S. Korea: We ate so much in Seoul…
This happened a lot while we were waiting for our food to arrive: everyone would take out their phones and start searching for free wifi
Wow, I didn’t realize until I started uploading, but there are exactly 100 photos in this post. Eep. To make things easier for you (and for me), feel free to use the page jumps to skip to the type of food you most want to drool over!
[ Street food & Meat! | Cafés | Korean Dishes | Fish & Seafood Market (+ video!) | Twelve-Course Temple Cuisine ]
For those of you who don’t know them, HZ and JH could be considered the foodies in our Curtin family group. During those days when we were all in Australia, they were the ones always poking and prodding produce and veggies to find the best ones to put in our cart, while AN and I wandered over to the snack aisles. So it goes without saying, when I took on the mammoth task of planning this trip, I knew I had to include lots of food places in our itinerary to appease the two of them…
See? Such a happy face
Street food & Meat!
When I was researching street snacks to look out for, this article and this article (all 4 pages of it) were very, very helpful. We actually ate more than I took pictures of, mostly because the food stalls were located in busy areas and it was hard to stop for pictures and eat at the same time… (nom nom nom)
Most of the stalls looked like this; at night they would set up a tent around the stall to keep out the cold
Sweet hotteok, stuffed with brown sugar, honey, nuts, and cinnamon
Grilled chicken and veggies in different sauces from Insadong
There are stalls everywhere, particularly in Myeongdong
We bought this from a stall that a tiny store had set up to sell their fresh juice (while promoting their rice cakes, haha)
We didn’t end up trying these dalgona, but it was fascinating watching her make them…
My all-time favourite street snack: egg bread! So cheap and so yummy — I could eat them everyday…
Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe because it’s such a Korean thing to do, or maybe because I was with three guys… but we ate yakiniku/Korean BBQ a lot.
Look at that lovely meat…
If this local spot in Gangnam hadn’t been recommended by TomEatsJenCooks, we never would’ve found it
BBQ (and soju) time!
This was our first meal after coming back to Seoul from YongPyong. It’s a mix of smoked duck and pork
We also ordered a fried seafood pancake (haemul pajeon)!
We went to the popular Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살) restaurant, which is famous for offering a set of pork belly marinated in 8 different sauces
The servers cooked our meat for us, which was different, but it was probably more efficient for them during the dinner rush
With the set of meat came seafood soup, salad, and raw veggies to wrap up the BBQ
The soup was quite spicy though… so we mostly gave up on finishing it
While this doesn’t really fall under the BBQ category, we had a very good meal here too!
We chose this place spontaneously in the Hongik area, so the guys made all the decisions in this place
I was just there to help eat this HUGE pile of meat covered in garlic (yum)
The salad was good too
JH is a bit of a “rice bucket”, a Cantonese slang for people who have to eat rice or else their meal isn’t considered complete
Mixed rice, courtesy of JH
Sometimes, I think their stomachs are bottomless…
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Like Taipei, there’s a strong café culture in Seoul, with countless numbers of shops ranging from cute to artisanal. Early on, we discovered that RP loves cafe mocha, but we also ordered other drinks as well. And cakes. If we went into a café, we would try their cakes too!
Fig cake with Greek yogurt, and the signature red velvet cake from Glamorous Penguin in Itaewon
Sweet Potato Latte, from the Coco Bruni in Gangnam
Our very intimate (read: tiny) table on the second floor
We really were in a lot of cafes — even in the last few hours of New Year’s Eve, we were sitting in Caffé Bene in Myeongdong just chillin’ (Well, I was. Everyone else was playing games on their phones…)
Our cheesecake and chocolate cake
By far this was our favourite cafe in the entire trip: Books Cooks, near Bukchon Village. It’s a hanok that’s been converted to a cafe, with the inner courtyard covered over to house the open kitchen
It looks unassuming from the outside, but once inside, the sunken floor and the opportunity to watch the baker at work create a very charming atmosphere
They sell all kinds of tea (both the leaf kind and the fermented kind), and they also boast a collection of very pretty and expensive English tea sets
This is definitely a cafe you’d want to linger in…
Our cafe mocha, and misutgaru (a traditional, healthy Korean tea made from grain powder)
Our pie and brownie
My favourite corner in the cafe. Doesn’t it look so beautiful with the exposed light bulbs?
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One of the things I’ve grown to enjoy is eating local/traditional dishes whenever I visit a new country. South Korea was no exception. From simple restaurants that specialize in one or two signature dishes to restaurants that offered a full-blown meal, we tried a lot of food that I hadn’t tasted before (with varied results).
Starting with a simple dish, this is the soy sauce-based bibimbap breakfast Youmi (from Sopoong Guesthouse) made for us during our stay!
We went to Hadongkwan (하동관) for their specialty gomtang, or beef soup
You could add as many green onions and condiments as you wanted
It was a warming meal on a cold day, but it felt like we didn’t get very much food for the price we paid…
We all agreed, this place was really good, and it was packed full of locals even late at night
Samgyetang from Tosokchon (토속촌), near Gyeongbok Palace
Samgyetang is a soup made from boiling a whole young chicken stuffed with Korean ginseng, sweet rice, and other herbs
Digging for the ginseng pieces
The soup is supposed to be very healthy, but maybe that got cancelled out by ginseng alcohol the restaurant gave us… (Kanpai!)
A full meal from one of the restaurants within the Ssamziegil mall
This small restaurant near Sopoong Guesthouse was recommended to us. It was really quiet in the morning, but it filled up to full capacity during the lunch rush!
