A September 2004 trip
to Seoul by E. B.
Quote: I haven't been back to my birthplace in eighteen years. I went to visit my very ill grandmother for possibly the last time. It was also an opportunity to catch up with relatives that I hardly ever see and to practice my poor Korean. "Uh, does anyone here speak English?"
Restaurant | "McDonald's at the COEX Mall"
I ordered a Big Mac Value Meal. Yes, I like the number 1 meal with a Coke. The Big Mac was huge. I wonder if the American Big Mac has been slowly shrinking because I can’t imagine that the Korean Big Mac would just be so huge, given that Koreans don’t pig out on fast food as much. The Big Mac came with a cardboard band around it to keep it neat after you unravel the paper wrapping. It was accompanied with a small order of fries and a small plastic drink cup filled with Coke. Korea is very big on recycling. You have to actually separate the trash into recyclables and non-recyclables. I always let my relatives handle the trash in case I put the trash in the wrong receptacles. English wasn’t written on the trash bins, and I wasn’t aware of the routine. Plastic drink cups are rewashed for repeated use. If you order your food to go, you will be charged a take-out fee for carrying away materials that are normally washed for another customer.
Other than the huge Big Mac, I didn’t notice any difference in taste. It was the same as in the US. When I mentioned how big the Korean Big Macs were to one of my cousins, she asked if it was too big, why didn’t I order the Mac? "HUH?" was my response. She explained that there was a Mac sandwich that was only single-decker instead of the double-decker Big Mac. Well, I’ll be… Other difference in sizes was the fries and drink. American meals include a medium drink instead of a small and large fries instead of small.
I perused the Korean McDonald’ menu online, but I think my cousin was confused. There is no Mac sandwich. She must have meant the McRib Junior, an entirely different taste. Well, I can’t expect my Korean cousin to know the difference in taste. She probably isn’t even into Big Macs considering the size of them in Korea. There are some items unique to Korea, such as the Bulgogi Burger, McBingsoo (Korean shaved ice), Shrimp Burger, Egg Burger (not an Egg McMuffin), Shanghai Spicy Chicken Burger, and the McRib Junior sandwich. Yes, the McRib lives on in Korea. You should see the items at Burger King. Read Less
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 27, 2004
I decided to order a Whopper Junior meal. So did my cousin. I noticed our meals were much smaller than what I’m used to getting in the U.S.—small fries and a small coke instead of the medium fries and the medium Coke. I noticed some unique items on the menu: Bulgogi Whopper Junior, Steak Burger (different from the Angus Steak Burger), and the Big Shrimp Burger. There is a side dish that you won’t get in the U.S.—the corn salad. It’s basically corn kernels tossed with bits of cucumber and bell peppers in a sweet vinaigrette sauce. For some reason, it’s considered a dessert. A true Asian dessert is the paht-bing-soo, sweet red beans over bits of fruit, ice shavings, ice cream and whipped cream. I think every Asian cuisine has something similar. Filipinos have halo-halo, and the Hawaiians have their Hawaiian shaved ice.
We were so full, but I decided to buy a paht-bing-soo on the way out to take home. There was a surcharge on the take-out items. Burger King recycles their items, so you have to dispose of your trash into the proper bins. I let my cousin deal with it. I cannot read Korean very well, so I would have put everything in the wrong place.
After our short trek home, we decided to share the paht-bing-soo. I noticed that they gave us cardboard spoons instead of plastic spoons. Recycling is huge in Korea. I guess there is just nowhere else to put their trash. At least the paht-bing-soo was good. I wish I could have ordered all the unique items on the Korean menu. Oh, well, for my next visit to Korea…
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 5, 2004
135-010 Kangnam-gu, Nohn-hyeon-dong 267-2
Seoul, South Korea
Restaurant | "Sung Shin Je Pizza"
Koreans eat their pizza with banchan (side dishes), so when you order pizza, it usually comes with garlic mayonnaise or garlic butter to dip your crust in, hot sauce (usually Tabasco), extra Parmesan cheese, and sweet pickles. I have no idea why Koreans like sweet pickles so much. It’s a replacement for kimchee, but I don’t really like sweet pickles for anything except relish, so I leave the pickles for my cousins to eat.
