There comes a time when even the most adventurous traveler retreats to a comfort zone; to a place where time stands still amidst an ever-evolving backdrop. It’s no surprise that this comfort zone tends to involve food. Memories of food cut deep into the human psyche, they do not only involve all five senses but are also shaped by context – the company we have shared them with, the careful preparation by a loved one, and the emotions involved.
Your favorite food as a child is more than just a preferred way to meet a biological need. That food is a loved one’s expression of care, the laughter and joy during an entertaining conversation, and nostalgia for a much simpler time. The following section introduces international students’ view on local food and how they manage to get a taste of home in Jeollabuk-do.
Tasting Korean Food: an Interview
By Bilguutei A.
South Korea is a country that’s often mentioned among those with the most delicious cuisines. Kpop is increasingly becoming a worldwide phenomenon, but the truth is, Korean culture has long been celebrated throughout the world through something that people cannot live without – food. Korean BBQ restaurants are found in corners of all over the world, even in developing nations. Grilled meat with strong tastes, colorful side-dishes, and spicy flavors have got to be one of the best things this nation has to offer its visitors, but how different of an experience do foreign students, that come here for much longer periods compared to tourists? It can’t be Korean BBQ on the menu every day, so the students have no option but to start immersing themselves in the local culture and Jeollabuk-do’s various dishes. That’s when they really start to experience this country’s food culture in all its glory, and figure out what they like the most. Today we have talked with two current international students and an American teacher who graduated from CBNU, all coming from vastly different backgrounds. Here are the 10 questions that were asked during the interviews:
- How long have you been in Korea?
- Do you eat Korean food on a regular basis?
- Do you remember your first Korean meal?
- Do you remember what your first impression after tasting Korean food?
- What do you like the most about Korean cuisine?
- What do you NOT like about Korean cuisine?
- Do you think people from your home country would have similar experience with Korean cuisine as you did?
- Would you explain the main/popular dishes from your home country?
- How different are they compared to Korean meals? In terms of taste.
- What is your favorite Korean meal?
Nick, United States of America
- 5 years
- Yes, I do.
- No. First time I had a Korean food must have been when I first came here. I was going through teacher training, and the staff of the program prepared a big meal for us. We had many different kinds of Korean food there, but at the time, I didn’t know what any of them were.
- I just remember it being so different than anything I’ve had before.
- This is going to sound strange, but I really like all the colors. I like the colorfulness of the meals, it’s very nice to look at. And it tastes good.
- I don’t have a clear answer on this one. None that I can think of right now.
- Some of them would, and many of them would not. A lot of people have difficulty eating things that are different than anything they’ve tried before. I am not one of those people, so I could adjust, but a lot of people can’t adjust.
- Well, the United States has such a history of immigration that we have adopted foods from every part of the world, so it’s really difficult to point to traditional American cuisine. Meatloaf
- Well, they are very different. Americans usually don’t eat rice with their meals, while Koreans always eat rice with their meals. Obviously, we don’t have the same staple food, the flavors are generally less-spicy, and they have different textures, there’s some similarities, but they are quite different.
- I don’t have a favorite. There’s few dishes that never get old though. They are just always good no matter how many times you eat, like Samgyeopsal, Dakgalbi, and Bibimbap. I think that’s all I can remember at the moment, but there are many more dishes that are always good. They have a good combination of flavors and ingredients. Koreans use a lot of good sauces as well.
- 10 months
- My first impression with Korean food was great. Loved the cheese and how there was a lot of meat in it. Very good. I used to live in India so the spiciness was fitting.
- I like the taste. I can’t say that I liked everything from the beginning. Anyways, Korean food always has a lot of meat involved. Lot of vegetables, too. Those two combined – results in good taste and healthy meal here.
- No bad experience with Korean food, but in the beginning, I didn’t like seaweed and kimchi, but it’s better now. For example, I like seaweed now especially with rice, but for kimchi, I don’t eat it as much as my friends do. I eat maybe one small piece with my meal.
- The Iranians that live here, many of them love Korean food, and many of them don’t like eating Korean food at all. But I’d say that those who don’t like Korean food, probably haven’t been to good restaurants. Usually they eat food provided in the dormitory, or they don’t eat Korean food because of religious reasons. I think the majority of people in Iran would love Korean food. There are differences of course, but there are similarities as well. For Kimchi, my sister and her husband love kimchi, so my experience with kimchi might just be a personal case. For me, it’s going to take some time getting used to eating kimchi.
- Kebabs are very popular. Usually it’s filled with beef. There are many kinds of kebabs of course. Chicken kebab is also very popular. However, in Iran, you don’t eat kebab all the time. Rice is still the main ingredient in Iranian dishes, and people eat kebab with rice as much as they eat bread with it. Also, there are many stews that are popular in Iran. The most popular ones are Ghormeh Sabzi, Gheimeh and Fesenjoon.
- The meals that I described hardly resemble the meals in Korea, except the kebabs. Kebabs are very similar to Korean BBQ. The taste of stews is completely different, however there are other Iranian dishes are somewhat similar to what we have here in Korea. But seafood in Korea is nothing like seafood in Iran. Seafood in Iran is usually limited to fish, but here you can find octopus, crab, and lobsters. Those are rarely eaten, and very expensive in Iran.
- My favorite Korean dish is Gamja-tang. The taste is very similar to Iranian food that I used to eat back home.
- A year and a half
- I think it was probably gimbab.
- No idea, since it’s been such a long time.
- If it’s too spicy, then it’s not good. Also, I don’t like sea-food that much because of the kinds of meals I am accustomed to eating back home.
- For the most part, yes. I think most of them would have similar experience coming here, but some Mongolians who have been here for much, much longer than me, I notice that they start enjoying seafood, and spicy food becomes their daily ritual. In my case, since I haven’t been here for a long time, I enjoy non-spicy meals just as much, and can go through the day without craving for spice.
- Mongolian dishes are quite meat-rich. Dishes usually include lots of meat and flour – main two ingredients. Most popular combinations of these two ingredients are
– Tsuiwan, Buuz, and Guriltai Shul.
- Korean dishes are usually spicy, and various side-dishes go along with them, but Mongolian dishes don’t come with side-dishes, the entire meal is cooked in a single pan. Salt is often times the only ingredient added for flavors.
- Dakgalbi. I just love its taste, especially with a lot of cheese.