Waiting for our food (I liked the wallpaper)
Korean-style vegetable tempura (the batter is different from Japanese tempura)
A spicy but delicious pork dish. It had tteokbokki (rice cake) pieces too!
The pork was really soft and the meat fell off the bone easily (yum)
Andong-style simmered and seasoned chicken, from Bongchu Jjimdak (봉추찜닭 명동점)
The portion was HUGE, even for the four of us, and it was extra spicy (but we tried our best anyway)
There were glass noodles hidden under the veggies and chicken
Probably one of the most impressive meals (in terms of sheer volume) we ate was from a humble old-school Korean restaurant called Sigol Bapsang, in Itaewon district. There seems to be very little English information about it, but the restaurant specializes in banchan, the small appetizer dishes that accompany every Korean meal. Here though, they serve it in bulk — for the four of us, we got 30 dishes of banchan (thirty!), soup, rice, plus an order of bulgogi. Not surprisingly, we couldn’t finish everything (we made a valiant effort though!)
The small restaurant is decorated in an early 20th century style, and the servers are mainly older women
Souvenirs from the past
Watching as dish after dish was set down before us
The full table
If you ever come to Seoul with a group of big eaters, this is a very good challenge to try!
Look for the orange sign (they’re around the corner from a bank on the main road)! They also seem to be open 24 hours.
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Noryangjin Fish & Seafood Market
Recently, there have been some blogs that said that Noryangjin Market was getting a little too touristy, and that it was nothing compared to the wet markets in Hong Kong or Japan (well…I can’t really argue with that). But since we were here, we figured it was worth a visit. This is the part of our trip where the “auntie/old lady” aspect of HZ and JH’s personalities showed up the most…
The Korean ahjummas staring curiously at our two “aunties” discussing fish
The day started out with a manly walk through the train station nearest to the market…
Like a drama’s opening sequence…
But then they saw the sheer number of stalls in the market and got a little too excited
The outer stalls seemed to focus more on selling shellfish and crustaceans (these shrimps were quite large!)
At one point, they wanted to buy a crab too, but they gave up after some discussion (thank god)
The inner stalls seemed to focus more on selling fish
Seafood as far the eye can see…
Buying fish from a cute granny
Fresh salmon sashimi
These demonic-looking things are stingrays (I think)
Oysters that RP said were very cheap (compared to Australian prices)
Something you just have to try in Korea — baby octopus sashimi
After we had bought our fill of seafood, we brought them to one of the restaurants surrounding the market on the second floor. They would cook it for us and we could eat our purchases for lunch right away.
Deciding how to cook each of our purchases with a lady from the restaurant
I forget what this was, but it had a funny (bad) taste, and made our tongues go slightly numb
One of our better choices: giant prawns, grilled (look at how big they are!)
Oh, remember those cute baby octopi swimming in their orange tub? This is what eating octopus sashimi is like…
The tentacles stuck to our tongues a bit, but the sauce helped them go down easier (RP was a little squeamish about it all after a couple of bites). At the beginning of this section, I mentioned that this market was becoming a little too touristy — this was most obvious when we had to pay our bill (it was quite high, considering the simplicity of the cooking). While I would still recommend this market to visitors, I consider Noryangjin as one of those “once is enough” sort of places.
If anything, you should at least try the octopus.
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Twelve-Course Temple Cuisine @ Baru Gongyang
Originally, I wasn’t sure I could get the guys interested in trying a fancy multi-course meal consisting of temple (a.k.a vegan) food. I mean, a light lunch maybe, but twelve courses?! It was a hard sell. But then I showed HZ this wonderful blog post, which convinced him immediately (it was really thorough and well-written). The likelihood of us eating heavy, meat-centric BBQ meals several days in a row also brought JH and RP on board.
The system at Baru Gongyang is a tad fussy — you’re encouraged to phone and reserve a table a couple of days before you plan to visit (but they only speak Korean), and they serve meals only during specific times in the day. If you can fit a meal here into your schedule though, it is well worth it!
A cup of tea to begin with
JH wearing new clothes, and unintentionally complementing the decor
Our twelve-course menu. Even though the staff didn’t really speak English, the menu had English translations
First course: brown rice porridge, with mugwort and crushed ginkgo
Wild “deodeok” root with seasonal vegetables, and a pine nut dressing
My portion of the salad
Three differently coloured pancakes with seasonal vegetables
Dumplings, tofu with salted pickles, and rice wrapped in wild herb
4-year-old ginseng with citron sauce
Mixed fried tofu with mushroom salad
Mushrooms and veggies in a chili paste sauce
My portion (it does sort of look like meat, doesn’t it?)
Steamed sticky rice with chestnuts, ginkgo, and jujube, wrapped in lotus leaves
The daily soup, made of seasonal vegetables (I think in this case pumpkin), and the temple’s homemade bean paste
Various side dishes + rice
Assorted wild vegetable and fruit chips
Sikhye, a sweet rice punch
Red bean jellies with crushed nuts
Surprisingly, even though the portions were small, the meal was very filling. The best part was, afterwards, both JH and HZ were glad they had gone along with me when I insisted on doing this (success!!). The meal was a slightly above our usual budget for lunch, but considering the variety and artistry of each dish, we all felt it was well worth the price — the entire time we meat-lovers also never felt like we were eating a completely vegan meal.
Whee, that was a very long post! If you read this all the way to the end, you are awesome! As you can imagine, preparing all the pictures took me a while, so there probably will be another break before I post about Jeju (I took 700-ish pictures there — even after the first cut, I still have 297 to go through and post process…).
Hope you enjoyed all the food pictures!