Seoul Garden in Raleigh: A Taste of Home in a Foreign Land

Korean cuisine, long overshadowed by its more popular Chinese and Japanese siblings, has emerged as a phenomenon in the past few years, Today, one can sometimes hear strangers on the streets talking of bibimbap and kimchi, or the more culturally curious fusion Korean- something. Today, Korean restaurants cater not only to Koreans, but to an increasingly diverse clientele. Now, I see people of all backgrounds come to sample these amazing dishes. To truly experience authenticity in every dish, rather than just a few specialties, the only place to go in central North Carolina is Seoul Garden, in Raleigh.

From the outside, Seoul Garden seems rather plainr Located in one of those small corner malls where you expect to find both discount hairdressers and DMVs, its brick facade seems wholly indistinguishable from any other store in the immediate area Stepping in, however, offers a pleasant change in surrounding and feeling.

You are greeted with a warmly-lit dining area, the interior made of dark varnished wood and comfortable booths and seats To your right, a row of four seat tables, with booths on either side, some with grills and fume hoods for grilling meat at your whim.

To your left, a set of doors leading to a space occupied by room-length tables and chairs galore. There is a constant stream of sound, made up of the employees speaking back and forth in Korean, stainless steel chopsticks clinking against ceramic bowls, the sizzling and bubbling of hot food, and the gentle murmur of voices occasionally punctuated with boisterous laughter, Seated quickly and receiving our drinks just a minute after, my family gets its first taste of Korea already, without any of us ordering.

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Here come the bunchan, side dishes in bowls that fit comfortably in your palm Beancurd shaped into cubes, stringy spinach topped with sesame seeds, radish marinated in vinegar, eleven of these dishes in total come out and already cover our table. 1 focus on the kimchi, the hallmark of Korean cuisine.

Described in English as “spiced, pickled vegetable,” the kimchi seems almost beyond words. It is bright red, fermented for weeks in a mix of spices and has a delicate crunch a wholly indelicate kick of spice, Unprepared, you might turn red and reach for your water after a bite. Then come our main dishes. The first, my sister’s dolsot bibimbap arrives in a stone bowl that sizzles from its own heat, Filled with white rice, bean sprouts, zucchini, mushrooms, and beef, it is a palette of colors for the palate to enjoy. Alongside it is a bowl of gochujang, a very spicy red pepper paste. My sister, crazy spice-lover that she is, spoons all of it in. Deftly mixing her food, it turns bright red, making my mouth water from how delicious it looks, and my eyes water from how spicy it looks. When I take a bite (all for this review of course), everything in the stone bowl comes together. The soft and sticky rice, crunchy vegetables, and pleasantly tough meat, along with a nearly overwhelming spiciness creates a flavor that is impossible to recreate by eating each of the ingredients separately. Believe me, I’ve tried My attention turns towards the bowl sitting in front of my dad.

Haemul sundubu is a tofu stew, also served in a stone bowl. This dish is bright red, and bubbling. 50 hot, in fact, that the raw egg that comes on the side is cooked in seconds after being poured into the bowl, A spoonful of this causes my mouth to burst into flames, both from the spice and heat. The scalding heat spreads as I swallow, feeling the bundle of stew moving down my throat. A light sweat rises as the tofu and rice dissolve inside my mouth. The seollontang, a beef stew, is quite different. At first glance, what catches the eye is the milky whiteness of the broth, made by boiling ox bones for hours at a time. Nothing like the crimson spiciness of the last two dishes, this one appears light and delicate, with pale shadows dancing under its surface.

A spoonful is warm, with tender beef that falls apart, and a pinch of salt that accentuates the savory broth. Finally, after trying every other dish, lturn my attention to my plate, the kkanpoongi, A Korean adaptation of Chinese cuisine, kkanpoongi is deep fried chicken covered in, again, a red spicy sauce. The first thing I notice is the texture. Softened by the sauce, it does not have the crunch of Southern fried chicken, but instead the tenderness of well-cooked meat. The spice builds and radiates, slowly growing from tolerable to burning away your tongue and cheeks. And this is only the first bite. The plate in front of me is filled with a huge variety of sizes and shapes, from small bite-sized pieces to elongated ones the length of my chopsticks.

To add contrasting textures, I try the kkanpoongi first with the crunchy kimchi, then the soft and yielding rice that soaks up the red sauce on the chicken. Just a few pieces leave me feeling satisfied, though at the same time, wanting more and more. The best part of Seoul Garden is how cohesive the menu is. No matter what is ordered, any combination of food manages to taste good. That is what makes eating there with family and friends so great. Sneaking bites of each other’s food is not just a matter of seeing what their food tastes like, but also of creating new flavors, new pictures, new experiences each time. To get good food, just choose a restaurant. There are plenty around. To have a great experience and great Korean food, go to Seoul Garden

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Seoul Garden in Raleigh: A Taste of Home in a Foreign Land. (2022, Oct 25). Retrieved from

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