After a day of site seeing at a historic national park and museum, we looked around on the way back for a place to eat. It was looking like most places weren’t open until closer to dinner time (It was 2pm). We found a place empty, small, but open……and it looked like it had pictures of the menu items we could point too! As it turned out, we were basically about to jump into the deep end of the pool from a food and cultural point. It was a traditional Korean dining establishment where you sat on the floor. The woman who greeted us knew not one word of English, and the three of us combined could barely say “hello” and “thank you” in Korean. This will be interesting!
There were some pictures on the wall with prices. I started there. One dish just looked good, so I pointed to it. She nodded in understanding. The other two crew guys with me chose the same pork belly dish. We knew that by pointing our phones at it using Google Translate. We are engineers, after all. So she sat us down at the table. Ramon, part of the crew, Googled Korean dining traditions. We used this while we ate. First up. She served us a bottle of water and cups. Tradition is you pour water for others, then let one if them pour for you. The eldest starts to eat first. (That was me, to which I have mixed feelings about). She presented what was the dish I ordered. In the center of table. I moved it to me. We then found out this was to be a shared food experience. We also realized that each of us ordering a dish would be a lot of food!
Then out came three bowls of rice, and about ten little dishes of different things: seaweed, noodles, kimchi, etc. And then a hot plate at the table with the dish my coworkers ordered. She served some in a bowl to each of us. It had a slab of tofu, and I think pork and kimchi? It was really good. Marc suspected that she toned down the spiciness for us, as we both had kimchi at the dining hall that was super hot. We were all very confused as to how to eat this meal, and judging by the look of horror on the owner’s face with her coming over to try to mime to us–yeah we were pretty naive to it. I think we slowly—very slowly started to catch on. We think.
Meal was over, and we paid we think a total of about $30US for this whole meal! We took turns using our phones to translate “we loved the meal,” “thank you,” etc. She lit up with a big smile saying thank you. She was very nice in what had to be very frustrating. We dove into the deep end of Korean food culture for sure, and loved it.