As a consumer of experience, I was excited to dig into authentic Korean dining, and these first 3 days in Seoul have been a delicious cultural lesson. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
They concentrate on eating, not talking, and yet Korean dining is always family style with everyone eating from the same pot and side dishes.
Lesson 1 – You must remove your shoes if dining at floor-level. This is not the case if the restaurant has table & chair service available, which is rare but can be found. So, speaking from experience, my advice is to wear clog-like shoes instead of hiking boots when dining at floor level.
Lesson 2 – Korean food service is fast, and complete. That is to say that within 5 minutes of ordering, ALL of your food is delivered to the table — soup to nuts. And speaking of soup, it is a part of every meal, but I haven’t seen any nuts yet, except maybe the people who go crazy over being in the same proximity with a small blond American woman and insist on photos to prove they “know” her.
Lesson 3 – Not only is the service fast, but the Korean people eat extremely fast. They concentrate on eating, not talking, thereby leaving the small blond American woman struggling to finish a dish or start a conversation.
Lesson 4 – Napkins are scarce. One small wet paper towel is brought at the start of the meal for sanitizing your hands. Besides that, there is a box of very small, thin tissues at the end of the table, which Koreans use as napkins if they pause long enough to wipe their mouths. I, on the other hand, managed to empty a box just for wiping my nose after every bite of the ever-spicy Kimchi!Lesson 5 – Korean dining is always family style with everyone eating from the same pot and side dishes. In the center of the table is a cooking surface from which the main dish is eaten and many small side dishes and sauce cups are spread around the table and meant to be shared by all. There is no such thing as a “place setting”.
Lesson 6 – Despite the fact that Korea is a small mountainous peninsula, Koreans are huge beef and pork eaters! I asked where all this meat comes from and was told that most of it is imported from Australia and Europe because they are leery of the meat imported from the U.S. Some seafood is available such as eel, octopus, squid, and sea urchin. The only filet of any kind I have come across is cod — something fishy about that, don’t ya think?
Lesson 7- As for dessert, think again. A fruit slice is all that was offered. So, after our first dinner here in Seoul, we went to none other than Baskin Robbins for a pint of ice cream to share. Each of the 3 of us picked our favorite flavor, all of which went into the same pint and was eaten out of the same pint container. It was a grand finale of the flavors: New York Cheesecake, Green Tea and Strawberry. Can you guess which of us chose which flavor? You might be surprised at the answers.
I will stop on this lucky number 7. I just wanted to let you know I’m having a yummy time!