As a Hispanic, I understood that finding ingredients and Mexican restaurants may be next to impossible, but color me surprised when I found out there are in fact few Mexican, Cuban and Spanish-style restaurants. I wouldn’t call them authentic Spanish food, but they tried. After a month in South Korea, one would begin to feel homesick, especially when your usual cuisine is a major minority.
In an effort to combat that, I took it upon myself to research and ask around where I might find some uncommon ingredients to the Korean peninsula. The result? I managed to hear about a city called Itaewon which is known for its Foreign food markets and its more diverse population of foreigners. It’s foreigner central. I swear the atmosphere is different there and it honestly felt like home just being able to see such diverse people and cuisine. Unfortunately, as Tomatillos are not native to this part of the world, I, unfortunately, could not make my Abuela’s salsa verde. But I triumphed in finding corn tortillas, taco seasoning, and a few American candies that are hard to come by unless ordered internationally.
Things were looking up, I took it upon myself to also buy some halal beef and some non-sticky white rice and cook for my five roommates. Most of which have never had anything close to authentic Spanish cuisine. All from different parts of the world, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, and Malaysia. I made some Tostadas with Mexican rice to compliment it. Of course layered with all the usual toppings, tomato, chillis, lettuce, etc. They were a big hit and I will definitely be making them again in the future.
One thing I did not expect to be hard to quire was nonsticky white rice, I am honestly still confused about what it is called here because there are many varieties of rice here, just all in different sticky forms and colors. As Mexican rice is not traditionally sticky, I was disheartened to find I would have to travel 45 minutes out of my way just to find an ingredient that I believed would be commonplace.
Now as I am in South Korea, I obviously did not come here for their Mexican food. I have many occasions endeavored to try traditional Korean cuisine. One of my favorites being Korean BQQ or just marinated grilled meat in general. I especially like the cook-it-yourself aspect. If I want my food well done, then so be it. Your choice of meat is usually coupled with many side dishes or 반찬 (Banchan). which can consist of lettuce wraps, garlic, kimchi, pickled radish, some type of traditional soup (It varies), and when you ask for it sticky rice. The rice shown in the second picture is purple in color and mixed with several grains, its name is 흑미밥 (heukmi bap), which literally translates to black rice. This rice is said to be healthier than white rice due to antioxidants, which are great for keeping your heart healthy and some say helps lower the risk of cancer.
All in all, I am excited to cook many more homemade dishes for my roommates and very willing to try more delicious Korean cuisine.