{Travel} Chapter 3 Seoul: Food for the soul

Banana milk and milk coffee to start our third day in Korea. It was going to be a long day as we were driving to Sokcho in Seoraksan, up in the mountains, for the weekend.

I absolutely dig the rest stops along the way with their massive food courts and the availability of snacks aplenty. The Deli Manju were cute bite-sized custard-filled soft pillows that ooze creamy custard at every bite. There was chewy and pungent barbequed squid, keeping our teeth busy for the rest of the journey.

For lunch, we visited the Wood House Restaurant along the way. The place was reportedly famous for its use of herbs from the surrounding forests. Rows and shelves of bottled mushrooms and ginseng, dried fish and sacks of pepper greeted us upon arrival. The place was packed to the brim and having made reservations beforehand, we were given the private dining area. Coolness.

Immediately after we were seated, the banchan – side dishes – started to arrive and I have to admit I lost track of their names. The single most memorable side dish was the white kimchi, devoid of pepper flakes and fish sauce, the kimchi was instead made with korean pear, cabbage and served with ice. The sourness came from fermentation. It was crisp and refreshing, a great appetizer to a huge meal ahead.

There were more pickled herbs and radish. Don’t ask me their names, they got lost in translation. If you ever visit this place, fear not though as they have newspaper clipping pictures of the whole feast stuck on the wall. Just indicate that you would like the entire set.

The dried pollack in gochujang – chili paste – tasted nothing like dried fish. Instead, it was succulent and just a little bit chewy. The sauce provided just the right amount of bite and heat to the dish. Thumbs up!

Next came an impressive platter of forest herbs and vegetables, meant to be eaten with rice. The green chili pickle was a fierce burn and the acorn jelly was bland but interesting.

We were given what I suspiciously think was raspberry wine along with the meal. Sweet and slightly bitter, I could not figure out what it was if not alcohol.

Rice in a stone bowl was served and we were urged to empty the rice into a separate plate and pour boiling water into the stone pot. The remaining bits of rice stuck to the pot could then be mixed with the water to be eaten as rice porridge. An ingenious idea! The steaming bowl of doenjang jjigae – bean paste soup – was savoury and satisfying for winter.

Of course, we had to roll ourselves out the door again this time and this time, we trekked down towards a nearby natural spring well to take a sip of the sweet water.

Oh what a day but wait, Day 4 in Korea would be the most exciting yet! Fishing boat cruise in Sokcho!