Saturday, July 21, 2012

Songdo Restaurants

I meant to document so many more meals!  I eat at least three times a day, so it is not material I lack.  Rather, it is the spare time to compose and to upload.  With just over 9 hours a day spent at work and my goal of 7 to 8 hours of sleep (so I can "store up" before the semester starts, I suppose...), it's getting difficult to post regularly.  It's even becoming a challenge to keep up with my Thankful Thursdays, which are intentionally short and typically single-photo.

We've enjoyed multiple memorable meals in South Korea, but this post will focus on three of our favorites in the street mall of Songdo.  From the cheap high-schoolers' favorite Hans Deli to the shabu shabu (hot pot) and buffet, our edible adventures continue.

During our second week in Korea, we wandered in Songdo, looking for a cheap place to eat.  One of our company can't handle spicy food, I avoid meat and our resident translator wasn't around, so this is an interesting set of specs.  After perusing menus and finally stumbling upon one with pictures and English (this was quite a feat!), we decided upon Han's Deli, a place where high schoolers frequent for its cheap meals, as we were told later.  I ordered the bonito rice shown in my last Thankful Thursday post and my friend who can't handle spice ordered the pork cutlet.

Bonito rice on the left, pork on the right.
The rice was lovely.  Hot, essentially fried rice with mushrooms and possibly squid bits throughout, a generous dusting of flavorful, cheerful-looking flakes on top.  The flavor wasn't particularly deep and it was a little salty, but it was satisfying.  And I got to take half of it home for lunch the next day :)

The pork was not as good, I'm sad to report.  I didn't eat this, but my spice-averse friend did.  It was breaded and stuffed with cheese and potatoes, with a sauce on top.  It was accompanied by a cute scoop of rice on the right and a little bit of macaroni salad, up top.  Unfortunately, my friend didn't feel well after the meal, later that night, and thinks it was the sauce, which he did not like.  Both dishes came with pickles, the more Western dill kind and bright yellow pickled daikon.  The bonito rice also had some white shredded cabbage.

Overall, a filling, cheap meal.  Not the best quality, of course, but I liked it for its price and halfway decent food.

The next weekend, we visited Seoul in search of shopping and adventure.  If you've been visiting my other blog, There and Back Again (TBA, I guess), you'll know that Mr. Pizza was actually two Fridays ago, right before one of our previous trips to Seoul.  If you pay a little extra, you're allowed to take as much as you want from the little salad bar, which has various items, including fresh lychees!  They were probably previously frozen, but still very good.  My favorite item was a green jelly, which had pineapple bits in it.  I think the structure is provided by agar agar and not gelatin, since pineapple has a tendency to prevent the cross-linking needed to form the structure in gelatin.

Fruit, including lychees (round brown things), canned mandarin slices, grape tomatoes, a peep of jelly and mashed potatoes on the left.  On the right, more mashed potatoes, crab salad, croutons.
Another plate: more croutons and some grape jelly.  But the green jelly was better :)
I found an interesting trend in food here; whenever it's somewhat Western-style, things tend to be a little sweet.  The mashed potatoes were delicious, with corn, and interestingly sweet.  The rest of the items weren't particularly notable, although tasty, except for the green jelly.  I have an obsession with sweet jelly foods and sticky foods like rice cakes, and simply adored the sweet, tart, fruity jelly.

Our food came soon after we chose our salads.

Baked spaghetti with so, so much cheese and a sampler basket of chicken, cheese and corn.
Our resident translator enjoyed his spaghetti and my roommate liked her sampler basket, although she felt it was rather expensive, and would not have purchased it had she known its price.

My spice-averse friend and I split a pizza, with meat on his side and vegetables on mine.

The pizza was about a medium, back in the States.  Gratuitous slice with oozy cheese shot!
Something rather interesting in Korea is the portion sizes.  The food is priced rather more reasonably, in my sense, than that in the U.S., with somewhat smaller portions and lower prices.  I really enjoyed this pizza.  I ate two slices and saved the other two for later in the weekend, having gotten pretty full on the salad bar offerings.  I liked the way the toppings were actually underneath the cheese, which kept everything much neater than usual, and the flavors were bright.  You could taste the peppers, tomato sauce, olives and mushrooms in the pizza through the cheese.  And of course, cheese is cheese is cheese.  I haven't learned very much about it beyond good cheese and crappy processed cheese food.  What do I say about it?  I like cheese...  I think it was plain mozzarella.  Maybe with Parmesan, maybe not.  I couldn't tell, and quite honestly, I don't really care.  It was good cheese :)

A few weekends later, we encountered one of our guides whom we had not seen in several weeks by chance, and invited him out to dinner with the four of us.

So, our guide photographed me back with his phone, my roommate caught it all on her camcorder,
and our spice-averse friend simply eats.  I wonder who has the right priorities here?
Our resident translator was due to show up a few minutes later, after visiting a PC lab (basically an internet cafe with many games and comfortable chairs) for a few hours.  The food arrived before he did, but we waited for him.  Of course, there was vegetables and meat....  And a little ball of fresh noodles with the vegetables :)

Pumpkin, mushrooms, fresh greens, noodles.  And the Koreans love their meat...  I think it's beef.
Plates full of tasty food make me happy...
This was my first plate, just to try everything that looked good.  Fruit is somewhat expensive here, so I took the chance to enjoy some.  I liked the soft, sweet bread roll, hot, crisp fries, and especially the flavorful fried rice.  With plenty of small-chopped vegetables and tiny shrimp, it was probably one of the best fried rice dishes I've ever had.  And I'm Chinese, and have eaten a lot of fried rice!  I find it ironic that my favorite is in South Korea, at a buffet where fried rice is only another item in a pot.  The "deviled" eggs were actually good, without the overdose of vinegar or mayonnaise or whatever it is that makes them so sour and salty back in the States.  But my favorite new item was definitely the dubokki, cylindrical rice cakes in a savory, spicy sauce.

Some of my favorites, clockwise from left: the fries, a crispy rice cake, the fried rice, dubokki and the eggs.
I'm definitely learning how to make the dubokki back in the States.  There is this slightly sweet and savory tinge to the spicy red chili powder heat, which made it actually enjoyable to have my mouth on fire.  Luckily, the eggs were in this creamy sauce which made them a perfect pairing to the Fires-of Hell (yet astoundingly delicious) dubokki.

After the meal, I had everyone sit for a shot.  Our guide and our resident translator both look so.... Korean...    

Look, I processed it!  I think it looks a little better than the original.
And those are some of the lovely restaurants in Songdo.  We visited a place where you could eat unlimited meat on the Korean barbecue for a pretty low price, but sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  We had gone after work for my roommate's birthday, but we may go again.  If we do, it'll show up on this blog!  Next up, some Seoul food!  Sorry, couldn't resist...

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