Our First Meal in Our New Hometown
As we explored our neighborhood in the new downtown area of Ulsan, we were overwhelmed with the number of family restaurants. The smell of kimchi filled the streets of Korea as we walked to find a place to eat.
We found a restaurant that seemed like a “mom and pop” restaurant because two older women were cooking and two younger women, in their mid 30s, were eating and watching their toddlers play in the restaurant. Like most Korean restaurants, we were required to take off our shoes. The tables were low to the ground and had a built-in grill. This was definitely a bulgogi restaurant. Bulgogi is thinly sliced beef and is traditionally grilled. In bulgogi restaurants, the server takes your order and brings back a serving of meat that you are expected to cook. As newcomers, we didn’t realize that we needed to cook our food and didn’t even know how to order our food because everything was written in Hangul. One of the mothers approached us and helped us order our food. Even though we didn't speak Korean, you could immediately see the genuine interest of these two ladies because they wanted to help us. The older women brought the raw meat and banchan to our table. Banchan is what the Koreans call the side dishes, which include kimchi, peppers, pickled radish, spinach, pickled cucumbers, pickled bean sprouts, etc. We just sat there for a moment because we didn’t know that we had to cook our own food, so one of the younger women came to our table and helped us cook. I told her that she was like our omoney, which means mother in Korean. Next, she took my metal chopsticks and reached over for some tofu and fed it to both of us! We realize that we have a lot to learn and we are very excited about learning more about the Korean culture.