My amazing dining and yummylicious experience in different neighborhoods in the city of Seoul!
Who says Korean dishes are all the same? For those who didn’t pay attention – Korean cuisine has a nice and exciting diversity. Korean food scene is not just Kimchi, spicy rice cakes, and Bibimbap – it has more than that. Exploring the alleys and different districts, or ‘dong’s, (a ‘neighborhood’ in Korea representing a sub-municipal level administrative unit), you would be pleasantly surprised by the yummylicious experience in Seoul!
#indicates the subway station number
Not everyone knows Chi-Mc, or “Chimaek” – a.k.a. fried chicken and beer, is a popular South Korea supper snack until the hit TV show ‘My Love from the Star’ slayed millions of super fans in the entire East Asia a couple of years ago. As a result, the demand for chicken shops up-surged tremendously across the country.
Dongdaemun is a paradise for the young and hip. Not only the trendy fashion malls offer an overwhelming diversity of clothing from the high-end to the low-end, but also the shopping malls open 24/7 to ensure visitors have more time to shop and less time to sleep. Across the landmark Doota!, DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza) is a modern, multi-purpose development project designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid; I was there visiting some temporary exhibitions in DDP and was looking for food in its, underground mall afterward. There was a hotpot restaurant that was quite funky. Each diner has their own pot and a plate of meat. More, they could grab vegetables, other hot dishes, desserts, and unlimited Chi-Mc at the buffet bar. Nice! I reckon it’s a good place for one, or a group of friends.
For something cold after something hot… Try the Korean-style shaved ice! In Korean, it’s called ‘Bingsu’ (‘Bingsoo’ or ‘Patbingsu’ in some occasions). Typically bingsu is a fine and soft shredded ice with extravagant toppings like condensed milk, seasonal fruits, azuki beans, pat, tteok, sometimes a scoop of ice cream… and so on. It’s a feast for both stomach and eye! I don’t usually eat food with red bean, (my tip, though,) I always find any dessert that made with red beans in Japan or Korea taste very good. (Dongdaemun #419)
Insa-dong is the neighborhood for tourists looking for a souvenir. The entire street is filled with traditional Korean gifts from handicrafts, tea leaves, handkerchiefs, books, accessories… to designer products. It’s almost impossible to not find something nice for a friend or a loved one at home. In the quest of a perfect souvenir(s), I found Insa-dong also has quite a few nice restaurants with Korean-style tea and juk (porridge).
Yes, when it comes to tea, or food, Koreans and Japanese managed to absorb the sea amount of knowledge from China, and gradually made it their own. As a matter of fact, the tea culture in China, Korea, and Japan are hugely different nowadays!
The Korean’s recipe of making tea and porridge are traditionally made for well-being, nourishing, or even healing. To me, porridge is a healthy, but tasty comfort food to cleanse my body after a huge Korean barbecue party the night before; and a white-fish and veggie porridge could do it for me just right. Other tasty choices would be Abalone porridge, crab porridge, and chicken porridge…. The possibility is countless!
More Korean tea houses are like everywhere in Seoul as well… (Insa-dong #130)
On the other side of the Han River, Sinsa-dong is a hip 700m walking the street for the trendsetters and fashionistas. Fashion labels, outlets, cafes, bakeries and flagship stores could be found on both sides of the street. ELBON was an interesting 3-story concept store on the north end of the street featuring western dishes with a twist. The day that I was there, I had a pretty nice three-course lunch (the highlight is the chocolate dessert!). A place for the adventurous mind!
Deux Cremes – A popular bakery in Sinsa-dong, fruit tarts in many different flavors like banana, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, grapes…. (Sinsa-dong #337)
Close to the Bukchon Hanok Village (or the North Village, a Korean traditional village), Anguk-Dong is a relatively quiet neighborhood without tall buildings, but carefully preserved traditional houses, and mindfully decorated shops and cafes. Walking uphill visitors could enjoy a nice view of the city’s skyline, and find homestays in traditional Korean houses.
After a 15-20 minute walk from the Anguk subway station, I was searching Ganjang Gejang (Raw Crabs Marinated in Soy Sauce), and one of the best places eating Ganjang Gejang, is in Anguk. It was an old-fashioned dining place where diners had to kneel by the table eating. But who cares?! The crab is simply amazing! Tomalley (crab fat) and roe are commonly nicknamed a ‘rice thief’ as it arouses one’s appetite, and one would consume a bowl of rice with the crab without noticing. (Anguk-Dong #328)
Love Korean Barbecue. Gogigui (literally, the ‘roasting meat’) is grilling a table of marinated beef, pork, chicken, or other meats over charcoal (or nowadays, gas). There are many places doing that, and it depends on your style: whether doing it freely with a big pile of meat at a very low price or grilling meat in a perfectly clean environment with class and style.
For the former style, try Majang Meat Market at Majang-dong. The up-side of shopping in Korean markets is that the shoppers may not only shop for food there, but there are kitchen and restaurant for them to eat there. In this case, it makes the shopping the cooking process much easier because the diner grill the meat themselves. More, it’s possible to order a large meat platter of Hanwoo (Korean beef) grade A++ beef at a very low price! Yummylicious! (Majang-dong #541)