05.08.2014 - 05.08.2014
At the start of the trip we were only planning on staying four days in Korea. A few in Seoul and a night in Busan before the ferry. However, plans changed in Japan and we extended our time here. This has been a great turn of events; it has been the best city, friendliest people and tied with China for best food.
As the capitol of Korea for several centuries, there is an ecletic mix of old and new. There are the five Imperial palaces and the Blue House, which is the equivalent of our White House.
There also the old gates, monasteries and traditional houses all mixed in with the new skyscrapers, department stores, theme parks and neon signs.
They also have installed water cannons and lights on the side of a bridge to put on a show for everyone enjoying the evening alongside the river.
A lot of their museums have been free and all have been to an exceptional standard for displays, information and interactive areas. We went to the Military, Rice Cake, Baekje Dynasty and Folk Culture museums and they were all fantastic albeit limited on English signage.
The people have been exceptionally welcoming and friendly. We tried Bewelcome again, and while we did not find a place to sleep, we did find a great couple that welcomed us into their new home. They made a tradional Korean dinner of bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and a fried egg) and a green onion pancake that was delicious. I didn't want to impose to much, so I neglected the picture of the food but managed to get a picture of them on the way out. We talked so long we almost missed the last trains.
As for the rest of our meals we had fried chicken on several occasions. The Korean method involves a batter of rice flour and water that creates a crispy outside while keeping the meat moist. The most interesting one mixed almond flour into the crust and had almonds sprinkled on top.
We also had the ubiquitous Korean BBQ. Thin sliced pieces of meat that you cook yourself at the table. You then place it in a lettuce leaf, add roasted garlic and spicy bean sauce, and eat it. There are a myriad ways to have the meat prepared and we had a plain brisket and a sweet chili sauce covered pork rib which was simply amazing in its balance. Not to sweet and the heat builds as you eat more.
One of the best things of Korean food is the inclusion of several side dishes. Various types of fermented vegetables (kimchi), tofu, mung bean, bean sprouts and more will swiftly cover your table for free. Even the little stalls will give you one or two.
Of course, there is a wide range of street food available; hot dogs on a stick, waffles with scoops of icecream, bubbletea, weird rice cones filled with a hard frozen yogurt, dumplings, hand cut noodles, etc.
Now the last dish will have some contention. We tracked down a restaurant that serves dog. Despite an attempt to get us kicked out by the owner we persevered and soon had two bowls of dog stew in front of us. The stew itself was a soy bean paste (miso) with chili bean sauce added, along with some onions and greens. There was also some more onions, peppers and soy bean paste to add if you wanted. This actually seems to be a common Korean approach to soups is you season it yourself at the table. The dog meat itself was tender and fatty with an overall taste of perfectly cooked mutton but with a thick layer of fat like a pig. This fat layer was a little much but it is the way they cut the meat as opposed to the cuts in the US which emphasises the meat portion.