There comes a point where you can’t even look at another kimbap.
I like convenience store kimbaps (cooked rice rolled in dried sheets of seaweed). Since arriving in Seoul five days ago I’ve tried nearly every flavor (tuna kimchi tops them all). But its come to the point where I can’t even look at another one.
Rather than gorge on kimbap, I should have been exploring Seoul’s restaurants, but a few things have held me back: still mentally spending Thai baht after 2 recent months in Bangkok, scarcity of English menus and a culture of group eating here that is a little intimidating to the solo traveler.
Today however, I overcame my worries and finally sat down to an authentic Korean meal. For anyone who finds themself in a similar situation, or is just curious about Korean food, here’s a light-hearted guide to escaping the rice roll rut.
Arm yourself with food and restaurant suggestions from a friendly local. (Helpful – if not slightly overwhelming – food map below supplied by the lovely Jiyoon at JJ Guesthouse in Sindorim).
Wander down to your nearest high street or shopping complex, peer through different restaurant windows and be lured in by whatever looks/smells good.
Well done, you made it inside a restaurant! Now gaze at the menu boards, pretending to read Korean and feeling the stares from staff and customers. Ok, it’s time to ask if they have an English menu. The staff don’t speak English. Stay calm and resolve to complete the mission.
Be surprised when an off-duty Korean Air flight attendant in pink baseball cap appears at your side and helps explain the menu board. Gratefully accept her recommendation of Bulgogi, a stew of grilled, marinated beef, mushrooms and other vegetables.
Take your seat and eagerly await your meal. Tip: Don’t wait to be given chopsticks and other utensils – they’re located in a drawer at one side of the table!
Congratulations! You’ve just had your first Korean meal! There’s no stopping you now.