Whenever abroad it’s a natural urge from within us to try new foods and flavours, especially when it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit somewhere. Let’s be honest. Plenty of us, even the healthy, like to endulge in sweet or savoury treats. When I was back home in the UK, undeniably I would be often tempted to eat hearty chicken roast dinners covered in gravy or fill up on carbohydrates; but it was almost simple to stick to a vegetable, fruit, limited meat, low-satuarted fat diet. On the other side of the world in South Korea, my habits have taken a tumble downhill.
From time to time I feel gulity for convincing myself and justifying my choices to live life a little by enjoying ice-cream or some fried chicken; then again my thoughts conflict because I feel like I should explore the food variations which I didn’t have access to prior. In my current ‘dilemma’, I think the most sensible plan would be to return to a balanced diet consisting of the correct portions of all the food groups.
I will allow myself to have a takeaway/fast food once a week, prehaps on the relaxing weekend, in between a ‘kinda vegetarian’ diet. It’s worked well for my health in the past, and I’m not going to force myself to eat red meat if I don’t like the taste nor texture. If I have a snack, and it’s not fruits and vegetables or even a protein bar, I’ll ensure that it’s low in calories and saturated fats. Conviently low fat snacks in Korea are very cheap. For around 2500won I can get a medium sized bag of lightly salted popcorn, and some kimbap (like a sushi roll packed mainly with vegetables and a little meat/fish). Tip: if you are going to stay in Korea for a while and don’t want to eat at resturants all the time, buy your fresh groceries online. You can get a much larger quantity of vegetables/fruits for the same price as the small amounts in supermarkets.
Now this wouldn’t be a ‘foodie’ blog post if I didn’t share/review some South Korean cuisine. So here goes…
- Pizza 피자
Here they have topping combinations that you’ve never seen before. Koreans love to adapt European/Western dishes to make them unique or fit their taste preferances. Most pizzas initially seem over complicated with their vast ingredients, but somehow they all tie in well together. Want a pizza with potato wedges on top? – They have it. ‘Tear and share’ mozzerella crust, sweet potato slices and cream cheese base, pasta bake side dishes, you name it they’ve got it. The first takeaway pizza I had here had the vegetable toppings underneath the double cheese rather than on top. It was topped with bulbogi beef (marinated and grilled with specific Korean spices) with a squishy base and emmental stuffed crust. They gave parmesan cheese for sprinkling, gherkins/pickles on the side and a sachet of tangy yet sweet garlic mustard mayonnaise.
- Tteokbokki 떡볶이
I feel like I long for this way too often. It’s a spicy Korean traditional dish mainly made from rice cake (tubes of compacted rice similar to gnocci), Gochujang (chili paste), and kimchi (a spicy and bitter pickled/fermented cabbage). Additionally melted cheese, eggs, hotdogs, pork cutlet, and ramen can be added to the concoction. My favourite is the rice cake, and it the basis of other equally delicious korean meals.
- Dak-galbi 닭갈비
In a few ways it is similar to tteokbokki as it can includes rice cake, ramen and gochujang. The only significant differences is that it usually contains chicken, is fried, and bulked out with cabbage, spring onions and other seasonal or common vegetables. Apparently it’s the number one dish according to Western tourists in Korea (well as long as they can handle quite spicy foods). If you eat the majority of the dish, you can then request rice and cheese to be added to the remaining dak-galbi: forming a scrumptious spicy fried rice.