It’s time for another edition of Korea vs. Canada. I mean in no way to suggest that one country is better than the other. Rather, I’m reflecting on some of the wins both countries have on the topic of eating out.
I live for food, whether it’s a home-cooked meal or a special night out. I always enjoy trying new treats in a restaurant before I try them out myself.
Eating out in Korea is consistently cheaper than Canada. An entree in Canada will set you back anywhere between $15 and $20, which is even more in USD. That’s not even including any appetizers, salads, and drinks.
In Korea, $15 will cover enough food to stuff two people, and still leave some leftover. The food tends to be simple, with meat, vegetables, rice, and potato flavoured with soy, seseame and spicy red pepper. The ingredients tend to be fresh and quality though, so the simple flavours are just enough to bring out the natural taste of the food.
Splitting the Cheque
When eating out in groups in Canada, being able to split the cheque is essential. Especially when individual meals and drinks add up past $30. In Korea however, this usually isn’t possible. Most restaurants will not allow you to split the cheque, even when it’s just a matter of dividing the total cost by the number of people.
Splitting the cheque just isn’t part of the culture here. When eating out with work, the meal is usually covered by the teachers’ membership fee, so there’s no need to split. In less formal groups, diners tend to take turns over time treating each other.
In terms of dining experience, Korea has a lot of things right. My one complaint is the lack of variety. I love Korea food and there’s so much to try. But growing up near Toronto means I’ve been spoiled with so much choice, from authentic Indian, to Mexican, to Thai, and much more. Of course, if you go to a bigger city like Seoul, options open up much more. But good luck finding much more than Korean food outside the city!
If you do go for international choices here, prepare to pay up. International food choices tend to be on par with Canadian prices, if not a little more. There also tends to be a Korean spin on most of these food, which typically means a slightly sweet taste to everything. I’m sure there’s a Canadian spin on most of the international food I get at home, but I’m used to it so I don’t notice any odd flavours.
Anyone who eats out regularly in Canada is accustomed to overly cheery servers dropping in every ten minutes to ask how the meal is. While I appreciate the gesture, I prefer to enjoy the company of my friends and family rather than the stranger taking my order.
In Korea, every table is equipped with a button that alerts the server when you need something, so there’s no need to constantly check on customers. There’s always a jug of water on the table too, which is great. No need to call the server over every time you down your cup when the spice gets to hot! Many restaurants even have fridges out in the open so you can grab a fresh jug if you feel inclined.
In any meal, vegetables tend to be my favourite part. And eating out in Canada often means having to order an expensive side salad or accept the two pieces of celery that come with an order of pizza. Korea has veggie lovers covered though, with my favourite part of any meal here–banchan.
Banchan is like the bottomless breadsticks of Olive Garden, only healthier and with more variety. The term refers to side-dishes in Korea, which often amount to even more food than the main dish. Banchan typically consists of spicy, fermented vegetables like kimchi, although things like quail eggs, fish, and beans often make appearances as well. The banchan is always complimentary and often refillable.
Eating out in Korean often means a lot of meat. So banchan is the perfect way to compliment the meal with a little more nutrition and fibre.
Sharing at restaurants is a definite win for me. Even in Canada, I’m accustomed to order two different meals with a friend, and splitting the different flavours up together. In Korea, most dishes only come in communal pots, so sharing is essential.
That being said, having to share meals, often with people you don’t really know, can be a drawback for some. I like it because in every group there are the big eaters (me) and the small eaters (weirdos) so everyone leaves happy and full, and nothing gets wasted at the end of the meal.
Sharing is Caring!
The dining experience in Canada and Korea is totally different. It would be hard to pick one that I prefer. It’s easy to say though, that my wallet prefers Korea! It’s been a fantastic experience getting to eat out at least once a week without breaking the bank. I look forward to trying more restaurants here in the future!