One thing Seoul is missing is high quality Cantonese Chinese food. Chow mein, sweet and sour pork, almond chicken, beef and broccoli…I miss eating these things much more than I anticipated. Nothing’s better than a bowl of steaming wonton noodle soup for comforting the stomach and soul on a grey day.
It’s not that Korea doesn’t have Chinese food. It does. But in very limited ways. For instance, it’s easy to find your fair share of restaurants specializing in Peking Duck. If you haven’t tried it yet, you definitely should. It’s a greasy, crispy fat trap of artery clogging deliciousness, but so worth it. We had the pleasure of trying it at centuries old Quanjude in Beijing a few years ago. Peking duck is a big deal in China. At Quanjude, they even give you a certificate for each duck that you order. We had 2 whole ducks between 3 of us, and by the time we were done, we were so bathed in duck fat that we slid right through the front door of that restaurant.
You can also find a Korean-ized, spiced up, gochu-janged (고추장) version of mainland Chinese food (not Cantonese). I’m not sure where all the spice in Koreanized-Chinese food comes from, because we couldn’t find anything spicy to eat while traveling the Chinese mainland. Just lots and lots of oil, salt and soy sauce. Truth be told, mainland Chinese food leaves much to be desired. Definitely not my favourite. And of course, you can’t forget the ubiquitous jajangmyun (자장면 – noodles with black bean sauce), which is almost impossible to avoid in Korea. Just walk a few blocks and you’re sure to run into a “Chinese” restaurant.
In Seoul, one of the only places to get good Cantonese style Chinese food is Ho Lee Chow. Ho Lee Chow originates from Toronto, and in yet another example of how everything North American gets flipped upside down in Korea, Ho Lee Chow is a pretty fancy restaurant here. But those of you who know Toronto, know that Ho Lee Chow is considered pretty darn dodgy. Despite the fact that I lived 10 minutes away from it, I never ate there. I avoided it at all costs. If I craved Chinese, I would take a 30 minute streetcar ride to Chinatown instead. I guess the jokes on me…now that we live in Seoul, Ho Lee Chow is our only option for decent Chinese.