01. Underground Korean Food (Sapporo)--KenHunting around downtown Sapporo for a hearty vegetarian meal, Kathryn suggested we try a Korean restaurant we found in the underground mall just West of the Sapporo TV Tower.
As we walked around the trendy shops downtown, there seemed to be no obvious places for us to eat. Yes, there were plenty of Ramen shops just a few blocks south of Odori (the main street greenway in Sapporo), and there were a few places we saw in the covered arcade, featuring unappetizing plastic models in front. But while studying the map, sitting on a sunny park bench on the greenway, I suggested that the underground might have places to eat and shop. Kathryn was incredulous :). There was no indication above ground of what lay below. Somehow, I lured her down the unassuming staircase into a second, climate-controlled world of shops--hundreds, it seemed--in two east-west parallel "streets" connected to the subway station.
After casing the joint, getting hungrier by the minute, it was Kathryn who convinced me to try this place. At that point, it was just before noon, and the woman who ran the place was so friendly and happy to have us come in. She understood my feeble Japanese right away, and helped us to order vegetarian Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥).
For the uninitiated, this is an entree that you can get made-to-order at Korean restaurants in Japan, and it makes a perfect vegetarian meal.
The way it came for us was in a very hot stone pot with mushrooms and vegetables on top, colorfully arranged, sitting on a pile of rice sizzling rapidly at the bottom. There was a dollop of tasty hot sauce on the top. We were instructed to start stirring immediately using a metal spoon you can see on the left.
Probably we were supposed to ladle it out into the small bowl we were given, but here we ate it right out of the main bowl. If you don't keep stirring, the rice cooks to the bowl and is hard to peel off.
I really, really liked this meal, and, I'm sorry to say, it was my very first Korean meal. Sorry, that is, that I waited so long to try this. Now I'll look for it at home in Berkeley.