Been thinking of Korea lately? Here are 6 simply delish reasons to finally pack your bags and go!
Unlike its loud, funky, exaggerated, edgy, and oftentimes eccentric taste for fashion, most food in Korea are bland, blanched and blah, but oh so lovely and rich that once introduced to my Filipino palate, the experience became detoxifying. But rather than feeling cleansed and washed, I felt powered, packed with muscled wisdom and awed at every meal served and by every place visited.
6. Visit Seoji Chogateul and try their Hanjeongsik
Tourists flock to this idyllic place called Seoji Chogateul to sample and experience traditional Korean dishes or meals called Hanjeongsik. These dishes have been offered by this restaurant for over 300 years.
Over 100 bowls of hot, cold, dry, wet, sticky, spicy, sweet, fruity, nutty, leafy, nutty, jelly, fishy, and gooey dishes are served with rice to a group of 14 hungry souls. I begged for soda to calm my resisting tummy and shocked palate, but instead, I was given a cup of cold and tasteless cloudy liquid that smelled like a botched science project. I took a big gulp (tequila shot in my mind) and left the place feeling satisfied and stupid for asking a soda from a lovely lady chef who’s been advocating for natural, organic, and healthy diet.
Flower Rice Cake that takes almost two hours in preparation time and is only served to special guests
And, indeed, there is science and art in food according to this lovely lady whose family has been preparing traditional Korean food for centuries. She went out of her busy kitchen to meet me along with Filipino journalists and bloggers and offered us a plateful of Flower Rice Cake or Whajeon adorned with chestnuts, sundried dates and edible flowers from her garden.
She says the cake is the birth dream. “The chestnut represents the Sun which gives hope and life. The circle symbolizes the traditional Korean design like the Yin and Yang representing harmony among heaven, earth and man.” She also shared that it is the “duty” of writers or journalists to promote harmony.
I forgot to ask her age, but she must be over 60 or 70 years old. Still, she exudes the warm, fresh, and youthful spirit of someone much younger than anyone of us in her dining table. I took a piece of the cake and chewed it carefully, trying to capture the sweetness of preserved fruit nuts lightly pressed in plain sticky rice. I attempted to savor the wisdom behind it. Eating a piece of Van Gogh’s painting came to my mind as I felt the slight disapproval of my ignorant palate.
5. Munch on lots of traditional Korean Cookies at One Mount Snow Park in Gyeonggido
Unli-organic food and traditional cookies. Why not? Imagine your friend’s reaction when you ask them to eat out here after snowboarding or ice-skating: Hey, I know an organic eat-all-you can restaurant!
One Mount Snow Park in Gyeonggido was our first stop from Incheon International Airport. The early morning flight via Philippines AirAsia from Terminal 3 of NAIA in Manila was on-time and, in fact, few minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival. It was a pleasant airplane ride as usual, but this theme park is something else. Forget about the time and expect an assault of the senses from the snow sled-ride with huskies, relaxing spa treatment (you will need this), water slides and snow rides for kids, young, and old–just relax and let it go!
All-year snow rides and many more await the young and adventure-seekers at One Mount Snow Park.
I survived until lunch was served.
While the place offers the usual beef, pork, and chicken cooked in many different ways, the dining area in One Mount Snow Park in Gyeonggido is known for its organic dishes, salads, and fruits served in buffet style at an affordable price.
“This corner reminds me of my childhood back in the ‘70s” says our tour guide referring to a small rack of assorted cookies made from wheat, barley, and sesame seeds that were beautifully arranged beside the yogurt and green tea ice cream. I snipped a piece of the sesame seed cookie and shoved it into my mouth that’s been aching for sugar. It wasn’t sweet, but I tasted a strong smell of honey and my heart jumped as an old couple ogled at the rack and gave me their sweetest Korean smiles.
4. Eat Galbi at Banzuwon Restaurant in Suwon
Beef shortribs bathed in secret Korean soy sauce and spices are slowly grilled in special wood-charcoal with pickled garlic, onion, green leafy salad, potato salad, Chap Chae (potato noodles cooked like Pancit but eaten cold), and many other side dishes. Soju or beer is optional, while rice is served at the end of the meal (which is brilliant as I should be eating less rice since I have eaten a bowlful of beef already!). Rice is mixed with whatever food left on the table and eaten last.
Behold, Galbi! Banzuwon restaurant offers unlimited serving.
Guests who’d like to go to Banzuwon are advised to make a reservation, but we were so lucky to be invited by the Gyeonggido Tourism Organization led by its dynamic president and CEO Mr. Hong Seung-Pyo.
According to Mr. Hong, Galbi is the No. 1 attraction in the city of Suwon with local and foreign tourists visiting the area to feast on Galbi–which are available at almost every bar and restaurant. Those who’d like to explore Gyeonggido’s non-edible attractions should visit Everland Resort, the 4th largest theme park in the world, and several premium outlets including the newest Hyundai outlet, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
All these, plus a trip to the Paldamun Market, Korean Folk Village, One Mount Snow Park, Fairy Tale Village, Herb Island and many more will surely leave your adrenaline pumping and your appetite wanting for more Galbi! Go to www.ggtour.or.kr for more information.
Kids playing inside the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and seemingly unaware of how the historical walls located at the center of Suwon in Gyeonggido province protected the city against invaders.