Saturday, September 29, 2007

temple food and traditional Korean entertainment

A couple of weeks ago, Sergeja and I went to Sanchon Restaurant in Insadong. We had been planning on going there for a couple of weeks and were really looking forward to it. We were not disappointed. It was so good. Worth the 35,000 per person. It is set menu of 20 vegetarian temple food dishes (I've added my comments in brackets):
1. porridge of the season (plain but sooooooo good)
2. watery plain kimchi (I always love water kimchi)
3. radish, mushrooms, peppers and other vegetables, wrapped in thin vermicelli pancake (Couldn't really taste or see what it says is in it. Tasted like a cinnamony paste in the wrap. yummy)
[#4 in center and #12 bottom right]
4. seven wild vegetables, each with its own seasonings (almost all greens of some sort, some okay, some I can't stand as they have very strong distinct tastes)
5. kimchi
[#7 top left, steamed and seasoned peanuts (#15?) center, #6 bottom right]
6. seasoned fresh lettuce (very good. vinegary with a bit of red pepper powder added)
7. cooked roots of ballom flowers and fernbraken (I really liked it. Apparently fernbraken is great for women's health but is bad for male stamina - say several Korean friends of mine)
8. fried kelp (yuck! so fishy. very dry)
9. steamed beancurd with burdock, mushrooms, carrot (tofu with sauce and such on top - I like tofu but not this sauce as it had some sort of mountain berry with a very strong anise/licorice taste)
10. jelly (fairly plain; always like it; I think acorn or millet jelly)
11. small potatoes glazed with soy sauce and millet jelly (soooo yummy, but only one small potato each)
12. seasoned wild mountain roots (I loved it, Sergeja didn't)
13. special chopsuey made with various vegetables and mushrooms (I always love japchae)
[#14 bottom left, #16 center, (#15?) right, #11 bottom right]
14. three kinds of fritters of fried seasonal vegetable (tuikim - battered and deep fried snacks - long green peppers, lotus root and eggplant. I loved all but the peppers.)
15. seasonal Buddhist monk's favorite vegetables
16. three kinds of pan fried seasonal vegetable pancakes (very good)
17. rice with beans, millet, etc (just a dish of sticky rice with a few things added)
[#8 bottom left, #18 center]
18. soybean stew with mushrooms, radish, red peppers, beancurd, etc (dwenjang chigae - one of my favorite Korean soups that is fairly simple to make- served with a cool bamboo scoop)
19. tea (some sort of grain tea - barley or millet or something like that - nice)
20. sticky rice pastry (yugwa, a puffy rice cake. I got a box of this for the Lunar New Year. I do really like it. light, slightly sweet, fluffy)The entertainment during our meal was great. It started out with a buddhist monk playing a jong (a giant bronze bell; a very deep resonating sound) and a traditional chinese calligraphy demonstration.
Then there was a variety of traditional Korean dance performances (for some other pictures of a variety of traditional Korean dances including some of the ones I'm listing, check out dancedrum dance "Sogo si a small drum used for farmers'music either with or without a handle. Also referred to as maegubuk, it is often used in creating farmers' music and folk dance music" ( like the Seungmu (?) - "With a strong Buddhist aspect, this dance is performed wearing a indigo skirt, white top, and white pointed hat" ( followed by an awesome drum performance - Jwago (a barrel drum in a wooden frame)- A few times during this performance, he was drumming so fast you could barely see his hands; and he was not just drumming the center of the drum but was alternating hitting the top edge of the drum and the center of the drum and then the outside edges of the drum with the backs of the drumsticks."Hwagwan-mu was performed in the court for state-level visits or during a joyous national event. Ladies-in-waiting performed this dance for the King. The performers wore magnificent dresses with delicate embroidery and long sleeves that covered their hands and draped down almost to the ground. Originally, the dancers wore flower cornets, but they have been discarded in modern times. The dance has a sense of gravity in all of its movements." ( another drum dance accompanied with another drum anda gong
The restaurant has been in the news and around the net several times (I'll only post a couple):

(August 6, 1986) By SUSAN CHIRA (NYT)
DURING his 18 years as a Buddhist monk, Kim Yon Shik grew into an ardent fan of temple cooking, the distinctive cuisine based upon fresh vegetables gathered in the country's woods and mountains. And when, at the age of 32, he left the monastery in which he had lived since he was 14, he decided taht this cuisine deserved a wider audience.
The result is Sanchon, an attractive restaurant offering temple fare for lunch and dinner with nightly samples of Korean dance and music.
Temple cuisine grew out of Korean religious history. Mr. Kim said. During the Yi Dynasty (from 1392 to 1910), Confusianism edged out Buddhism as the predominant religion in Korea, and Buddhist monks were ousted and forced to live in remote mountains. Without much money, Mr. Kim said, monks had to forage for their meals, and they discovered many wild, edible plants.
Temple cuisine's emphasis on fresh vegetables and herbs reflects a tradition in Korean cooking of closeness to nature. Many of the wild vegetables and herbs served at Sanchon are eaten for their medicinal qualities, or because they are supposed to warm or cool the body. Although Korean food is famous for its liberal use of garlic and red-hot chilies, supposedly introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, much of the food served at Sanchon is comparatively mild, a reflection of an earlier tradition of indigenous Korean cooking. Many of the mountain vegetables served at Sanchon are parboiled and lightly seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce and toasted and ground sesame seeds. Other dishes - particularly the thick soup, the spicy kimchee and a few of the vegetables and roots - include thick clumps of chilies.
His project has been a decided success. The main branch is tucked in a small alley in the center of Insadong, one of Seoul's antiques districts.
Guests enter Snachon by way of a courtyard filled with stones and large ceramic jars of Kimchee, the fiery pickled cabbage that is a Korean staple. After leaving shoes at the door, one enters a large room with wooden beams and several low tables with cushions. True to Korean custom, the floor is heated from below, a system known as ondol, and it feels toasty on chilly nights. Maps, carved chests, Korean flutes and painted doors decorate the restuarant. ...
[There is quite a bit more but it basically just describes the food and I dont' want to type it all. I've actually typed up most of this from the little copy of the article on the menu from the restaurant, as you can only access the full article on the net by paying for it.]

Sanchon as Asia's 10 Best Veggie Restaurants (September 2007)


Anonymous said...

Those are nice pictures

laura said...

Thanks! :)