Just the other week I declared I had eaten the best meal of my stay in Beijing. Well, now I have had my second best meal here and it wasn’t even Chinese food! My love for Korean food, drink and culture began in 2006 when I moved to South Korea to work as an ESL Teacher. Sure, for the first week there I basically starved because I couldn’t use the metal chopsticks and the food everyone else ordered for me turned out to be full of shellfish or meat. But since then, I have mastered every type of chopstick and learned which Korean foods are for me. I have also enjoyed many a bottle of Soju (Korean alcohol) and memorised all there is too know about Korean eating and drinking etiquette. I have sought out Korean food in many different countries and, even in London (where I lived nowhere near a Korean restaurant), I would often eat it at least once a week.
When some friends in Beijing decided to organise a trip to a Korean restaurant this past Friday, I couldn’t have been more excited! After a long week at work, we headed to Wangjing, an area in Beijing where many Koreans live. Spotting a Lotte Mart, Justin and wondered if it was like Lotte Mart in Korea or if it would be the same as the Chinese Carrefour (nothing French inside at all). As we passed shops with signs in Hangul (Korean script) I practised reading them “Ma, sar, jee…oh Massageee..massage!”
We arrived at the restaurant and were shown to a private room. Even though I love living in Beijing, Korea will always be my original Asian home and I was thrilled with the setup. We had a long, low table with ‘fake chairs’ and hidden leg space under the table. This gives the illusion of sitting traditional style on the floor but without the leg cramp!
The menus were an odd mix of English and Chinese in the food section and Chinese and Korean script in the drinks section. Luckily, Justin and I were able to find the Soju and the Hite beer in Hangul. Our waitress was Chinese so I nearly blew my own mind by trying to order Korean food in Mandarin. Luckily we had Chinese friends to help us out!
In wasn’t long before our little group (a great mix of British, American, French and Chinese people all living in Beijing) were indulging in some amazing Korean food. Our table was full of veggie side dishes, barbecued meat and all the accompaniments, delicious vegetable dolsot bibimbap (for Justin and I) and of course, Kimchi. Yes, I even love kimchi now. Despite some of my fellow diners initial uncertainty, the bottles of soju went down rather too well. I won’t even reveal how many we drank in the end. Of course, I drank soju many times in Korea but I did feel a bit sorry for the unsuspecting friends who had never had it before and were encouraged by the shouts of “One Shot”.
Justin and I even had a new Korean drinking experience. One of our Chinese friends introduced us to the concept of adding pommegranate to soju. It comes in small bottles and you literally pour it into the bottle of soju before serving. I don’t know how we’ve never had this before. Delicious!
I enjoyed our Korean night in Beijing so much. It was the perfect way to blend together my old and my new Asian homes! Cheers!