Travels with Darley | S11E13 | South Korea for Foodies

Travels with Darley | S11E13 | South Korea for Foodies

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(soft ascending music) - I'm Darley Newman, and I'm here in South Korea exploring culture through the food, including at a temple stay to try temple food. And I'm not just at any temple, I'm at very special temple made famous by "Chef's Table" on Netflix and Jeong Kwan. And exploring beautiful beaches, here in Busan, and some good seafood too.

We're traveling to small villages to drink with Korean grand masters. (Darley laughing) And trying some really great local cuisine at the markets in Seoul. (laughing) Kamsahamnida. Welcome to "Travels with Darley."

(gentle rhythmic music) South Korea is a country of fascinating diversity, and this variety extends to its culinary offerings. We're diving into Korea through the lens of food, from cities to temples. We'll taste our way through Seoul, trying everything from street food to Michelin star seafood, enjoying cafe culture and nightlife, before heading to the remote southwest to visit a Buddhist temple, where the venerable Jeong Kwan has reached international audiences with temple food.

We'll end in the southeastern part of the country, hitting the beach in Busan, where traditional noodle dishes mix with the catch of the day. (bright rhythmic music) In Seoul, our first pick for cuisine may surprise you. We are heading inside one of the world's tallest buildings to go to Lotte World Mall. And inside this mega complex, there's a concert hall, there are luxury apartments, there are offices, and we're gonna see what there is to eat.

(bright rhythmic music continues) Korea is really well known for its meat, its Korean barbecue. I'm about to try something a little different here at Forest Kitchen. We're doing some vegan dining.

I sit down with Juno Moon to dine at Forest Kitchen. I think about South Korea, and I think about meat, meat, and more meat. - Yeah, yeah, I agree.

(Darley and Moon laughing) We are a plant-based vegan dining restaurant. It's the first vegan dining restaurant in South Korea. - [Darley] Is vegan cuisine gaining popularity here in South Korea? - It's very recent, people starting to get interest on the vegan food. - Share with me what we have here. We've got some vegetable juice to start.

- This is the green vegetable juice made of fresh kale, parsley, cucumber, apple, and ginger. Just bottoms up, like- - Bottoms up. (subdued rhythmic music) Ooh, that's delicious. - The name of this dish is paprika. Basically, it's a Spanish style finger food, a smoked biscuit.

- And beautiful flowers. - [Moon] And beautiful flowers. - The smokiness, the crunch of the charred bread on the bottom, it's really a nice combination. Be prepared for multiple courses here, up to 11 at dinner, with dishes reminiscent of a peaceful forest. - Dessert is a Korean pear sorbet, vegan crumble on the bottom, Korean pear compote, chickpea meringue on the top.

- Very inventive. It's amazing what can be done with different ingredients. Mmm, it melts in your mouth. - This is your first experience of Korean pear? - Yeah, and my first time having vegan food in Seoul. - Ah, (laughing) yeah, that's true. - From vegan to something I came to Seoul specifically to enjoy, and you should too, Korean barbecue.

I do like the atmosphere in here. The roaring fire here, we've got the charcoals here. - We'll start with tenderloin, and then- - At Dosan (speaking Korean), Jacob Lee shares why Korean barbecue is so popular. - And that will be the tenderloin.

- I can smell it, it smells fantastic. - Yes. - Why do you think Koreans like to eat meat so much? - Korea experienced hard times 50, 60 years ago because of the Korean War.

But now, the country has now developed a lot. Parents who has experienced those hard times tried to feed their children lots of meat that they haven't had before when they were young. So I think that kind of led to this kind of meat eating culture. Now, the country has developed a lot, so we've got good quality meats, so. - [Darley] It melts in your mouth, and it's so- - [Jacob] It's really tender.

- [Darley] Tender on the inside. The outside, nicely charred. - Yes. - Kudos to the chef. - Thank you. - Mmm, that's worth comin' to Seoul for.

(Jacob and Darley laugh) - Thank you. (upbeat rhythmic music) - [Darley] In Seoul, experiencing the nightlife gives a greater window into the culture here. - I think Korea is the quintessential like work hard, play hard mentality.

- Popular YouTube creator, Paul Hershberger, of "Tastes Seoul Good" is taking me around Sinsa. - Food, drinks, singing, anything you could ever want. - Singing, singing? So it's my karaoke scene here- - It is. - It's normal. - [Jacob] Exactly. So "norae" means song, and "bang" means room.

