June 3, 2008 Author: Beth Salerno
During my stay here, I have occasionally tried Korea’s version of western food. It is never quite what I’m expecting. Here are a few brief examples of not quite getting what you expect:
1) Koreans do not usually eat cereal for breakfast so the selections in the local market were limited: Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, and Bran flakes - in Green Tea flavor.
2) Lotteria is the Korean McDonald’s. Like western “burger and fries” restaurants, it serves a variety of hamburgers, including some very Korean items like bulgogi burger (marinated beef) and hanwoo burger (using Korean beef). But the regular, ordinary hamburger looks just like its U.S. counterpart except for one detail. Unless you specify, it will come with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise AND steak sauce.
3) Pizza is very popular in Korea, especially with young people. At my local pizza chain, the basic standard pizza is about $5.00 per pie. It comes with a crisp crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and…canned corn. At the local Pizza Hut, you can get “Cheese Bite” pizza for about $20. It comes with with spiced chicken and white and brown sauce.
4) Two students thought I might be missing U.S. food so they took me out for spaghetti and sauce. The bowls were huge, the spaghetti perfectly cooked “al dente” and the sauce bright red with chunks of vegetables. It was also achingly sweet and bitingly hot. Clearly sugar and hot pepper paste rivaled the tomatoes as main ingredient!
5) Shaved ice with fruit is a favorite Korean summer treat. Slowly, frozen yogurt is becoming equally popular and one frozen yogurt chain, Red Mango, has now opened branches in California. That chain’s basic “fruit and yogurt” is a mound of frozen yogurt (more tart than in the U.S.) covered with fresh fruit and fruit in syrup. Very much like home. Today I went to a local Pyeongtaek dessert place for “fruit and yogurt”. When my bowl arrived, I so wished I had my camera with me. Picture please: One large bowl with shaved ice, covered in purple syrup. Then a layer of corn flakes and fruit loops. Then three towering twists of vanilla frozen yogurt, studded with banana slices, kiwi, apple and pear. Topped with - cherry tomatoes. It was served with two free slices of white toast - with whipped cream.
After these items, “fusion” restaurants take on a whole new meaning (smile).