Monday, January 11, 2016

sanchon (산촌)

sanchon (산촌)
서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 30-13
서울특별시 종로구 관훈동 14

what was consumed: buddhist temple cuisine, for dinner; set menu (aka all veggie, all the time)

lots of people say that it's hard to find vegetarian cuisine in korea. they're not necessary wrong, as it is common to find fish-based broths and bits of fish/meat in what feels like ever little dish. but what these folks haven't gotten a change to taste is the traditional korean cuisine in the buddhist tradition. all veggie, all the time, using local spices and celebrating the natural and pure flavors of the things that grow around us.

dinner included 16 different parts, a variety of different flavors and textures and dishes, all vegetarian. the meal started with a large plate with small bites, accompanied by rice and pumpkin porridges. then came the next set of bites including the pancake topped with kimchi "salad." and then, the "meal" that included 18 different bowls of banchan that should be enjoyed with a bit of rice (not mixed like bibimbap, i was told) along with the traditional dwenjang soup. the meal concluded with some dehydrated veggies and rice snacks served with cinnamon tea. and for "service," we were served a taste of the pine tea (a fermented wine made with a variety of different fruits. bjl said it tasted like a sweet and fruity schnapps. hahaha).

i was tempted to ask for more of the things that i loved (like the fried kelp! or the pancake+kimchi salad! or or or ... so good!), but i was scared that they'd say no. but it was so good! i could eat forever. the flavor palate was to be expected: a strong emphasis on the natural flavors of the vegetables, less on the use of spices that would otherwise mask the flavors. there also seemed to be the use of using one veggie (primarily mushroom) to flavor other dishes. i tried to taste and relish all of the flavors, but soon retracted to my more usual ways and began shoveling food in to my face. oh well.

if you go for dinner, be sure to stay for the "traditional" show (included with your meal). while a little kitchy and definitely targeting tourists, and despite the black light that makes all of the performers look like the scary characters of korean horror films, there's something a little great about introducing this part of korean culture to guests. especially in this day of hallyu, psy, and bulgogi (all of which i also love, mind you). and especially during peak tourist season (i.e., when the weather is good - the spring and fall, also probably during the summer), i've heard that sanchon is packed. so be sure to make reservations! they do lunch and dinner.

bjl mentioned that, despite finding the experience worthwhile, he says that no one does veggie better than the indians. agreed - the indians have some pretty darn tasty cookin'. but the purity and simplicity of korean buddhist cuisine holds its own and should be highly valued. go! try! enjoy!


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