Luckily my stay in Seoul is short enough that I have not run out of bad “Seoul ____” jokes. I love Korean food. I grew up around a bunch of Korean people, getting used to the smell of a house full of kimchi. I lived in Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, within a stones throw to the delicious mecca of Koreatown’s culinary delights. I knew that what food I know of would barely scratch the surface of what I would find in Seoul. Deliciously, I was correct.
Our first evening in my soon to be married friend Linda took us out for dakkalbi at Yoogane in Myeongdong district. This is a spicy chicken dish that cooks on a giant flat wok on the table. I think you are supposed to cook it yourself but they took pity on us as foreigners and did it for us. Neighboring tables had theirs with cheese and ramen while we only added rice. Linda informed me that Koreans keep on eating after the meal, often stopping at three or more locations. We took this to heart and stopped for popcorn and drinks, ice cream, hot chocolates while passing on a few street foods that we were too full for. I did go back on another day to try the potato chip like spiral cut fried potato but was never hungry enough to eat the corn dog covered in french fries. I would continue carrying out the spirit of Korean eating the rest of my trip, like I always do.
The next day I headed for Naedaemun market. Markets are generally good places to find some cheap eats and this one did not disappoint. The fried gluttinous rice hatteok (filled patty) and steamed buns were delicious. There are numerous cheap and delicious noodle vendors all plastered with pictures of their appearances on the local news channel. I’m convinced the local news must only be food based on how many restaurants use pictures of the local news as their sign. There is also an entire row of women selling jokbal, roasted pig’s feet to be tucked into lettuce leaves with many types of banchan almost like a Korean taco. The next night my friends took us out for bossam, a steamed pork with a layer of fat that is also eaten in similar fashion. Both are delicious but I think I prefer jokbal.
The subways in Seoul are pretty comprehensive and a great way to get around cheaply. It almost makes me feel bad about making Seoul train jokes. The other benefit of the extensive subway system is the chain Deli Manjoo who are in many popular transit points between lines. You can tell by the sweet egg based cake smell as soon as you step off a train. They sell custard filled egg breads shaped like corn and walnut shaped walnut flavored bread filled with red bean and whole walnuts. These are those perfect street food that you get coming hot off the cast iron press and scream as you eat it the gooey center when it’s too hot, but then eat too quickly trying to finish them before they get cold.
We found a delicious claypot sujebi restaurant that my friend recommended hidden deep within many alleys. Sujebi is the ultimate poor man’s food as it’s just a meat or seafood broth with dough flakes, thin randomly shaped pieces of noodle dough. They also had a surprisingly refreshing conch noodle salad laden with the freshest chiles we’d taste this trip. One was hot and the other cold, perfect comfort foods for different types of weather. Both were delicious in the chilling 40 degree weather here.
Standard American and western chains seem to be way fancier when I find them in Asia. The ice cream was no different as Baskin Robbins is a prime date locations packed to the gills with couples and young groups. The ice cream ball/cake/fruit fondue was rather fun but their honey toast not only took forever but was an awful cake that looked like toast.
Saying good food is in the markets in Seoul is a useless statement. There are so many shopping areas that everything might as well be in them. I do not, however, expect to see my food all over my shopping. These ramen socks were next to Starbucks branded socks. I guess they really love their food out here.
The last night we decided to see if Korean BBQ in Korea is different from what we’ve had in the states. Indeed it is. The pork belly tastes better than any of the chewy nonsense I’ve eaten back home. Cass also appears to be the best beer in the area, as everything else is way too watery for my tastes. Beer is only had with food in this country, but luckily bar food here is delicious. In our five days we ventured out for fried chicken twice. Korean fried chicken (they make all sorts of KFC jokes) is usually a spicy and sweet affair that leaves your fingers covered in sticky sauce as you chug light beer.
My sister’s question about Korea was whether kimchi is everywhere. I saw it at just about every meal in a spread of banchan (tiny cold plates). Fried chicken and beer was the one time we never saw it as it usually just gets a simple pickled white daikon radish instead of a spread of red kimchi or spicily dressed vegetables.
Thanks for a delicious visit Seoul, I’ll be back to try all the other stuff I didn’t get around to. I feel like I didn’t even get to half the things I wanted to eat. Here’s my google map of delicious Seoul eats (I have a map like this for most major cities I’m in long enough): Seoul Eats Map.