The noodles were covered in oil and the chicken were slathered in grease. To top it off, sitting on a plane for more than 18 hours was becoming too painful for my bottom. After long hours of airplane food all I wanted was vegetables. However, I wanted to walk and eat.
On my first week in Korea, I was offered a nice meal out to a restaurant called Coco Shabu. Their logo, “Food Therapy in Island,” made me feel calm and upon entering the restaurant I continued to feel serene because of their minimalistic decorations. The restaurant is a fusion of Shabu Shabu and buffet. When you first enter there is the buffet section which offers: sushi, sashimi, hot foods (marinated sausage, Korean noodles, cream pasta, fried meat, takoyaki), salad bar, rice, cakes, cookies, waffle and ice cream station.
Shabu Shabu is a Japanese dish I have always wanted to try back in the states but did not get around to it. I never tried Hot Pot either; therefore, more than the buffet I was excited to try the Shabu Shabu. The restaurant offered two different soup bases: spicy and non-spicy. We chose non-spicy and as I sipped on the soup it had a slight anchovy soup base, which I really enjoy as my mom would make majority of the Korean soup bases back at home with anchovies rather than pork. As the soup was starting to boil we began adding the meat and the various vegetables and toppings from the buffet table. We added mushrooms, tons and tons of green vegetable, rice cakes with cheese in the middle, fishcakes, pumpkin, and bean sprouts. The hidden gem to this restaurant was that with the ingredients inside the Shabu Shabu we have to make wraps. In Korea nowadays 월남쌈 (wellnamssam, direct translation), also known as Vietnamese Spring Rolls, are gaining popularity because it is healthy but easy to make. Although, it is a cardinal rule to never play with your food I think this is the one scenario in which there can be an exception made.
The process to making a Spring Roll/Wrap:
- Pick up one colorful wrap and dunk it in the liquid. The restaurant offered pink, yellow, and white wraps. The liquid they gave us to dip our wraps in was pink. The liquid would allow the wrap to become soft.
- Once the wrap becomes soft, start stuffing food into your wrap.
- Close your wrap, anyway you want. Imagination is endless!
- Dip it in sauce. This step can be done before three, if you want the sauce on the inside not the outside. We were offered three different sauces: peanut sauce, hot sauce, and fish sauce.
- Munch on your creation. If you really want to be childish and have fun, test your limits and see how big of a wrap you can fit inside your mouth.
Some of my many attempts to make a healthy Vietnamese wraps:
After becoming semi-full from the wrap I forgot that I had not completed the soup base. I went back to the buffet tables and gathered ramen noodles with more vegetables. After adding the ramen and vegetables in I started to mix and let it simmer. The ramen and soup tasted like pho! The table next to me mixed rice with their spicy soup base and that looked delicious, as well. Now, the meal has been officially completed.
It was a successful first night out in Korea! Although, I ate way too much I did not feel gross at all, partly because I consumed mostly vegetables rather than fried food and meat. Luckily, they have this restaurant in various locations such as Busan, Jeju, and Seoul. If you are near or around any of these three big cities, check out Coco Shabu! If you can not find this restaurant or do not want to go out of your way to visit there, then check out any other restaurants that may offer 월남쌈 (DIY Vietnamese Spring Rolls) because it is fun making them but eating them is the best. One can feel satisfied and happy after munching on a couple of these tasty goodies!
Address: 경상남도 진주시 새평거로 30번지 상가동 엠코타운프라하 201호.