Sorry for the long wait guys. Been busy practising for the Burnout 3 : Takedown Online World Championship ......
Now on with Part 2. (on second reading - only console gamers will probably get that last bit)
Here's the meal voucher I introduced in Part 1, aptly titled "A Meal Ticket". You usually get one of these when you hand over your cash gift at the desk. The cash is tucked inside a plain envelope with a simple congratulatory message (e.g. "You've Been Taken Down" (another veiled reference to Burnout 3 if you don't get it)) and your name; just for the record they usually say but more likely used when the matrimonial couple compare notes during the loot count.
If you're part of a group contribution, get your meal voucher from the point man in your group. Everybody remember now, no ticket no food!
Ahh ... the admission ticket gets you into the dining hall, the one true reason we're all here today. This is a typical dining hall in a Wedding Hall type wedding. Ssshhh!! Bite your tongue - this isn't an office cafetaria!!
The food and drinks are all decked out on the table as guests stroll in after getting past the tight security check and guard dogs.
There is no guest allocation system or assigned seating. Basically, you walk in, sit at a table and once the headcount hits 8 (or whatever the maximum seats per table), you move on to the next table. So, the bigger your congregation, the stronger your bargaining power at demanding adjoining tables from the warden.
An assortment of errr ..... food.
The orange bits are called prawns. They're boiled and served. The white bits are deformed baby octopus. They're also boiled before serving.
I think this dish has some kinda symbolic meaning to it, like the ying-yang of life, or longevity & prosperity, or maybe it's just food. Darn .... those Korean cultural classes I took were a waste of money then, weren't they?
Pieces of egg-battered fried stuff - (left to right) minced pork patties, crabstick-spam-leek kebabs and sliced cucumber. The best-when-cold principle doesn't apply here, but someone forgot to tell them that.
Deep-fried chicken nuggets. The oil-drenched paper napkin somehow just doesn't quite fit right. Maybe it's just me.
Hey you-stranger-sitting-beside-me!! That's MY piece.
Mung-bean jelly, or cheongpo muk, are sliced into strips and served with a shake of black sesame seeds.
Muk, or jelly, is a popular Korean item. They're not sweet desert jelly that many of you may be familiar with. Depending on the source ingredient used, there are several varieties of muk readily found all over Korea. Most common are the above, buckwheat jelly (memil muk) and acorn jelly (dotori muk). They are served plain as side dishes or mixed with other savoury ingredients such as meat, veges and sauces to form complete meals on their own.
This is a Korean staple - rice cakes, or tteok. Tteoks are customarily served at weddings and other significant occasions (e.g. newborn's birthday, the day I complete Burnout 3, oh did I mention weddings).
There are many many kinds of tteok, some 300+ if I recall, in all shapes, colours, texture & taste. Read all about tteok here.
This is sinseollo, or hot-pot, which sits proudly in the middle of the table for all to share. Thin beef slices, mushrooms, spring onions in a sweet brown bulgogi sauce.
Each person at the table gets one of these - kalbi tang, or beef rib soup, and a bowl of rice. The soup comes piping hot, and is rich in beefy flavours. It is a clear soup, but must have been boiled for many many hours to extract that kind of flavours from the bones.
In case you're wondering, I have no idea why the silver bowls are so gigantic. You can fit your entire face into it. I know - I have the stretch marks to prove it. Some people combine the bowl of rice into the soup bowl and eat it out of one large bowl, while others keep them separate and shuttle between the 2 bowls.
So let's face it. A food-fest it is not. If you want this, just head on over to Seoul Grand Hyatt Hotel's buffet restaurant. Unlike most other wedding rituals around the world, where food, alcohol, music, dancing, games and even plate-throwing are all climax to the day's event, it's quite different here in Korea, or at least from the few that I've been privileged to be invited to. It can appear somewhat cold and stiff. If I'm wrong on this point, do let me know.
OK, so a food fest it is not. But hey, you're here for the wedding, to share in the couple's happy day, to partake in the festivities, to catch up with old friends and relatives whom you haven't seen since the groom's last wedding, to redistribute the national income, to get all dressed up instead of walking naked at home. It's not all about the food, come on.