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  • Writer's pictureThe Linguistic Foodie

Sodam 소담: A Taste Of Korean Language in Rochester

Updated: Jul 30, 2022


On the bottom right is the Tofu Fried. The bottom left is the Bibimbap. Above that, the Pajeon and to the right of that, the Kimchi!

Sodam Korean Restaurant, located at Genesee Valley Regional Market in Henrietta, offers scrumptious dishes many of you may have never heard of. The restaurant has a wide variety of out-of-this-world Korean food at affordable prices that make it Rochester’s best Korean restaurant. It is hidden in a corner of this large complex, so it might take some time finding this gem. If you turn right after the Lori's organic market, you will find it. The restaurant itself has a very homey and cozy feel with only one room and perhaps ten tables spread throughout. Images depicting Korean food and culture line the walls of the room. They recently closed their large second room and sushi bar and although that means that you might have to wait longer, the original room always provides a better, more meaningful experience. Keep in mind that Sodam does get busy on Friday and Saturday nights and that it is closed on Sundays. Sodam is hit among Korean and non-Korean college students!


The facade of the restaurant isn't so enticing, but once inside, the beautiful aromas and cozy atmosphere will let you know you are in the right place

The first thing they serve is a tray of small bowls with different foods in each of them. This is called banchan 반찬, which is an assortment of different vegetables and other foods typically served before the meal in small white bowls. Banchan 반찬 is given with authentic Korean meals, so I knew I was getting the real deal.

First, I tried what I recognized to be kimchi 김치. For those who don’t know, kimchi 김치 is a Korean food staple that consists of raw fermented vegetables (usually cabbage) covered in a spicy red paste. I had seen kimchi 김치 in pictures and on TV, but I had never actually tried it before, so I was excited but also incredibly nervous to give it a try. The taste was remarkably interesting. It was salty, tremendously spicy, umami, and exceptionally sour all in one bite. The texture was overall crunchy. The other banchan 반찬 dishes gave me similar reactions, although I couldn’t pinpoint what each of them exactly were. However, I loved the bean sprouts. I looked it up, and it turns out that Banchan반찬 is supposed to be eaten with rice during the meal and not on its own, which makes a lot more sense.


For the appetizer, I got the pajeon 파전 which is a Korean scallion pancake; if you love fried foods, there is no doubt you will love these. The portion was quite large, so they are wonderful to share with a party. Pajeon 파전 are flaky squares with scallions and other vegetables. The right texture, the right flavor, the right everything!


The clay pot of the bibimbap, called dolsot 돌솥 served with an egg on top. Bibimbap can either be cooked in a pot like this or served cold. It is a Korean staple made with leftovers!

Next, I moved on to the star of the meal: the dolsot bibimbap 돌솥비빔밥, a Korean rice dish. Dolsot bibimbap 돌솥비빔밥is cooked in a sort of black pot that makes the rice super crispy on the bottom. (They even serve the dish still cooking in pot!!) It is traditionally served with bulgogi 불고기(Korean beef), but I got it with tofu instead, which, in my opinion, is equally amazing. This dish is superb because the different flavors of the fried tofu, soy sauce, and gochujang 고추장(spicy Korean fermented soybean paste) come together well and the textures of the warm rice, bean sprouts, and the fried egg on top compliment the dish perfectly. This dish is certainly a must-get if you’re going to Sodam.


Last but not least, I had the tofu fried 튀긴 두부. As a vegetarian, I love tofu, and I have been on the search for Rochester’s best tofu dish for years. I’m not going to lie; I think I’ve found it at Sodam. The tofu is cooked perfectly and has a delicious sauce giving the dish the most vibrant flavor. The tofu is served with sautéed onions and peppers which I usually wouldn’t eat, but this time, I cleaned my plate because it was so flavorful.

The Menu at Sodam

Right when you enter Sodam, you become instantly hit with the Korean language. The Korean language is by no means an endangered language-- it is spoken by more than 75 million people around the world. Many in America and around the world have been exposed to this language through friends, K-dramas on Netflix, and K pop bands like BTS. Much of the staff at Sodam speak Korean with each other and many diners also conversed with them in their native tongues. Additionally, the menu is first in the alphabet of Hangul (Korean), before it is in English. The English translations are just romanized versions of the Korean foods so people who haven't been exposed to Korean food may have trouble ordering. Eating Korean food is a great way to learn the language! Ironically, Hangul is said to be the easiest alphabet to learn to read and write whereas Korean is said to be one of the hardest languages to learn in the world. It has difficult grammar, pronunciation, and the more words than the vast majority of languages.

Both South and North Korea are some of the least linguistically diverse countries in the world--hardly anyone speaks languages other than Korean as their native tongue although languages like English, Japanese, and Chinese have influences on the nation. Korean is part of the Koreanic language family. Other relatives of Korean in the Koreanic language family have gone extinct such as the Jeju language of Jeju island. Moreover, it us unclear whether the Koreanic language family is related to the Japonic Language family. However, something fascinating is that Korean has some similarities to Tamil, a Dravidian language spoken in southern India in the region of Tamil Nadu. For example, the words naal (day), amma(mom), pull (grass), pudhu (new), sourru (rice) and appa(dad) are the same in both languages. How could two languages that are spoken in completely different areas of the world spoken by completely different people be so similar? This got me really interested in how languages evolve and how languages interact with each other. Could Korean and Tamil share a common language ancestor? Well, it is hypothesized that some ancient queen or princess traveled from Tamil Nadu to Korea and became an important figure in Korea, exchanging words between Tamil and Korean. But this is just a theory, no one knows for sure.


Because minority languages in Korea are very small due to the rise of standard Korean, there are many languages that exist in the country that are in severe danger. With fewer than 10,000 native speakers left, the language of Jeju island is in critical danger and the youngest people who speak this language are grandparents. If you want to learn more about this endangered language, click here: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2021/11/177_280951.html.


Overall, I had a wonderful experience eating take out from Sodam. They had tons of vegetarian options, great appetizers, and for you carnivores out there, they have equally mouthwatering meat items and sushi, too! I’ve been to Korean restaurants in big cities like Toronto and New York, but surprisingly, I found Sodam to be better. I wouldn’t usually give restaurants 5 out of 5 stars but for Sodam, I definitely think that it deserves 5 stars- no doubt about it. So, if you are a K-Pop fan looking to learn more about Korean culture, a vegetarian seeking new options, or just someone who wants to try something new, you have got to go and check out Sodam!

I hope you enjoyed learning about the fascinating Korean language as well as about my experience at Sodam Korean Restaurant! If you want a taste of Korean language and culture in Rochester, this is the place to check out!


안녕


-The Linguistic Foodie :)


Parts of this blog post were adapted from work I did in the Trapezoid newspaper of Brighton High School

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