What's cool about it is that it's actually like a private room, so you don't have to worry about a ton of strangers listening to your terrible singing. - Make it a duet, please. ♪ Been there, done that, messed around ♪ We'll spare you the rest of my singing.

Exploring local markets is one of the best ways to try diverse and authentic cuisine on your travels. Mari Cho is leading me through a market where locals actually shop. So is this area known for food, or is there just food everywhere 'cause people love to eat in Seoul? (laughing) - We do love our food, but it is actually known for the local eateries and the foods. We're going to the traditional market, (speaking Korean), and you'll see that a lot of the sellers here are actually young.

They get their produce and ingredients from the older sellers, and they make their food for the food stalls on the spot. - [Darley] Our walk to the market alone is a fascinating dive into food. And inside the covered market, there's so much to try. - It's called jeon, or pancakes. Tofu, vegetables.

- [Mari And Darley] mmm. - [Darley] Chicken five ways is one of the most popular market items. - (squealing) I know. - Mmm. This is a box of chicken. (laughing) - This is one of those sellers that are very young entrepreneurs.

- And Mari's favorite. So this is a traditional fried pepper? - Yes. - They look really nicely golden fried. - [Mari] Yes.

- So just dip it in here? - Yup, dip it in, take a big bite. It'll be hot and juicy. - Mmm! - Ah. The fry itself is just so crisp and just right. - This might be the best thing I had in the market.

- Oh my gosh. - Mm-hmm. But that was before we got to dessert. It's marshmallow ice cream. - Yes. A cube of ice cream and it's covered in marshmallow, and they will torch it for you. - [Darley] Yes.

That sounds like a smore! - I know. (laughing) - It's a smore meets- - [And Darley] Korea! (Mari and Darley laughing) - Okay, let's eat it. - Yeah. - [Darley] This is a great market. Come hungry and be ready to try a lot of diverse things. - [Mari] Definitely.

(gentle piano music) - Next, I'm stepping into a golden hued shop serving up traditional pastry called yakgwa. My translator and guide, Aram Roh, is helping to introduce us to yakgwa at the Golden Piece. When do people eat yakgwa today? - There's a national holiday in Korea called Chuseok, it's basically the American equivalent of Thanksgiving. - Mmm, I can taste the honey and the sweetness. - The main ingredients are sesame seed oil, rice, honey, and they're all deep fried in good quality oil.

- What is the history of yakgwa? - There was a period when meats was kind of prohibited. As a substitute, they made these yakgwa with the ingredients that they had. And at the time, honey was an ingredient that was very rare and precious, and that's why they called it yakgwa which roughly translates to medicine. - Now that I know that these have such a long history and the yakgwa is made with these ingredients that are precious, it makes them taste even better. I think I'm gonna have another. (laughing) - It does, it does.

(gentle pensive music) If you're traveling to Seoul, you're bound to notice lots of coffee shops and cafes. Joe McPherson, who owns a local tour company, ZenKimchi, is taking me for coffee to understand more about coffee and cafe culture in Seoul. We're here at Vers Cafe, right across from Railroad Park, which reminds me a little bit of the High Line in New York. Lots of cafes in this area, why are there so many? - Well, a lot of us live in very tiny apartments. We don't really have our friends come visit us, we have to go meet them somewhere, so it's either a cafe or a bar.

- [Darley] And I think about tea as being big, but coffee is huge now in Korea. - The modern version of the coffee comes around the turn of the millennium, right after the Asian financial crisis. And coffee was a way of seeming like your international cosmopolitan without breaking the bank. And it coincided with some other popular shows based in New York, and people wanted that brunch, cafe, coffee atmosphere.

And it's another way for young people to meet up without havin' to go to a bar. - We're in this garden themed cafe, but there are lots of different themed cafes here in Seoul. - That's the way you have to differentiate yourself in this market with so much competition. - So coffee culture's big, you can cafe hop in all these different neighborhoods.

- You could just go on a giant dessert crawl, and it's so much fun. (Darley laughing) (bright rhythmic music) - From street food to Michelin star dining, I'm visiting Mosu Seoul. Chef Sung Anh was born in Seoul, and moved to California as a child where he worked in his parents' restaurant, going on to serve in the US Army in Iraq.

An apprentice at acclaimed restaurants like the French Laundry, he moved back to Seoul to be closer to family and run Mosu Seoul, which has earned a coveted three Michelin stars. - Korea has a lot of beautiful traditional restaurant, but our goal is not to be traditional, our goal is to think outside the box. This is one of my signature dish in Muso Seoul, abalone taco.

