My Family's First taste of Korean Food.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

우리 가족을 한식은 처음 먹었어다


Mini Korean lesson before we start!!

우리 ~ My/Our
가족 ~ Family
한식 which is the short form of 한국 음식 ~ Korean Food
처음 ~ First time

I have been interested in the Korean culture for about two years now. It all started when a friend recommended the drama 'Boys Over Flowers' as a sort of "break" after a long study session. It was a nice distraction and the start of my love affair with Korea. My family eventually caught on to my love for Korea, well I guess it was pretty obvious because I couldn't shut up about it. Coming from Nigeria where there isn't that much Korean presence, my family wondered at how I ended with such fascination for this country. But they eventually got used to it.

I had always told them about Korean food but they never got to try it because you can't find Korean food in Nigeria. My mum however went on a business trip to Ethiopia and was delighted to come across a Korean restaurant, she then told her colleagues about my interest in Korea and suggested they have dinner at the restaurant. Unfortunately she didn't know the name of the dishes they were served because the waiter recommended it­— well except for the BBQ which by the way was served with lettuce, but they didn't know you were supposed to wrap the meat in the leaves so they left the leaves untouched ­— but they liked it.  Most Africans like 매운 음식 (Spicy Food) so there was no complain with that. I told my mum that I will take her to a Korean restaurant when they come to London so she could try my favourite dishes ­— and maybe know what she ate this time around.

Mum was hooked, time to work on the rest of the Family. 

My birthday was a few weeks ago, my only wish was that I wanted my family to go to a Korean restaurant to celebrate my birthday. Luckily my family was in London, I knew it was a rare opportunity to have them try out all the food for themselves rather than having to hear me gush about it. I decided on Kimchee restaurant because it was reviewed as a fusion Korean restaurant. I thought it will be more suitable for their palate and help to ease them into the Hansik flavour.



The first thing we noticed when we walked into the restaurant was this spectacular wall covered in Hangul
characters, in this traditional setting served as a waiting area. It was impressive and a good showcase of Korean uniqueness. We had to wait for a table so we sat there, my curious little brother immediately asked about the wall to which I told him it was Hangul characters which is the alphabet of the Korean Language created by a man called Sejong the Great who was a King. I pointed out the clay pots in the corner and told them how it is used for storing fermented food and it is a huge part of Korean Cuisine.

The restaurant was decorated in contemporary setting with a traditional element added to it. We were ushered to our table and immediately ordered— having looked at the menu whilst waiting. My dad loves tea so he was curious to try Korean tea. It was served in this traditional tea set and that made the whole experience special and unique. I told my dad how there is a ceremony in the Korean tradition dedicated to Tea. It really felt like opportunities to tell them about Korea were just presenting itself.




We ordered 김치~Kimchi and 깍두기~Radish kimchi, it was not a hit with them but surprisingly 김치전~Kimchijeon which is Kimchi Pancake was liked by everyone. I think this might be because the other ingredients in this dish made the strong kimchi taste subtle. Kimchi can be a bit overpowering and can be said to be an acquired taste. I ordered 잡채~Japchae — A personal favourite as well which sadly wasn't a favourite of everyone, although this wasn't the best tasting Japchae I've had.


 

 A staple Korean food and a must have for every first-timer is of course 비빔밥~Bibimbap especially the 돌솥비빔밥~'Stone Pot' Bibimbap, you can never go wrong with this and I was right. They even liked the crusty bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pot which by the way I recently found out—From Maangchi, the Ahjumma Chef on Youtube it's called 누룽지~Nurungji. We had Udon as well which is technically Japanese— Fusion restaurant remember?—there was nothing left on their plates so I guess that doesn't need explaining. Oh and if anyone from Kimchee is reading this, my brother liked the fact that his food was decorated with flowers—at least we thought that was what the Udon was garnished with.




The biggest hit of the meal was 고기구이~Korean BBQ, It was so good that we ordered more helpings. Traditionally you eat BBQ with the meat wrapped in a lettuce leave, but we ended up creating our own fusion meal by mixing the BBQ meat in our other dishes. My brother—who is a picky eater—approved of this and even after the meal he wanted more, good to know for future reference. We have an equivalent to this in my country known as Suya, and he has always been a fan so I guess it was only right for him to like the BBQ.


My Mum and I had 된장 찌개~Soybean Paste Stew, it was our first time. The stew was the spiciest korean food I have ever had and it was very delicious. Most of the food we ordered had a slightly similar dish from my country, except for this stew. It was different and we liked it, especially because it was extra spicy.

Chopsticks are definitely not something you see everyday in Nigeria. I think it is an Asian utensil. So my little brothers were excited about using them, they both struggled but were determined  to have the full Korean experience. After a lot of failed attempts this brother decided to turn into Edward Scissorhands— or rather Chopstickshand.

 
 In the end I had a 대박~Awesome birthday because I was sharing something I loved with the people I love and they thought it was a good experience. It was a tad bit difficult to convince everyone to try out Korean food—picky eaters weren't eager—but they agreed to try it out. Although not everything was liked by everyone, it was generally okay. And a future visit to a korean restaurant was unanimously agreed upon. We were all smiles at the end, this is me smiling below with my mum's hand photo bombing—She is attempting the Asian peace sign by the way, its backwards Mum!

                                    

This started out as a chance to introduce my family to Korean food but it ended up with me sharing and teaching my family about Korea and it's culture. Each dish had a uniqueness to it and I gave them some information on each one. I was happy to see them show interest in something I loved. I taught my brothers 안녕하세요~Hello and 감사합니다~Thank you, they can say it perfectly and use it at every opportunity. Oh and because I use 오모~Oh My a lot, they have picked up on that as well.

 
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