Sunday, June 5

Crazy for Korean Cuisine

Captivated by the Flavors of Korea

I have grown such fondness and affinity for food over the years. I was such a lanky child that everyone would think I was sick all the time. I was thin, not because I had a chronic illness or because I wasn't fed enough (believe me I was), but due to my hypersonic metabolism I was able to consume a high caloric diet without even gaining weight! Those were the days. Now, I eat a  grain of rice and I gain a few pounds!

I was always adventurous when it comes to food. I wouldn't say that I've tried everything. There are still some  cuisines and exotic dishes I am curious about. Food has only two categories for me, those that I have eaten and those that I have plans of eating. However, through my entire existence, I've had a few favorite cuisines and one of which is Korean food.

One's first impression on Korean food is that its all chili and spice, but they dont realize that it's all about balance and everything nice. A typical Korean meal is composed of a little bit of red, a little bit of brown, green and white. Hence the unlimited "Banchan" or side dishes.

Due to the influx of Korean tourists in the Philippines, Cebu in particular, the number of Korean restaurants in the city doubled in number. A few years ago, some people wouldn't even know what Samgyupsal (삼겹살) is and now most Cebuanos can't get enough of it. Korean restaurants and coffee shops have been popping up in the city and growing like mushrooms. Blame it all on the Hallyu craze. If you watch k-dramas, you would know. But there's so much more to the cuisine than thinly sliced pork belly grilled to perfection.

Here's a list of other specialties that can be found in Cebu:

1. Topokki / Deukbokki (떡볶이)
 Rice cakes cooked in spicy korean pepper paste/powder and sugar. I prefer to top this with lots of cheese.

2. Soondae (순대)
Korean blood sausage. I didnt really like it at first because my imagination got the best of me. After a few blinks, I realized that I eat dinuguan (blood stew) which has even more pig's blood than this one. I loved this the second time I ate it. You dip it in salt with pepper powder and sesame seeds. Best paired with Toppokki.

3. Mandu (만두)
The korean version of dumplings or siomai. It's tastier than your usual siomai sa tisa. Dip it in soysauce with sesame oil or just eat it as is. yummmm!

4. Korean Fried Chicken (KFC)
In my opinion, the best chicken ever! I cook this at home and its definitely delish! Deep fried chicken (double fried) and topped with sweet and spicy sauce (yangyam sauce), soy garlic, or just the classic chicken. BEST with BEER! (say hello to calories)

5. Jjampong
The original Jjampong made from scratch, not the ones from Lucky Me is a spicy noodle soup with mixed seafood and a flavorful broth. If its not spicy enough for you and you feel like you can handle a bit more spice, you can add a drop of capsicin, an oil extract of the hottest chili you can ever imagine.

6. Jjajangmyeon
Stir fried noodles in black bean sauce. Again, it wasn't a favorite at first. I suppose it was because of the color, but I guess the third time's a charm. It took me a long time but I've grown fond of this dish after a few tries. Best paired with pickles (tamuji) to counter the oily texture of the dish.

7. Guksu
Guksu is a noodle dish that could be eaten hot or cold. I usually have the cold guksu during summer and hot guksu when it's raining. This is also tradionally a dish that they serve during weddings. If you like it spicy, you might want to try the Bibimguksu. Its a cold noodle with red pepper paste and other spices.

8. Makchang
If you live ginabot, then you'll like this one. Beef or Pork intestines that you can cook in the grill much like samgyupsal. Best paired with... chan.. chan ... chan. SOJU!

9. Gukbap
Rice porridge. Its more like a soup that could either be beef, pork, soondae, or pork innards boiled until flavorful and then you can mix it with rice. Think pochero with rice.

10. Korean Stew (Yukgaejang/ Kimchi Jjigae / Doenjang jjigae)
There's something enticing about a soup served in a stone or clay pot. Aside from the usual kimchi or bean paste stew, you should also try the spicy Korean version of pochero. Yukgaejang is a spicy beef soup with lots of vegetables and is also best for hangovers. If you love seafood, you should definitely try Haemultang, a mixed seafood stew that's sooo good, you'd want to eat the whole bowl!

11. Korean Sashimi
Unlike the Japanese version, korean sashimi is usally dipped in a red pepper paste mix with garlic and leeks and eaten as is or wrapped with perilla leaves. yummm!

I still have a lot more to add to this list. I might post a second part in the next couple of weeks. Until then, I hope you open your eyes to the different k-food options available in town. Be adventurous and who knows, you might turn out to be a K-food addict like me.

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잘 먹고 ~~~ Eat Well!

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