Friday, 10 July 2009

The Korean Dining Experience

I now have a whole new perspective on eating. Everywhere you eat in Korea, there will be something on the table that is not exclusively for you. This is very different from America, because we are used to having our own plates and often frown upon sharing.

A very popular style of restaurant has a table with a circular grill in the center. Depending on the restaurant, they may specialize in chicken, pork, or beef (the most expensive because of particular import regulation, but very good). You get the number of servings for everyone at your table, brought to your table raw, but it's a free-for-all around the table with chopsticks as you eat off the grill. For pork and beef, you'll also get a basket/plate of leaves to put your meat on with a little soybean paste and wrap it up to eat.

If you're at a restaurant where main dishes are ordered individually, they will still give you a number of side dishes in little bowls to be shared around the table. There is always at least one type of Kimchi, and a number of other things depending on the restaurant (fish, bean sprouts, potatoes, peanuts, anchovies, pickled turnip, corn, black beans, etc). There's so many different flavors on the table- it never gets boring. You never select the sides, they just come with any order. If your meal comes with soup, you will get one bowl of soup for everyone to eat from (When I was out with my school they were giving me a separate bowl at first, to be polite, but I prefer the sharing now).

Even at non-traditional restaurants you'll usually find that you are given something to share. Scott and I went to a restaurant called "New York in New York" and ordered steak and pasta, but we still got the dish of Kimchi. The salad bars at Pizza Hut and Mr. Pizza are priced only for two to share. The idea is that mealtime is a shared experience. It's liberating. It feels good. You also stop noticing how much you eat. You're not always worried about finishing a giant portion, because everyone is eating the same meal. And if there's something questionable that you're afraid to eat, you can always choose to leave it for someone else. But I never do that...


  1. I love to eat in this country, and I think you've pinpointed why. If there's something you don't particularly like, the most you have to do is try it. And people aren't upset if some or all of the side dishes are left over at the end of the meal. Mmm...I think I want some sam gyup sal.

  2. you have come a long way from "plain, extra pickles ONLY," lady. I am very very proud. and also I miss you crazy much. not sentence. me sleep talk no less and tired very yes please.

  3. Amazing, how far you have come. From now on no more separate dishes at the get togethers. Well maybe for your mom.
    Love to all,

  4. I heard that Sheryl!!

    Oh, I am very anxious to experience Korean dining. I like how they do it, and shall try to be brave trying new foods :-) What a beautiful country! I also like how they were polite and focused on you being comfortable during dinner. From what you've said, they are an amazing culture... only a few more days until I get to visit!!!
    Love, Mom

  5. Mom is being modest. She has an order of kimchi in the refrigerator right now that she is going to snack on this afternoon. No kidding!



  6. Fun times! I like that, the sharing thing. That way you can taste-test everything and get a wonderfully new experience. Like stuff you'd never order for yourself cause you'd hate to hate it and waste the money.
    How econimical!

    I miss you! :)

  7. Hi Sara, I'm a friend of your mom's. We met at a bible study and I just think she is the greatest. It's so uplifting to be around a positive person. I'm really enjoying your blog and I'm learning so much too! Thanks for sharing. Oh and we will really miss your mom while she's visiting you but can't wait to hear of all her travels and all the food and sites she ate and saw. Felicia Clark