There is no better place for an introduction to traditional
Korean cuisine, architecture and folklore than at Seoul’s Korea
House, a restaurant and theater housed in a traditional wooden
structure. Guests indulge in an almost endless dinner sampling what
seems to be every type of kimchi ever invented and then adjourn to
the intimate theater for a beautiful Korean folk dance and opera
Individuals and groups can join daytime classes in the art of
making kimchi, starting with Tongbaechu Kimchi, the classic kimchi
made with Chinese cabbage and served at almost every Korean meal.
The most common preparation for this dish begins with sliced
cabbage which is salted, set aside for several hours, then rinsed
and bathed in spices, onion, radish and fish sauce.
It’s believed that kimchi was born in Korea around the 7th
century as a salted and preserved vegetable. The name kimchi itself
is thought to derive from shimchae (salting of vegetables). Because
of the Korean Peninsula’s cold winters, vegetable cultivation was
practically impossible, which led to the development of pickling as
a storage method.
At the Korea House and most Korean restaurants, all dishes are
served at the same time. Traditionally, the number of side dishes
varied from three for the lower classes to 12 for royal families.
At the Korea House, we were treated like royalty.
For those who haven’t had their fill of kimchi after a night at
the Korea House or by the kimchi served at every Korean meal as
well as every hotel breakfast buffet, the 2006 Gwangju Kimchi
Festival will be held Nov. 16-20.
In addition to kimchi, other traditional Korean foods include
gui, broiled/barbecued meat dishes, like bulgogi and galbi; bap, a
rice dish often made with barley, beans, chestnuts or millet; or
jjigae, a spicy stew made from fermented soybean paste served in a
heated stone bowl. Namul combines vegetables or wild greens mixed
with spices, while jeon is made from mushrooms, pumpkin, dried fish
and oysters dipped in flour and egg and fried in oil. If you’re
offered a sundae, be aware, there’s no ice cream in the Korean
version. It’s a sausage stuffed with vegetables, potatoes and
After a night of tradition at the venerable Korea House,
21st-century Seoul offers epicureans and trendsetters plenty of
world-class options. For classic Korean cuisine served in a stylish
environment, Petit Seasons and Grill H are on the top of the list
for steak and Korean barbecue. An English directory of restaurants
and bars is available in most hotels. “Bars 29+1 Seoul” lists 30
cool eateries and drinkeries ranging from Park, billed as an Asian
cuisine lounge, to Marrakech, for a North African atmosphere, and
Xian, a hip French-Asian restaurant and tapas lounge. For an
incredible view from an incredible restaurant, Schoenbrunn on the
35th floor of the Lotte Hotel in the heart of Seoul is a guaranteed
night to remember.
Traditional or trendy, Seoul offers some of the best, and at
times spiciest, food and drink on the planet.
Korean National Tourism
Korea Tourism Organization
Los Angeles office
323-634-0280, ext. 224
Lotte Hotel Seoul
Schoenbrunn Continental Restaurant Reservations