A Food Occurrence: South Gate Garden (Nam Dae Mun Garden)
Let’s talk about food for a few minutes. I’ve found that the best way for me to kick any sort of crummy feeling is to get some good food and for this particular feeling, hot, spicy Korean food was the best medicine.
In the greater Seattle area, the Korean restaurant I’ve been to most is South Gate Garden in Bellevue. (The transliteral spelling of South Gate is Namdaemun, which sounds about like nahm day moan.) The food is great. You have the popular dishes you’d expect to find in any Korean restaurant, and for more adventurous souls like myself, there’s always something new to try. You don’t need to speak fluent Korean to order your food, and you don’t need to read Hangul to order from the menu.
The atmosphere is also welcoming to anyone; you don’t feel obligated to bring any native speakers, like you might at some restaurants (Korean or otherwise). Even so, I went with my great friend Kwang Bae, who went for a bibimbap, which is basically rice with a number of ingredients, while I ordered a hot and spicy soup called Yukgaejang (You-k gay john-g – don’t worry, I’m still trying to get the hang of the pronouncations).
This might be a spoiler for people that have never been to a Korean restaurant: anytime you order something at a Korean restaurant, you’ll receive generous servings of dishes called Banchan (bahn cha-n). What’s great about Banchan is there’s always something different. There are a few spicy dishes, a few sweet dishes, with everything else in between depending on the restaurant and time of year, and of course, there’s always Kimchi. A quick word on Kimchi: think of it along the same lines as cheese or yogurt, and just try it.
If you are completely new to Korean food, I think bibimbap is a great start. Typically not spicy, there’s rice and eggs, along with several other ingredients. You may want to do some research, just like if you were to try any cultural food for the first time, to see what works best for your tasting palate and any possible food allergies.
The Yukgaejang was exactly what the doctor ordered: spicy, nutritious, and delicious. It was probably the single most spicy food – Korean or otherwise – I’ve had in years, but once I got used to the spices, I was able to appreciate some of the more subtle tastes in the soup, from the tender noodles to the shredded beef.
For some cultures, it’s rude to leave food on the table and for others the opposite is true. In Korea, it’s rude to eat all of your food, because it says that you’re still hungry. Regardless, the food at South Gate Garden continually does not disappoint, with a fair price point and decent service. If you can’t find yourself near the state of Washington, give any nearby Korean restaurant a try; we are in a globalized, multi-cultural world, after all.