Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Memorable Meals: Seoul, South Korea
Asians love having communal meals that consist of a pile of hot foods in the middle of a table, a wide selection of condiments that could be eaten alone or with the main dish, and of course, rice. Sometimes the main dish is in a boiling broth or bouillabaisse, sometimes on a grill or hotplate, and in the case of Korean Bulgogi, the main dish is a little bit of both ways.
Korean bulgogi is a communal style meal with slices of sirloin beef simply marinated with typical Asian sauces like soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and scallions. This bulgogi marinade flavor has been adopted recently in western meats like McDonald's bulgogi burger.
The cooking method, which leaves the slices of beef tender and full of the salty, sweet and savory marinade taste, along with the inclusion of enoki mushrooms and thinly sliced onions and scallions is what sets bulgogi apart. Typically the meat is seared and then combined with the other ingredients to finish, but the bulgogi we had in Seoul looked almost raw, even though the thick brothy gravy was bubbly when we arrived at the table. The thinly sliced sirloin was melt in your mouth tender, beefy, tangy and warmed our bellies to the core. We happily dug into our traditional-Korean-restaurant-included-with-the-tour-lunch. It was well beyond our expectations for a tour group meal, especially a free tour meal. Shows you that you can never go wrong with traditional communal food.
We arrived at the traditional Korean restaurant, took off our shoes and piled into the back of the restaurant where some tables set up for lunch and some were empty.
There is something about cooking your own food to the consistency you prefer and taking the time to prepare and present your mouth and stomach with the perfect bite. That is what bulgogi is. Fresh greens, spicy pastes, kim chi, pickled items and rice allows each bite be a unique one.
Korean Bulgogi is an easy dish to like, the comforting taste and texture of the beef along with the different textures and tastes of the fixin' flavoring the white rice is familiar and comforting. The salty, hearty and spicy flavors of Bulgogi also go well with beer, which is always a plus plus in our world.