- Abalone taco. - Yeah. - Okay. - [Chef Anh] Abalone is one of the most important ingredient in Korean cuisine. Even though it's taco, the flavor profile and the mixture of the flavor, I think it's pretty straightforward Korean. - Mm-hmm, it's really good. - Thank you.

- I love the taste of the charcoal. This abalone is very tender. What inspired the design for this space? - When I was in US Army a long time ago, I had a friend and he invited me into Thanksgiving dinner at his house somewhere in West Virginia.

I tried to kinda soak in as much as possible, and I see like a red bricks, the fire, woods, and warmth, you know, the genuine like love just in the air, you know? And I kinda forgot about it, you know, life goes on. And then when I thought about opening a restaurant here, that was my inspiration of the Thanksgiving dinner in West Virginia. - Who knew I would travel to Seoul to go to West Virginia. (Darley laughing) - Just by looking at it, it's plain rice. But when you actually have it, your world will turn upside down. - Ooh, I like it. - Yeah.

- Made with three different type of rice and also cooked in popcorn broth. - It smells like popcorn. (laughing) It's like a buttery popcorn with a rice consistency.

Mmm. And the different rice kernels. That's good. - Hanu beef. Hanu is one of the best beef you could find. It's like a crossbreed between Wagyu and Angus.

- It's just a really nice combination of the popcorn buttery crunch with the really savory but tender meat. Thank you for taking the time to spend with us. - Thank you so much for coming. - Yeah. I'm wrapping up my time in Seoul by the Han River with Aram for some casual convenience store ramyeon. Many people might recognize the Han River for K-drama, for break-ups, make-ups.

"Should we break up, should we stay together?" - The Han River Park itself is kind of an area where a lot of people congregate. But a lotta couples come here as well to just chill by the river. Ramyeon is one of those foods or snacks in Korea that once one Korean person smells it from afar, then everyone starts buying it. (laughing) And that's what's happening here.

- I would call this ramen. - Ramen is more of a Japanese pronunciation. In Korea, it's more ramyeon.

So think of it with a "Y" in between the "M" and the E-O-N. - Well, we've got our ramyeon from a convenience store. - Yeah. - And one thing they do in Korea as well, when you eat any type of noodle is you slurp. Firstly, if you do it in a restaurant, it's compliments to the chef, so. - [Darley] So we need to slurp.

- [Aram] You have to do the slurp, otherwise you can't enjoy it. Mmm. - (laughing) It has a little kick to it. - [Aram] You can have this five times a day and it still tastes good the fifth time. - [Darley] Inexpensive and tasty. I'm a bit surprised when my guide, Aram, suggests lunch at a Korean rest stop.

- We've been driving just under two and 1/2 hours now, and we're at one of these, what's known in Korean, as hyugeso. Basically, a rest stop for grilled food and skewers as well. My personal favorite is the baked potatoes, called (speaking Korean) in Korean. - That's really good. - Yeah. - The salt is so good.

This would be really good hangover food. (laughing) - Just a sprinkle of salt before it gets served. We have what's known as tornado potato, so it's basically a long strip of potato, deep fried. - It's a giant curly fry. - You can find these on the streets, not just in these rest stop areas.

And then you have sotteok sotteok, where you can see the sausage, and then the tteok which is the white rice cakes. - Mmm. - How is it? - It's good.

- [Aram] And another staple food of these highway rest stops is hodugwaja, or walnut cakes. - Red bean. - Yes exactly, well done. Red bean paste and little pieces of walnut with a softer cakey exterior.

- I like it. - Yeah? So do I. - It's a nice finishing dessert item. - Right. - Mmm. So the rest of this car ride might be nap time for me.

(gentle rhythmic music) I'm landing in the remote southern part of South Korea, several hours from Seoul, at Baekyangsa Temple, whose location is in a stunning national park. I've arrived from my temple stay experience here in South Korea. There are hundreds of temples located throughout South Korea, and travelers can actually stay at a large number of them. So here's where I'm staying for this temple stay experience. I have my basic linens here, a small towel, a basic uniform that I'll put on.

Let's check out the room. (bright uplifting music) (door sliding) Pretty simple, (laughing) pretty sparse, but really awesome view. This is my first meal here at the temple, and it is vegetarian. And when you're here at a temple stay, part of the etiquette is taking only what you're gonna to eat.

So whatever you put on your plate, you're gonna wanna finish because it's good temple etiquette. (people chanting in background) You can get immersed in daily life at temples like this. I dive into participating in chanting and meditation, and get to learn about Buddhism and life here from the head monk, over tea.

