I have been looking forward in attending my brother’s / family friend wedding this entire week since it will be the first time ever to experience a Korean wedding. What I looked most forward to to be honest was the banquet and being a Korean buffet style, it was gluttony at it’s best.
The wedding was held at a church in Teaneck, New Jersey with more than 90% Koreans attendee and church friends, my family and I were the outcast. With similar physical features with a slightly language barrier and with the common love of food we manage to be more than OK. The ceremony was a Christian church wedding with the exchange of rings and follow by hymns and songs (ode to joy- in Korean). After a bit of picture taking we head across to the banquet hall where there was a buffet line out the door. To start off the buffet line was every Asian staple two choices of rice, the traditional white rice and white rice with a seaweed. Next to the rice was what defines Korean cuisine the kimchi. The amount of selection was overwhelming and trying to balance the mountain of each dish in my hand along with photo taking of the elaborate, vibrant colored dishes in beautiful lacquered server trays was challenging. I took a sample of every dish but without the knowledge of what the dishes are called only based on my senses everything looked amazing therefore must taste amazing too. There was kim bob (Korean sushi), shumai, somen, zucchini and shrimp tempura to name a few that are identifiable. The common vegetables used in the dishes are napa cabbages, daikon radishes, and a lot of Kochujang (Korean chili red pepper paste) which is a sweet and tangy, mild sauce used for Korean rice dishes and even for a fish marinate. Down the buffet lane for a good 5 minutes finally approached pork heaven! I know a lot foodies out there who worships David Chang owner of Momofuku Ssams Bar, Noodle Bar, Ko, and Bakery Milk Bar and of Korean descent is known for his pork belly I knew I needed to have those sliced of Jokbal (pork belly steamed and cooked in broth for 2-3 hours). It was definitely not the leanest meat to savor on if you’re caution on your health and it is not the most pleasant sight for any vegetarians but the pork belly was an equal proportion of skin, fat and meat and the taste of the broth somehow is nicely absorbed into the meat.
Well into 20 minutes into the banquet, the bride and the groom had changed into traditional wedding clothes Hanbok to bid farewell to the guests while I made my third round around the buffet bar. With many guests having the remaining leftovers to go and in a hurried way, my sister said to probably catch their 8pm KBS /SBS drama there was not much food except for the beef short ribs soaked in a medjool dates stew that was strangely calling to me “Eat me.” I have not eaten beef for the last five years and frankly I do not miss beef much but here I was in an authentic Korean wedding banquet and knowing Korean takes their beef just as serious as they do with pork belly I was tempted to try. It wasn’t like I was smoking pot so I had a piece. I know I should not be over joy when consuming meat but the beef stew was a surprising highlight. The flavor of the dates is a surprising Asian flair that makes this dish unique and as long as I remember when I used to eat beef it was usually one of the tougher meats to chew on but the beef came off nicely without a mess from the rib bone making this dish oddly my favorite. Ending the meal on a sweet bud we had traditional mochi and what seemed on the exterior like mandoo (Korean Dumpling) but with a sweet filling and Korean Sweet Cinnamon Punch (fruit punch). The variation and selection of food at the wedding from dishes I am familiar with to newly introduced to are all nonetheless described to be bold flavors as well as the presentation and colors of the dishes. As always as I am curious about food and culture. With each dish or at least the dishes I was able to get to were all unexpectedly exciting and in a crowd of people eating together in a long communal table I assure the newlyweds will be surrounded with joyous people and happy bellies from beginning to the very end. Congratulations!