When I was asked by the KTO what we would like to have for dinner as they were planning our tour, my mind was again captured once again by scenes from Kdrama. You know those scenes where the family gathers for meal times and the table is set with seemingly endless delicious looking dishes? Of course hardly anyone eats anything in the Kdrama, but I wanted to try these traditional dishes and EAT THEM ALL.
After some initial research I discovered that this was called Hanjeongsik (한정식), or set meal. The full-course meal actually originated from the banquets served in the royal palaces or homes of aristocrats! Yes, this is really what I want to try on my very traditional Korean tour experience! The Hanjeongsik of my imagination! *sparkle eyes*
Although I was feeling a little bit sad to see the day darken to night (meaning the magical day was soon drawing to a close) I was quite excited to see what kind of dinner they had planned. I had mentioned Hanjeongsik but my schedule was kept quite secret.
We arrived at the restaurant, and it was directly opposite a very large building… draped in Rebecca banners!! Obviously the building was Blue Square, which we would soon be visiting. Dinner first though!
The entrance to the restaurant looked very traditional- with a wooden archway proclaiming the restaurant name- Pulhyanggi. We walked past large pots and I excitedly exclaimed “soybean paste!”. These pots also held soy sauce, gochujang and kimchi! The pots were scattered all over the entrance garden- deliciousss.
We entered the wooden restaurant and were greeted by the owners, and directed to walk up the staircase. I was told to walk up first, then walk along to the side and into a room just off the main area. Happily I went on ahead, and so it was I unsuspecting I walked into a loud chorus of Happy Birthday (or saeng-il chukha hamnida) from the entire shooting crew.
There were two cakes, much popping confetti, several party hats and one very happy Kat! It was such a special moment- I was really touched! The day had already been one of the best birthdays I could have ever have asked for, and the team was really going above and beyond to make my day truly special. I love you guys *much hugs and happy tears*
The cake was GORGEOUS! Surrounded entirely in teok, or rice cake, it was decorated with beautiful roses and inscribed with my name. Inside was delicious and soft, and tasted of black tea. I could have sat there happily eating cake all night. Hands down the best cake I have ever tasted.
But we had Hanjeongsik to attend to!!! And wow was it impressive, even to look at. The tastes though- wowww. I was completely besotted. Yes, with food- it happens! There were so many dishes, and all of them were so unique and tasty.
Some of the dishes we had were juk (rice porridge), tangpyeongchae nokdumuk (a mung bean jelly noodle), mini neon (pancake) with corn and vegetables, a traditional salad, delicious mini shellfish cooked with a rich sauce, grilled eel, beoseot gui (grilled mushrooms), lightly crumbed beef fillets, prawns surrounding a type of root (I am told only Koreans eat this particular root, but it was crunchy light and tasty!), radish stew, tteokguk (rice cake soup)… Sooo many, and ALL delicious!
I think my favourites though were the Gujeolpan (구절판) and Sinseollo (신선로). Gujeolpan literally means “nine-sectioned plate” and is beautifully elaborate with a number of different vegetables served with thin pancakes. Beautiful and so delicious. Sinseollo is another elaborate dish of meat and vegetables cooked in a rich broth and served in a large silver vessel with a hole in the centre. The hot embers placed in the hole keep the dish hot throughout the meal. Both these dishes are served on special occasions and associated with royalty and part of the royal court cuisine. Kekeke- Kat 공주 (Princess) ^.^
Something that you can really tell about Hanjeongsik is the amount of effort that has gone in to creating the many dishes. Each is so elaborate and intricate- its a work of art. I really wish I could eat Hanjeongsik frequently- everything was so delicious and well balanced… A perfect meal! We both left feeling very full and very content.
Still managed a bit more birthday cake though.
And now… REBECCAAAAAAAAAAA, COME HOME REBECCAAAAAAAAAAAAAA~