UPDATE: This Saturday night only (June 4th), check out the night dining tour for a discount if you're an expat teacher. Contact Daniel Gray at seouleats at gmail dot com or 010-6661-7769.
I recently had the chance to enjoy enough Korean food in one night to fill me up for a couple of days. The event, a nighttime dining tour, is a new service offered by Daniel Gray (the man behind Seoul Eats) and the O'ngo Communications Company. While not really interested in feeling like a tourist in Korea after all my travels, the combination of good food and a very knowledgeable English-speaking tour guide is hard to resist.
Just one of the interesting sights in the market.
The group met near Jongno-5-ga, not far from Gwangjang Market. Once the group was complete, Daniel started right up, explaining different foods while walking around the market and answering people's questions. The group, an eclectic mix of Asians, the Lady in Red, and myself, made their way through a significant portion of the market, eliciting stares as we went. Daniel has led this tour "ten times in the last month", and doesn't seem tired of the stares or the walking.
After walking down a raw food alley, we walked to the next leg of our tour, a 갈매기살 (galmaegisal) restaurant in Jongno-3-ga. Galmaegisal, as Daniel explained, is from the pig's diaphragm, and tastes more like beef. It's not nearly as fatty as pork belly, and is wrapped in lettuce with mushrooms, onions, or sauce. I don't claim to be a food connisseour, but there is a distinct difference in the texture - a nice change from more fatty meats. A final course of pig's skin seemed a bit exotic, but wasn't offensive; once cooked, it looked much as the meat did.
A nighttime tour of food in Korea wouldn't be complete without alcohol. When he wasn't turning meat on two tables or keeping up conversation, Daniel showed us a concoction involving beer, soju, and Coke - "drink it slowly!" Daniel explained. The drink, 호징가매 (ho-jing-ga-mae), translates to 'the sweet after the bitter' - but you'll have to watch him make it for the full show.
As expected, it paired nicely with the first course of kimchi and warm steamed tofu. The pajeon (Korean-style pancake; not pictured) that came later was a welcome addition; neither overpowering or understated.
The last stop was a tent restaurant, the sort that dot Korean sidewalks orange after-hours. The Lady in Red and I needed to catch the subway home, so we had to skip out before enjoying this last course.
My only critique of the evening was the quantity - there's far too much Korean food to experience in one evening and three restaurants. That almost everyone stuffed themselves on 갈매기살 left little room for the remaining courses. If you have limited time in the country, this tour will give you plenty, while whetting your appetite for more. Daniel is an excellent tour guide, though I couldn't help but feel somewhat rushed when going from one place to another. It also would have been rather awkward to stop and look at something interesting - and find the tour has left you behind.
Dan's knowledge of Korean food is second to none. When he wasn't explaining what a food was or offering a sauce recipe from memory, he was explaining some element of Korean culture or history to the group. While this tour has been designed for foreign visitors to Korea, expat teachers are more than welcome to join the group. If interested in daytime market tours or taking cooking classes, those are available as well. Go to ongofood.com to learn more about all the tours and classes available, or look at the calendar for what's coming up.
Disclosure: Chris in South Korea received a press pass for the dining tour, while the Lady in Red received a discount off of the usual fare.
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