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If You Find Yourself in a Small Town in Korea, How Can You Find Something Good To Eat?

I was asked a question similar to this in my in box, but with the actually named the small town. The truth is, there is one simple rule to finding something good to eat in S. Korea, and I will also tell you what kinds of things you can find there, so you will know what you are looking at.

You can find small restaurants on streets like this, but not one of the mega stores with a food court, a grocery store, and a department store like E-Mart, Lotte Mart, and Homeplus.//Photo by Ethan Brooke on Pexels.com

The simple rule to finding a good place to eat whether you are in a small town or a big one in Korea is look for one of the big stores: E-Mart, Lotte Mart, or Homeplus. In a place like that, you will find a food court. Korean food courts are really good and affordable. In every small town, you can find one or maybe more of these kinds of stores. If you want to ask where the food court is, it is easy because they use the English word for Food court and just mispronounce it a bit. The don’t have an “f” in Korean, so they may say “pood” instead of “food.”

You can also find American fast food places at times in these Korean Food Courts.//Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

You will find all kinds of different kinds of restaurants at the food court. You will also find a glass case with models of all the food that is served there. Usually, the price is beside the model. Sometimes you order directly from the restaurant counter, and sometimes there is a lady sitting at a cash register where you have to give her the number that is beside the food model, and she sends the order in for you, and you pay her. Usually, if they have a Burger King, McDonald’s , Popeye’s or some place like that, you will order directly at the restaurant.

Sengkatsu is battered, deep fat fried fish, and it is good.///Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

In the glass case, the kinds of models you will see are things like tonkatsu, sengkatsu, omu rice, doc mandu gooksoo, etc. Those are the dishes you would probably like. Sometimes beside the tonkatsu, they have written “yetnal” that simple means it is the kind they have been eating forever. Tonkatsu is battered and deep fat fried pork cutlet usually with a sauce on it, and it is very good. Along with it, they will probably serve rice, a small bowl of soup, a salad, and kimchee or yellow pickles. The tonkatsu is very good, and foreigners usually really like it. The Koreans consider it so mild that the kids would like it. The yellow pickles are delicious. The salad is usually cabbage and will have salad dressing on it, and each place uses a different kind of salad dressing. Some put Sesame dressing. Some put Thousand Island dressing. Sengkatsu is the same thing as tonkatsu only it is battered deep fat fried fish, and it is good.

If you go to a Korean coffee shop, you can find cheese cake and other nice deserts.///Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

If you go for omu rice, it is red rice inside a large omelet. I know many foreigners who like this. I knew a guy who used to order it almost everyday. I actually really like the doc mandoo gooksoo. Doc mandoo gooksoo is soup. It may have pieces of roast beef floating in the soup. It also has mandoo. The Koreans will tell you mandoo are dumplings, but they aren’t. They are like a stuffed noodle when they are in the soup. Inside, you will find ground pork, soy sauce, green onions, and small bits of rice noodles. The doc are rice cakes. There are no sugar in them. Rice has been ground into flour, then they use water and form it into cakes, and they are floating in doc mandoo gooksoo. Gooksoo simply means soup.

This is curried rice. You might also find this at the food courts. The curry might be slightly spicy, but it is downright delicious!//Photo by Buenosia Carol on Pexels.com

You can also find just mandoo at these food courts. Sometimes the mandoo has been steamed, and sometimes it has been fried. When I order this, I always ordered an extra bowl of rice on the side because it doesn’t come with rice. However, mandoo is very good.

If you order the mandoo, you may also want to order an extra bowl of rice to go with it. This isn’t Korean food. I only put it there for the bowl of rice.//Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

There will be models of other things there. Be careful of the things that are too red, and be careful of the kimchee. The Koreans are very proud of their kimchee, but it may be a shock to you when you first try it. Kimchee is sour cabbage doused big time in chili pepper and garlic. They overdo it on the chili pepper, so be careful. I was at a food court with a Korean friend once, and he ordered a soup that was completely red with chili pepper, and while he was eating, it was so spicy that he turned red in the face and began sweating from so many spices. I learned to avoid the stuff that had so much chili powder for my stomach’s sake. However, when my son came, he thought trying all the overly spicy dishes was part of the fun of Korea, but I had to live there everyday, and I couldn’t be hurting my stomach everyday just for adventure or I would be sick all the time.

If you eat Songeopsal, it is either beef or pork that you cook at the table on the grill yourself. You then wrap it up in a piece of lettuce and add either garlic or a sauce to it to eat it. They bring the raw meat to the table, and you cut it into smaller pices with a pair of scissors and cook it the way you want it cooked.//Photo by Matheus Gomes on Pexels.com

There are other kinds of restaurants too. Often, you can find small restaurants that serve the tonkatsu or mandoo. I used to go to a small restaurant chain often called Tomato. It had the tonkatsu and the omu rice among other things. You can find the Tomato restaurants in many places, but I am not really sure how widespread they are, but you can find either E-Mart, Lotte Mart, or Homeplus in every town, so you will be able to go to the food court and choose what kind of food you want. Sometimes there are other kinds of restaurants outside the food court in those places too. Some of them have Shabu Shabu places or Songyeopsal. Both are good. With Shabu Shabu, you cook your own meat and vegetables in a big pot in the middle of the table, and with Songyeopsal, you cook your meat on a grill that is on the table. If you see a restaurant with chimneys over the table, you know it is Songyeopsal. Both Shabu Shabu and Songyeopsal are really worth eating. They are a bit more expensive than the food court type foods. Another thing you can find in every town, even small towns, is Baskin Robbins if you want ice cream. Baskin Robbins may also be in the food courts. If you go to the grocery store section of those big stores, you may also find what the Koreans call twigum, but the Japanese call tempura which is delicious battered deep fat friend shrimp and vegetables. You can also find pizza.

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