Potentially bewildering yet entirely enthralling, Seoul is quite unlike any other place you’ve been to. South Korea’s capital is among Asia’s cultural capitals; there’s fashion, technology, history, food, and breathtaking landscape for you to indulge in. Home to the best airport in the world, Incheon International Airport, and boasting of an impressive metro network, connectivity to, from, and within this world city is par excellence. Recently, it has begun seeing an increasing number of tourists owing to its historical worth and contemporary dynamism. Head to this world-class destination and try a unique blend of flavours – the kind you’d have probably never tried. We’ve put together a list of food to try in Seoul, but if you think we’ve missed something, do drop us a line in the comments below.
1. Seolleongtang (Beef bone soup)
Give a tantalising start to your Korean fare with this thick, milky-looking beef bone soup, perfect for a chilly winter day. First served by King Seonjong of the Joseon Dynasty after a sacrificial service held by him, it was invented by his cooks to feed a large number of people adequately. It is made by boiling beef leg bones in water for several hours to allow maximum flavour off the bones. Typically served with rice and other side dishes, it is nourishing and rich in every way. Aromatic veggies, such as garlic and onion are used to enhance the flavour. Seasoning is usually done at the table, just before consuming, depending on one’s individual choices. Find your way to Musuok Restaurant and give Seolleongtang a taste.
Address: Dobong-ro 165 Road 15, Dobong-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 10am-10pm (daily)
Average price for two people: 15 USD
A hugely popular accompaniment to dishes is Kimchi, delicious enough to be a main dish in itself. A salad of pickled vegetables, it’s available in a great many variants – with different pickling agents, choice of vegetables, etc. Would you believe if we told you that it’s actually the national dish of Korea? Stunned, are you? The crunchy and delicious condiment adds hints of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour in each bite. Not just flavour, Kimchi is also known to have various health benefits, fending off those pesky viral and bacterial infections, and also contains several cancer-fighting nutrients. Don’t underestimate the power of this unassuming side dish! Head to Seoul and attend the Seoul Kimchi Festival held every November if you’re a kimchi fan – there’s all sorts of surprises awaiting you. Else, Gwanghwamun Jip is famous for its kimchi stew, so add this to your list.
Address: 12 Saemunan-ro 5-gil, Dangju-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Website: Gwanghwamun Jip
Opening hours: 9am-10pm (daily)
Average price for two people: 15 USD
3. Haemul Pajeon (Seafood scallion pancake)
Heroing seafood and green onion as its main ingredients is Haemul Pajeon – Korean counterpart of the Western pancakes. It is served with a sweet and tangy Korean dipping sauce or soy sauce, and is a go-to Korean snack accompanied by fizzy rice wine during monsoons. With squid and shrimp as the filling’s primary ingredients, it is quite substantial. Try one at Gogung Restaurant – you’ll polish off this unique mix of veggies and meat, and will be left asking for more.
Address: 100-012 27, Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 11am-10pm (daily)
Average price for two people: approx 80 USD
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4. Tteokbokki (Stir-fried rice cakes)
A tasty and affordable Korean street food choice, Tteokbokki’s main ingredient is pieces of cylindrical-shaped white rice cakes tossed in a spicy sauce. It is given its flavour by adding fish cakes, scallions, Korean red chilli pepper paste, and Korean red chilli pepper flakes. Newer variants have also been introduced, with an addition of dumplings, boiled eggs, ramen, cheese, etc. Once a staple for the Korean working class, it soon found its way to menus of top-notch eateries because of its intense flavours. Mimine Restaurant serves some fantastic Tteokbokki in Seoul, so do try.
Address: 367-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 12pm10pm (daily)
Average price for two people: 6-8 USD
5. Soondae (Stuffed pork sausage)
Are you thinking it’s your usual Sundae, the ice cream dessert? This one’s slightly different. It is pig or cow intestines stuffed with vegetables, steamed to perfection and served with a mixture of salt and black pepper. For a while after its discovery, it was a regular festival fare. However, with the advent of the Korean War (1950-53), when meat and supplies were scarce in the country, Soondae came to the people’s rescue and made it big as a street food snack. Soondae is mildly flavoured and almost melts in the mouth. You can enjoy it with a side of miso soup or udon noodles. Experience the true essence of Korean street food at the several stalls in Gwangjang Market.