What are some of the customs that are important here at this temple? (Aram speaking in Korean) My translator, Aram, is on hand to help translate. (head monk speaking in Korean) He was relaying that in the temple, there's no long list of rules and regulations, but being quiet is good etiquette when you're here. Aram shares more of what the head monk hopes to relay through this ritual. - We hope that through this (speaking Korean) that we've had today, that we could show the world the message of Buddha of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves, and that we are all equal, and that we should all look after each other.

- It is a message that we will try to spread because it is so very important. - Kamsahamnida. (laughing) - Kamsahamnida.

Day one is complete, and now it's time to sleep. (gong chiming) (gentle piano music) It's early morning in the mountains, the birds are singing, this view is stunning. And I actually slept pretty well last night. It was a little chilly starting out, (laughing) but I bundled up, cozied down.

And yeah, I'm ready to start the day. (birds chirping) (gentle piano music continues) I'm starting my day with a cooking lesson with the venerable Jeong Kwan. (Kwan speaking in Korean) - [Aram] Welcome. - Thank you, thank you for having me. - Thank you.

- It was really great to try your food in New York City, and now be able to come here to Korea to try it at the location where it's gonna be even better. I met Jeong Kwan at an event in New York City, and told her then and there that I wanted to visit her in Korea, and here we are. - (speaking Korean) Oh, nice! (Darley laughing) Ooh! - [Darley] My translator, Aram, is here to help translate. - [Aram] Crush, and then mold it into the shape.

And this process in itself is a type of meditation where we find inner piece. - All of these ingredients are grown on-site or sourced locally. Jeong Kwan teaches us that food can be a channel for communication and energy. What we eat should have a greater purpose than just nourishing and satisfying us.

- [Aram] Pyogo mushrooms are my signature dishes. - You'll find these mushrooms, which we may know best as shiitake mushrooms, included in many temple dishes. It was the savory richness of this simple mushroom dish that reassured Jeong Kwan's father that she would be okay living at a temple after she left home at the age of 17. With these mushrooms in particular, it sounds like this is such a powerful tool, not only because it's so savory but because of the meaning behind it for you, and that you can then relay by making it for others. (gentle piano music) Outside, I appreciate food that tastes light yet rich, savory yet simple, as we eat in silence, mindful of all the work that went into growing, fermenting, preparing, and now ingesting the gracious meal.

(gentle music continues) (birds chirping) (upbeat rhythmic music) We're traveling to Korea's southern coast to visit South Korea's largest port city, Busan, where I'm starting out at its most famous beach. It's kind of wild that I'm here on the beach in South Korea. This is a city that reminds me a little bit of Miami and Hong Kong mixed together 'cause we have these modern skyscrapers right along the beach, and then we head over different bridges to get to different parks of the city which is really a huge port city here in South Korea. Being such an active port city, it's not surprising that Busan is well known for its seafood.

Just across the street from the beach, I'm visiting one of Busan's fast casual chains to try some of South Korea's most popular on-the-go meals. In a lot of restaurants in Korea, you just go and pick what you want, order from a kiosk, get your ticket, and it comes right out. I'm trying this gimbap.

This is kinda like a big sushi roll is the way I'm thinking about it. This has that salty seaweed on the outside, the rice is a little bit sweet. We've got soft egg, we've got the crunch of vegetables. A really nice combination. It always helps to enlist a local when you're traveling to a new location.

And I'm excited to meet up once again with Alicia Park, who helped guide me during the filming of my last Korea episode on Jeju Island. Alicia's family hails from Busan, and she's taking me a little off the beaten path to visit a themed cafe, and give further insight into culture in Busan. There's a lot of industry happening in Busan and a lot of ships coming in and out, but a lotta people come here to also vacation. - Yeah, of course. Busan is dynamic city.

You can enjoy sports, ocean activities, surfing, and yacht sailing. - A lot of people also come here to eat seafood. - Yes, the seafood is freshest seafood you can eat. - And apparently, Parisian croissants. Just downstairs at Bread Meet Paris, we're seeing why pastries are so popular in Korea, including French pastries.

I'm so excited, I'm feeling like we're in Paris and we're in Busan. - Oh definitely, Korea loves French food, French style croissant, and French dining. - Mmm. - Oh, sounds crispy, - Crispy, buttery, salty. This is a really good croissant. Cheers! - Ooh.

- [Darley] Alicia's taking me to try one of the dishes for which Busan is most well known. - [Alicia Park] This is naengmyeon. - And this would be a typical dish here in Busan with these cold noodles. - Yes, yeah.

