World Cup of Food #5: Korean BBQ

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World Cup of Food

A few years on a visit to Seoul, I found myself stuck. It was my first trip to east Asia, and I was riding around on public transport to meet with a friend when I hit the trifecta of travel panic: I tried to use my bank cards and they got blocked; my European phone didn’t work on Korea’s networks; and I couldn’t read hangul. My resources were zero and there was little way to get my bearings. It was entirely confusing… and also a thrill.

There are those moments in life when you are so completely out of water that you just have to immerse yourself in it. There are no options but to give in, let it take over. I had a safety net: I knew where my hotel was, and I had enough city geography to know roughly where I was. But I was stuck, gasping for air. So I just let the universe wash over me. I found my way. I asked for help. I got to where I needed.

I’m not sure if that trip was the first time I ate Korean food, but it was still a revelation to eat my way through the grilled meats, the banchan, the bibimbap. I love pickled and fermented vegetables; if I ate nothing but rice I would be pretty happy. So what I’m saying: Korean food is all the good stuff. 

I got pretty sick over Thanksgiving (did you spot the medicinal drink when I was noshing on Polish food?), so we took the easy option for this one and ate from Purple Rice, one of our neighborhood go-tos. It used to be called Stone Bowl, also Korean, and I don’t actually know if it’s the same owners and a new lick of paint, or a different place entirely. There’s plenty of good Korean food around the city, and this one is a little expensive for what you get, but it’s solid and simple. I wish their wings were nicer. I had barbecued short ribs, rice, banchan, kimchi pancakes. I let it wash over me. Delicious.

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