Sung Shin Je Pizza was originally a Pizza Hut. Mr. Sung owned a Pizza Hut but as the Pizza Hut fad came and went, Mr. Sung decided to go independent of the Pizza Hut franchise. Therefore he went and created his own pizzas—which are very, very good—and also has a number of other stores that he opened. I actually prefer his pizzas to the chain pizza places that I have tasted. It’s pricier, but the quality is also much better. Kudos to Mr. Shin for going out on his own and creating these pizza gems. I also noticed that his pizzas are more filling because he puts more toppings on them than the others. If you want quality, you should try Sung Shin Je Pizza. He generally sends flyers with coupons for a free spaghetti or bottle of Coke.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 19, 2005
59-21 Myoungdong 1-ga
Seoul, South Korea 100-021
+82 (0)2 776 0141
The pizza came with the requisite sweet pickles, hot sauce, and garlic butter sauce for the crust. My cousin slathered on the hot sauce on the Hot & Spicy pizza. I was already feeling the burn from the hot pizza without any help from the Tabasco packets, so I ate more bulgogi slices than the Hot & Spicy slices. Those jalapeños were no joke. My cousins devoured them without any trouble.
One thing I love about Korea is that you don’t tip. Tipping is not a custom here, so you can call up for a pizza delivery and never worry about calculating how much to tip the delivery person. You just give them the correct amount of money, and that’s it. There is also a love of coupons. My cousin actually ordered the pizza online and used a 10% discount coupon. So instead of two large pizzas costing 42,000 won (about $42 USD), it cost about $35 USD. So the pizzas were the price I would have paid in the U.S., rather than what Koreans pay for Western food. Too bad there’s no coupons for a bottle of Beringer. (It costs over $30 USD here, rather than the $10 I would pay in California!)
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 19, 2005
Seochogu Seoul, Korea
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006
Seoul, South Korea
+82 (02) 595-3528
The aquarium is fairly similar to any regional aquarium. There were tanks set aside for touching the sea stars, but no one monitored the touch tanks. I noticed that some didn’t know how to handle them, so a couple had died. In the U.S., people monitor the touch tanks, and animals are rotated in and out every few hours so that they aren’t stressed out. Koreans are not very knowledgeable about animal safety. The U.S. is very strict due to political groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
The more interesting features of the aquarium are the Korean peninsula fish, endemic to the country, and a tank with river otters that really amused my aunt. They have an undersea tunnel with a moving walkway which takes you through 2,000 tons of sea water. The tank is filled with mostly sharks, but you can see other marine life, too. The most original feature was the artistically designed fish tanks. There are some creative artists in Korea who decided to go beyond the typical aquarium for the home. Obviously, the displays were more artistic than practical, but I did wonder if some of the artwork could be bought for a person to use at home. If you get hungry, a cafe serves snacks. There's a couple of sit-down restaurants, too. I ended up getting a green tea soft-serve cone for 2,000 won. I noticed others who were eating stuff on a stick. It looked like the typical Korean snack, those bean-cake patties pressed into a hot dog shape. They are the same things that come in a soup, but they are fried and shoved on a stick in this case. Sort of reminded me of a corn dog, but it’s NOT. The whole aquarium should only take about 2 hours. If you go around 1:30pm, the sharks are being fed. I think they also feed the piranha around 2pm, but I don’t quite recall. You can always call ahead to find out if you speak Korean (02-6002-6200). Good luck if you don’t. There are plenty of signs in English, explaining the marine life, but none of them make any sense. Koreans are terrible at English, so don’t expect to go to Korea and have a good time if you don’t speak the language. Speaking Korean is a must. If you don’t speak the language, make sure you find yourself a translator or a tour guide.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 6, 2006
Seoul, South Korea 135-091
82 (2) 6002 6200