The ingredients are onions, and so you will feel like spicy but sweet. - Mmm. - Spicy for you? - No, it's not that spicy at all. I love the cold texture of the noodles with the cool broth.

- It feels like something addictive. - A lot of people say they get addicted to spicy things, so I can see how you could say that this would be addictive. It's very good. Like nothing I've ever tried before.

- I love Jagalchi. - Jagalchi. - Yeah. - [Darley] If you're visiting Busan, this market is another must-visit destination. - Okay, so here we are at the Jagalchi seafood market.

This is the biggest seafood market here in Korea. And there is also another indoor area that we'll be moving on to, where you pick your fish and the product that you like and then they serve it as a dish for you upstairs. - Hi. - Annyeonghaseyo. You can see all the wide range of fresh fish in their tanks.

We've chosen our fish, (speaking Korean) has taken it to the chopping board to prepare our lunch. - Great. (Aram laughing) I'm going for the abalone. - You're going for the abalone? - [Darley] Yeah. - [Aram] They're very fresh.

You're gonna taste the ocean. (laughing) - This is really what I would think of as farm-to-table, but ocean-to-table. - Right. - Again, a lot of families and groups enjoying food together, which is what life is all about. (gentle bright music) You know you're somewhere special when you're meeting a grand master. Yoo Chong-gil is the 15th generation of his family to make makgeolli, Korea's traditional folk wine.

And here in the hillsides above Busan, I'm visiting the only brewery that uses a special traditional method of making makgeolli. Right now, they're actually kneading this yeast with their feet, getting it shaped into this pizza dough shape before it goes into the fermentation room. (Yoo Chong-gil speaking in Korean) Yes. He's saying that this is a lot harder than it looks, so I'm gonna try it. Gotta take on this challenge. (Darley laughing) I don't know how they don't get dizzy doing this, I'm like getting really dizzy.

So now, I'm stepping to get rid of the wrinkles and imperfections. We're trying to get all of the air out of this, apparently. (makgeolli maker speaking in Korean) - [Aram] Good. - Oh, okay. (makgeolli maker speaking in Korean) - [Aram] And flip it. - Okay.

Well, she just said that usually when people do this for the first time, they stomp so hard, they tear it apart. Whoo! It's pretty as a pizza. (laughing) - [Aram] Great job for the first time. - Oh. Thank you for your expert instruction.

Kamsahamnida, thank you. - Thank you, kamsahamnida. (Darley laughing) - In the fermentation room, bacteria and mold grow on the surface of what looks like a pizza crust over a period of five to seven days. This special process they've been doing 500 years old, and it still exists today. It's very special that his family is carrying on this long, long tradition.

(soft piano music) The entire total process from start to finish to make makgeolli takes about 45 days. Outside, we sit down so I can have my first taste of this milky looking rice wine. I'm excited to be trying this with a grand master. You need to have at least three generations of your family or of your establishment that have been making something to get that status.

So it's a really high echelon of grand master that we're gonna drink this with. - Chong! (Darley and Chong-gil laughing) - It tastes a lot like apple cider to me, like a more almost sour version of apple cider. It's really smooth. - One shot, one shot. (Darley laughing) Yeah, one shot.

- (laughing) Okay. - [Chong-Gil And Darley] Geonbae! (Chong-gil and Darley laughing) (Darley laughing) - Ah! - I'm not playing drinking games with you anymore. (Darley and Chong-gil laughing) With deep roots and deep heart, this trip to South Korea has left me even more mesmerized by the dizzying array of cuisine in South Korea.

A place where food is a source of pride and pleasure, bringing people together not just to nourish the body but the soul. I've enjoyed taking the time to savor dishes here, from mindful eating to roadside comfort food. But most of all, I'll leave Korea hungry to learn and experience more. I'm Darley Newman, and thanks so much for joining me.

- [Kwan And Darley] One, two, three. (Kwan speaking in Korean) (Darley laughing) Op. Ooh! (laughing) I don't know if I can keep up with you. (Chong-gil speaking in Korean) Ooh wow, that's some mold on there. - Yeah, yeah.

(Darley and Chong-gil laughing) - [Aram] Actually a long list. And you see that over there with- - You'd like all different kinds of local delicacies. - Whew! - Whoa! (laughing) - A little morning steam bath. - A steam bath. (Darley and Mari laughing) - High five! (Darley and Kwan cheering and laughing)

2024-05-29 12:48

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