I like watching investigative programs in Korea because I get to know a lot of things that I may never know about Korea. For 2 nights, I was glued to my television because of 2 programs that caught my interest. The first program, called 불만제로 bul-man zero from MBC, featured the re-use of left over rice as 누룽지탕 nu-rung-ji tang or scorched rice stew. Since it will take a lot of time and servings of rice before the restaurant owners can scrape the scorched rice from the bottom of their pots, they tend to keep the left over rice of their customers, then they wash it with water and later on they scorch it separately in fry pans. After that, they can serve it as nu-rung-ji tang to those who will order it in the future. I was really shocked about this tiny little secret of restaurant owners because my husband and his family loves to order nu-rung-ji tang whenever we go out to eat. They've always encouraged me to try nu-rung-ji tang because they said it was good for the health or something but I never really liked it. After watching this program, I felt like I was REALLY lucky to avoid the so-called scorched rice stew. But said to say, I think I was not that lucky about the second part of this post.As mentioned above, I also watched another program the following night. This time the program 소비자고발 so-bi-ja go-bal(Consumer Report) of KBS featured the re-use of left over 반찬 ban-chan(side dishes), 찌개 jji-gae (pot stew), and 밥 bap (rice) as new dishes/side dishes to new customers. The program investigated regular/low-cost restaurants (carinderia style in the Philippines), restaurants/food courts from expensive department stores, and even high-class traditional Korean food restaurants...... and do you know what made this report very alarming? 80% of the restaurants they have investigated actually follow this little secret of re-using left over side dishes and rice. According to the waiters/servers in some restaurants they get scolded by the owners when they throw away the left overs. Most restaurant owners hate wasting food and MONEY(of course! but saving money by keeping left overs is a complete NO NO!), so they order their employees to sort out the left over food(touched or barely touched by previous customers) in different containers(depending on the kind of side dishes they belong to) or they just put it back in their regular containers for future use. To keep their secret safe, they secretly arrange the left over side dishes(usually with their bare hands to be able to make a better presentation) nicely and serve it to new customers again. YIKES, can you just imagine how dirty the food you've been eating all this time?The food served to you was also served to others in the same manner, the mixture of saliva of other customers..... some of them sick and some of them have no idea what the word "hygiene" means, it's no wonder if you get sick sooner or later just by eating in these restaurants..
OH MY GOODNESS! I really felt like throwing up all the yummy side dishes I ever ate in Korea after watching these programs. Come to think of it, I really liked eating Korean food and I really enjoyed the sides dishes from Korean restaurants. After watching both programs I really felt sick and I even promised myself not to eat out again. Sad to say, my husband and I went out for dinner because I wanted to eat grilled meat. But, before I could dig into my food and savor the side dishes served to us, a slide show of the two programs that I watched flashed back in my mind. To put my worries to rest, I observed the restaurant's way of clearing out food from other tables before I even touched my food. From what I have seen and observed, I think they've never heard of the restaurant owner's dirty little secret because they kept all the left overs mixed in one container and I saw them put it in a TRASH BIN(they did not sort it out in different containers) for left over food. I just hope my assumptions were right or I will feel very sorry not for myself but for the baby inside me. So , the next time you eat in a Korean restaurant(or in any restaurant), be sure to observe how the waiters/waitresses clear out the used tables around you. Of course, not every restaurant in Korea follows the restaurant owner's dirty little secret but there's no harm in being careful for your own sake.