Hello South Korea! Hello Vegetarian Temple Meal!

Next stop...Seoul!
Not the best view, or at least not as good as our view from some of our Japan hotels, but when the weather cleared, it was a nice view with the mountains.  Too bad there was a ton of crazy construction behind our hotel that made for very noisy early mornings.
First on our agenda was to find something for dinner.  I guess technically first was a little nap, but then it was to find some food.  I used the Trip Advisor app on my iPhone and discovered there was a high ranked vegetarian restaurant not too far from the hotel.  After walking and walking and asking around, we finally found the building we were looking for...the Temple Stay building...not surprisingly this is where we would find a Buddhist Temple across from the building where there was a vegetarian (temple food, as Buddhists are primarily vegetarian, or those that are stricter in practice) restaurant.  Interestingly, we would visit this temple the next day.
The restaurant is called Baru, or also sometimes spelled Balwoo.  I had read online that everyone at the table has to order the same amount of dishes.  The two options were 12 course or 15.  Seeing as we weren't too hungry, 12 seemed to be the best option.  Here is the menu we ordered from, but it is hard to read and she took it away after we ordered.  When the food came we were presented with a much easier to read menu, so that picture is below.  This just gives you an idea of how things looked as we ordered.
This is the nice set up we had for our seat at the table.
When the first dish arrived at the table we were "served" two tiny white "things" and the server poured water on them, at which point they grew.  After close examination I giggles a little because these were hand towels to use before we began our meal.
Here is the menu were were given as the first dish was served.  Every time something was brought to use, the server pointed to it on the menu so we knew what we were eating.  Thank heavens!
This is the rice gruel.  I really liked this dish.
Next was the Deodeok salad.  I had no idea what Deodeok was, so I had to look it up online.  It is a  root commonly used in Korean dishes.  We had it prepared in a salad with a delicious pine nut dressing.
Next up were the pancakes.  These are all different colors because they are made from different vegetables.
The following dish contained a few items.  There are vegetable dumplings, the colored cubes are salted tofu and the roll is rice and wild herbs.
I wish I could tell you what this is!  From the menu, the best I can tell is that this is called Neung-I bosot cho hwe, which is described as  "mixed to the soured red chili paste with Korean mushroom".  It was definitely interesting.
I liked this part the best.  It was like a cucumber rolled around some sprouts.
This is the 4 year old ginseng root.  I know you are thinking the root is a little small for 4 years, so as I learned later, 4 years means that at 4 years the root is picked and replanted.  Anything that grows from 4 year old ginseng is known as 4 year old ginseng.  The other one they use is the 6 year ginseng.  This was certainly interesting and really strong.  I wasn't sure how to really eat it so we sort of just bit into it and chewed a littler before realizing it was a bit "hot".  We did like the sauce and I also enjoyed the white item served with it.  It was some sort of root as well.
Next up was one of our favorite dishes.  It is listed as mushrooms and vegetables with Korean chili paste.  It was like tempura veggies and topped with some seeds.  Really yummy!
Next out came the Perilla seed soup with tofu and wild greens.  I must say this was a very interesting texture and I am still not sure what I make of it.  I imagine the texture is similar to chia seeds after they have absorbed a lot of liquid (I have never let it get to that point).
I couldn't believe my eyes when all of this came out.  These are the various side dishes prepared for the day.  I made my sister be the guinea pig and try each one first.  Some were winners but others we were't too sure about.  Just not the kind of flavors we are used to, I guess!
This soup was really good, although I could hardly believe I was able to eat anything else.  This is the soup of the day prepared from the temple's homemade bean paste.
Then came the last course for the dinner meal.  This is a lotus leaf wrapped around a rice dish. 
 Inside is double steamed sticky rice with gingko, jujube, chestnut and black sesame.  The rice was really good, but I was too stuffed to eat even half of it.
Can you believe after all that we still had dessert coming?  At least it was a small portion.  First came these vegetable and fruit chips, homemade of course.
These were wonderful.  I have no idea what they are, but they were definitely kiwi flavor.  
To go along with our dessert we were served this chilled cinnamon punch called sujeonggwa.  Yummy!
Boy were we stuffed after that 12 course vegetarian meal.  I am definitely glad we tried it out.  Plus, the price was amazing so we didn't feel too bad that we couldn't finish it all (it came to about $36 a person).  With food in our bellies we were ready to head back to the hotel and do a little shopping along the way.  Good thing we had good stores between the restaurant and our hotel.  After that we needed to get some good sleep because we had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever had Buddhist temple cuisine?  What is the largest meal you have ever been served (in courses)?  Have you ever tried ginseng in food (not supplements)?

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Looks and sounds like an interesting meal! Funny that you made your sister try the side dishes first!

I've had ginseng root before, but I didn't know about the 4 year and 6 year roots - very interesting!

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