It’s fitting that a country so obsessed with kimchi would have a museum devoted to it. On one of our last days in Seoul Jacob and I took the subway to the COEX Mall, which housed the Kimchi Field Museum in the basement.
The place was rather small, but included a small tasting room and the standard “history of” and “how to make” displays. Over a hundred plastic models of various kinds of kimchi took up a third of the museum. I would probably have expected the shrimp, cod gills, and ginseng kimchi. But pickled pumpkin? Persimmon? Pheasant? The museum was indeed an eye-opener.
Mall food in Asia tends to be of higher quality than its counterpart in the west, so it wasn’t surprising we found Korean restaurant inside COEX that served a nice bubbling beansprout rice stew…
…along with the requisite 5 or 6 side dishes.
One of the most memorable things I ate last week was in Hongdae, the funky district around Hongik University. We found a pod-like little glass box of a restaurant amidst higher concrete buildings. You are free to draw all over the tables, and are given pens to do so.
The memorable dish in question was a noodle soup with clams and shrimp in an subtly aromatic garlic and seafood broth that I couldn’t stop slurping. I forget the Korean name of the dish, but now I am on a personal mission to find a suitable recipe.
I had mentioned in my last Seoul post how Koreans have become obsessed with and adapted their own versions of American foods. Imagine my surprise upon seeing a huge sign for the Doughnut Plant on my first day, a slice of my beloved Lower East Side in Seoul. The placard fonts and enormous doughnuts were both reminiscent of the original New York hole-in-the-wall, and one wall was decorated with a blown-up Times article about Mark Israel, the founder.
I didn’t know if it was a legitimate franchise or just a well-done homage until I did some quick Googling later on. The Doughnut Plant actually has four locations in Seoul and ten in Tokyo. Gone is the grubbiness and sunrise call for fresh hot doughnuts. This location has regular hours, leather banquettes, and the muted brown color scheme of an upscale sandwich shop. (Of course, Asian franchises of Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, and other fast food joints are also gussied up versions of the stateside locations.)
As for taste, my glazed pistachio was nowhere near as delicious as the LES original. But for being in Asia, and thousands of miles from New York, it was pretty decent, and a nice reminder of home.