Bourdain’s Field Notes

KOREA, April 2015—I have, for some time, believed that the chefs doing the most interesting work in America—chefs who are in fact redefining what “American food” means—are Korean.

When I go out with non-Korean chef friends, what they want these days is Korean food. They get excited by the tangy, spicy funk of kimchi; intrigued by what is, to them, often a whole new spectrum of flavors.

Date night with my wife? Korean barbecue. And God help me, among a very small circle of friends-all of them sworn to secrecy, and on all of whom I possess horrifying and incriminating photographic evidence that ensures their silence–I have, after much soju, actually gone to Korean karaoke.

Only Korean, by the way.

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“What seems to define Korea as I know it is, it anticipates the future very, very well. This is a country that’s famous for looking forward, looking into the future.”


Noraebang: Korean for karaoke
Hwe sik: Company dining
Dukbokki: Spicy rice cakes
Japchae: Glass noodles with veggies and beef
Soondae: Korean blood sausage
Meh Oon Tang: Spicy seafood stew

Know Before You Go

In Korea, karaoke is a nice alternative to typical U.S. hangouts—malls, movies, restaurants. Get comfy—it can become an all day affair. They have everything you could possibly want here—the more upmarket venues include cushy digs and food and drinks; in between soft-rock ballads, you can drink soju and feast on squid treats to your heart’s content.

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