Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Korean Food: Love or Hate?

There was a webinar on food and eating culture in Korea yesterday, which I unfortunately missed because I couldn't log in. In its place I decided to browse videos on Korean culture, particularly ones made by teachers. Then, I decided to search for thread topics on Waygook.org discussing food.

Which brings me to my blog topic for today.

I came across this interesting forum topic here, which had people discussing how they felt about Korean food. More specifically, they were ranking its level of deliciousness in comparison to other countries' foods.

Now, I wouldn't say that one countries' dishes are better than another, simply because they are very different areas of he world, with different ingredients available to them. If you're comparing how they prepare the same dish across countries, then fine, but saying one countries' food is better than another is like saying apples are better than oranges -- it's your opinion, not fact.

What really got my blood boiling was how vicious some people on the forum could be in terms of expressing how much they disliked or down-right hated Korean food. First, I want to note that pretty much everyone on Waygook.org, as far as I know, came to Korea to work as teachers for at least a year. They knew that Korea meant Korean food, and yet they act almost as if they were tricked.

What? Korean food? I thought I was going to get NORMAL food. What is this soybean stuff and pepper paste all over my meat and vegetables? 

Going through this forum thread alone, keywords that pop up are: disgusting, puke, dog meat, bland, not spicy...
While some Koreans do eat actual dog meat, not everyone does. And they definitely don't eat it like this.

A number of people on this thread are under the impression that if you do love Korean food you need to expand your food experience, have an emotional attachment or have deluded yourself into liking it because it's either below average or simply disgusting to them.

I admit that I haven't had a chance to try a large variety of world cuisines, and I'm still working my way through Korean dishes, but I actually do like Korean food.

*gasp* You uncultured, numb-tongued woman!

I admit, there are some dishes I like more than others, but most countries have dishes that you are going to like and some you don't. Don't write off a whole country's food simply because of some bad experiences. It might just be that one dish or that one restaurant. And, you definitely should not base your opinion of all Korean food off of what you get in a Korean school's cafeteria -- actually, don't base your opinion of any country's food off of what you eat in a cafeteria.

Now, there is something I find questionable about Korean food culture, and that's the Koreanization of food from other countries. Pizza, hamburgers and burritos particularly come up in North American bloggers' rants or videos. I have heard and seen some horrible things about the Korean versions of some of these. Pickles in the burritos, sickenly sweet hamburgers, corn kernels in the pizza (okay, not so bad), and weird sweet cream cheese layering in meat pizzas. This makes you want to stay away from food that looks familiar.

It's a trap! 
This might be a picture of the pizza monstrosity I wish to avoid...
I intend to eat plenty of Korean food while I'm in Korea. I don't mind occasionally ordering a dish and then finding out I made a horrible, horrible mistake. So long as that mistake isn't food poisoning, I will boldly journey forward... unless it's still alive on my plate, or brains. Okay, so there are some things I won't be trying no matter how open-minded I decide to be.

Any questions, comments? Leave in the comments, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can or make a blog post to answer. 

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