Fully prepared to start checking off the items on my Korean Food Bucket List, I set off last Sunday with my friend Jason and a piece of paper. I had written down a few dishes I thought I could easily find in my neighborhood. But after walking around for 20 minutes, I realized why I hadn’t checked them off sooner. I definitely need to do a bit more prep work.
Tired of hearing my California-blooded pal moaning about the cold, I called off my quest and settled for a new restaurant called “The Meat Tree.” It was traditional Korean dining meets New York butcher shop–various cuts of beef and pork neatly displayed behind a glass case in the back, and heated floors with mats waiting for you after you made your selection. We were in meat heaven.
I ordered galbitang (갈비탕), a slow-simmered beef short rib soup. Jason had a thicker, spicier variety. Both were rich, delicious and exactly what we (especially him) needed on a cold autumn day.
Before moving to Korea, I would have never considered going to a restaurant and ordering soup. In fact, if I did, I’d probably have a bit of my server’s saliva mixed with it. However, since any meal in Korea is served with a variety of side dishes and rice, soups have become a staple in Korean cuisine. Soups are known as guk (국) and tang (탕), while jjigae (찌개) refers to a wide variety of stews. There are easily 30 soups and stews that are well known and eaten regularly in Korea. I have no idea of the number that actually exist.
I don’t know how much I’ll miss eating rice for every meal, or having some sort of tiny fish or octopus in nearly everything I eat, but I will definitely miss ordering a big bowl of soup for dinner. At a restaurant. For less than five dollars.