot tub green tea. That probably won't do you any good.
Eating living octopus cures, well, I don't know. But it's kind of a rite of passage for anybody moving to Seoul. Watch "Oldboy" — the Korean version, not the American abortion. San nock-chee (raw octopus) has a somewhat fishy flavor but mostly tastes like something desperately trying to survive and crawl out of your mouth. Allegedly, if you don't chew up your eight-legged meal, it crawls out of your guts and chokes you.
Some older Koreans will eat dog. This whole issue is a column in itself. Keep your eye on the paper and read all about it. I never did it, but it's supposed to make men manlier in their man parts.
If your stomach is hurting, eat rice porridge, which is basically oatmeal. If you're studying for a big test, do not eat seaweed soup. This slimy, salty and mostly bland meal will cause all of your good ideas to slip away.
Bubble tea will make any day, date or night better.
So, who's hungry?