I went to a korean bbq restaurant for lunch - with my mother -
we didn't have bbq as, no one was having it - even with pictures on teh menu it was really hard to order -
I know what galbi is and bulgogi and kimchee and bibimbap - but the other stuff I'm not sure of - our waitress seemed to speak no english -
So we got lots of little bowls of pickled veggies, a couple types of kimchee and some toasted seaweed - and some broccoli, all very yummy, we ate them when they arrived, although wasn't sure if they were meant to be eaten with the main courses.
I got galbi as my main course, would have loved to have some rice with it, but instead I got a first course of a cold soup w/ cellophane noodles some lightly pickled veg and an egg - what was that? it was a huge bowl, tasted ok, but not my favorite - the galbi was really yummy.
My mother got a small portion of soup that was a reddish broth, lots of soft tofu and seafood - it was great and grilled mackerel which was also great, but was slightly salty - not oily at all, and a bowl of rice -
Would love to go back and try more, but it's pretty confusing - any guidance would be great!
Oh, here's where we went..http://www.madangsui.com/ - perhaps I should have looked at the menu prior to going - but I didn't plan that well.
the little dishes are called banchan, many restaurant ownwers have tweaked their recipes to suit available fresh produce but many of the base recipes are the same. it really matters where in korea the cooks and owners are from because just like the US. differents areas use more or less salt, more or less garlic, ginger, or other spices. the further south you travel the more variety of seafood infused dishes also. but the old original way of preparing and slicing and cooking is forever changing. Korean restaurants rarely get passed down to their children because the parents are always pushing them toward careers that require more education. so you will see themm pop up and close down in the US. but in Korea travel to the outer point for variety and cultural food tastes. It will broaden your perspective..
anchovies yes ...because americans are so on the border with that particular fish...my mom used to let me eat it like it was beef jerky or dried cuttlefish.lol funny..my particular favorite was always gokdugee kimchi (hot pickled ponytail radishes.....most of my friends always preferred cucumber kimchi as a side. but i remember i had a second grade teacher that liked my homemade lunch more than me....lol i used to trade off once in a while for lunchmeat sandwich...
Re: banchan (little side dishes) - you can always ask for more -- some places are more grudging than others w/refills.
Korean food is really family style... though of course it's your food so you can order a dish to yourself and eat it all, but I find it's more enjoyable if you share. Just in terms of overall meal composition, if I'm going BBQ, I would typically get: have a starter + soup/stew + BBQ that is shared with everyone (portions scaled up/down depending on how many people I'm with).
Some very accessible dishes for those new to Korean food are usually bibimbap (mixed rice - there are many varieties), japchae (not sure why this is so popular, but it is) and dukboki (rice tubes - typically spicy)
what your mother got was soondooboo chigae, which is a spicy seafood/tofu stew. it's my favorite korean dish.
sounds like you got neng myun, which is cold vermicelli served in a clear broth. it's a mostly summer dish.
the little bowls you got to start is known as "ban chan," small appetizer plates that are meant to be snacked on and enjoyed during the meal. there's usually something creamy/potato-y to cool the palate after all the fiery/spicy dishes.