One of our favorite meals is “rice and soup.” It doesn’t sound especially appetizing, I suppose, but it’s our short-hand for a Korean/Japanese-style meal of short-grain white rice, miso soup, and a wildly varying (and often enormous) collection of vegetable and protein side dishes. The variety possible is endless, and many of the side dishes are easy to pull together. As a meal, it’s a bit like tapas.
We learned to love these types of meals when we lived in Taegu, S. Korea. In the local parlance, such a meal was called “chung shik” (I think other parts of the country call it “bap shik”). “Chung shik” is a “regular meal.” Most restaurants serve some version of this–a soup, often deon jang jjigae, the Korean version of miso soup, rice, at least one type of kim chi, and a variety of small dishes of vegetables and a bit of protein. Restaurants near temples often specialized in vegetarian fare in recognition of the nearby buddhist monk’s vegetarianism, usually including delicious house-made tofu.
Every time I ate something delicious I would ask anyone who could speak a bit of English how to make it. We bought some English-language Korean cookbooks while we were there, but they’re only so-so.
Our “rice and soup” dinners are better than ever now!