Date 2020-02-17 Viewed

Food in Korea ranges from being quite bland (fried rice covered over with a thin omelette often topped off with a squirt of tomato ketchup) to eye wateringly spicy. Koreans like to use chillies in their cooking and lots of garlic. Meals are usually served with an array of side dishes. The most popular is kimchi. Adored by all Koreans, it is spicy, fermented, pickled cabbage. Kimchi is not appreciated by the majority of new foreigners in Korea – especially on the breath of students. However, like many good things in life kimchi is an acquired taste. You will learn to appreciate it and may even come to love it.

Korean food really is very tasty. Eating out in Korea is so cheap that most teachers eat out every evening. Alternatively, restaurants can deliver food directly to your door. A delivery man on a scooter drops off the food and comes later for the dirty dishes. Who can argue with that? Yes, Koreans do eat dog meat. Dog is considered to be very healthy and is widely acclaimed as being ‘good for men’s stamina’ although its effect on women is not mentioned. It is very unlikely that you would be served dog meat unwittingly, as it is quite an expensive meat. The cartoon dog painted on the sign above the restaurant may also be a good indicator.

In all probability you will see things on Korean tables that will make you squirm. All manners of sea creatures that you didn’t know existed are eaten, sometimes alive. You may also be offered chicken feet or gizzards or even barbecued pig colon. Whether or not you choose to try these delicacies is entirely up to you but my advice is to keep a tissue handy in case you have to spit anything out – discretely of course.

If the above paragraph has left you in doubt as to whether you could cope with life in Korea do not despair. Among the weird and wonderful array of dishes available there are countless tasty delights to be had. Korean cuisine is widely under rated. I would defy anyone to go to Korea and not find a dish that they truly love. In any case, every form of fast food from Pizza hut, Burger King, KFC and Subway Sandwiches is likely to be available in your town or city in case of emergencies.

Vegetarians often find it difficult to remain true to their ideals in Korea unless they are keen on cooking for themselves or live in one of the bigger cities in Korea. Having said that, a vast array of vegetables is available from Korean markets and rice, noodles and tofu are staples in the Korean diet. Going out to eat can be problematic for vegetarians as most dishes contain some form of meat and even if you ask for something without the meat they often will bring it to you with the meat anyway, saying, ‘It’s okay, there’s no extra charge’. The whole vegetarian concept is largely lost on Koreans unless as mentioned you are in a large city. Many western vegetarians find that they can survive quite well by adding fish to their diet. This is often a good compromise.

Koreans often drink ‘soju’ with their meals, especially in restaurants. Soju is the Korean national drink. It is clear and is mildly reminiscent of cheap vodka. Do beware – although this drink comes in small glasses it can be lethal, as the effects are often not felt until one tries to stand up : )