Address: 88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Website: Gwangjang Market
Opening hours: 8:30am-11pm (daily)
Average price for two people: 8-10 USD
6. Japchae (Korean stir-fried glass noodles)
Japchae is the Korean equivalent of roast turkey at Thanksgiving Day – a special, festival preparation. It is usually a favourite for traditional holidays and special occasions. Packed with simple sweet-savoury flavours, it is primarily noodles made out of sweet potato starch, mixed with beef and an assortment of veggies, infused with punchy flavours of ginger, garlic, and chopped fresh chillies. Classically Korean, each layer of the dish is cooked separately, leading up to a palatable experience when the whole thing comes together. Although primarily a side dish, it can also be enjoyed as a main dish. Find your way to the Korea House to try Japchae and you won’t be complaining.
Address: 10, Toegye-ro 36-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Website: Korea House
Opening hours: Lunch: 12pm-2pm; Dinner: 5pm-9pm (daily), (closed on Chuseok and New Years, and third Monday of each month)
7. Bibimbap (Mixed rice)
A hugely popular yet humble rice dish, Bibimbap is comfort food and all things mushy. It is intricately connected with Buddhist origins via its ingredients’ colours – yellow (egg), white (rice), red (spice), blue (meat), and green (vegetables). Head to any eatery on the streets of Seoul and you’ll find it leading a trail of aromatic smoke; a bowl full of rice topped with seasoned vegetables, chilli pepper paste, soy sauce, and egg and meat proudly perched on top. Now touted among the world’d most flavourful dishes, it is interestingly an age-old Korean household way of polishing up the leftovers. Head to Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan and experience the head-turning sizzle of Jeonju Bibimbap for yourself!
Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan
Address: 19, Myeongdong 8na-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Website: Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan
Opening hours: 8:30am-10:30pm (daily)
Average price for two people: 15 USD
8. Bulgogi (Korean grilled beef)
If you’re one to enjoy the charred goodness right off a grill and bold flavours, Bulgogi is your thing. This is one dish you’re quite likely to find on a Korean dinner table if there’s a barbecue session going on. Thinly-sliced strips of beef are mixed with crunchy, sweet vegetables, and make for an appetising sight as the juicy, marinated pieces hit the fiery skillet. The meat is usually served with plain rice and vegetables. However, do note that Bulgogi is a beef dish unless specified otherwise, so specify clearly if you want chicken, pork, or lamb meat. Head to the Wangbijib restaurant, specialising in the dish.
Address: 26 Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, 100-012, South Korea
Opening hours: 11:30am-10:30pm (daily) (closed on Seollal & Chuseok)
Average price for two people: 20-60 USD
9. Sundubu-jjigae (Korean stew)
This hot, hearty stew made of seafood and extra soft tofu is an easy-to-make dish, perfect for a winter weeknight. Sundubu-jjigae’s flavours are quite spicy and bold. The flavourful broth makes for a perfect comfort food and is quite a hit even with the kids. It is typically eaten with rice and other Korean side dishes. Myeongdong Sundubu is one great place offering this all-time favourite in Seoul. Below are the details, so hit it up.
Address: 199-50 2ga Eulchiro Junggu, Seoul
Website: Myeongdong Sundubu
Opening hours: Lunch: 11am-3:30pm; Dinner: 4:30pm-9pm (daily), (closed on Sunday)
Average price for two people: 10 USD
10. Hotteok (Korean sweet pancakes)
End your culinary sojourn on a sweet note with this popular street food choice. Hotteok is all things sweet and syrupy. Dough pancakes are deep-fried until golden-brown and filled with brown sugar, cinnamon powder, and walnuts – please leave guilt back at your hotel room, this is going to make for a truly sinful experience. It is best eaten hot and fresh, right out of the pan. More recently, savoury-alternatives with grounded nuts and cheese have also been introduced, but they’re nowhere close to the gooey indulgence of the traditional Hotteok. So, how about a soft, scrumptious bite of Hotteok on a chilly winter afternoon? Head to Sambodang.
Address: Ssamji-gil, Insa-dong, Jongo-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 10am-7:30pm (daily), (closed on 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month)
Average price for two people: 6-15 USD
An acquired taste
Although better known for presence in the tech world, South Korea offers a delightful culinary experience too. Humble, non-greasy, and completely unassuming yet healthy, rich, and wholly flavoursome. There’s so much to Korean cuisine, but you can use this list as a start.
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