Seoul Food Guide: What to Eat in 9 Local Neighborhoods

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Seoul Food Guide: What to Eat in 9 Local Neighborhoods

My yummylicious adventure continues and this time I was in Seoul. The amazing dining and Korean local food experience in different neighborhoods of Seoul – it’s more than Kimchi, Rice Cakes, and Bibimbap 🙂

Who says Korean dishes are all the same? For those who didn’t pay attention – Korean cuisine has a nice and exciting diversity, and it’s constantly evolving and creating trends from traditional Kimchi, Tteokbokki 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), and Bibimbap 비빔밥 – no, the country offers much more than that. So I explored different alleys and districts, a.k.a. – ‘dong’s, (‘neighborhood’ in Korea representing a sub-municipal level administrative unit), and you might be pleasantly surprised by the yummylicious experience!

I have also put the subway station number with each title so you know where to look for it. (just in case the spiderweb-like Seoul subway is too complicated to navigate :P)

Gangnam-gu Office (#730)

Starting off with up-scale fine-dining experience in Seoul and I was brought there by my friend @ MUOKi. This is a MICHELIN Guide Restaurant and I was introduced to innovative dished from their tasting menu. I enjoyed the high chair at the bar and we can see how the kitchen works and how our dishes were made under the supervision of chef James.

Itaewon (#30)

Itaewon doesn’t look like Korea at all. Many foreigners stay here and it felt as if I was in L.A. or Sydney. Itaewon is also an area for a fun night out: lots of bars, clubs, discos, salons, and jjimjilbang (Korea traditional bathhouse)… Itaewon could be so crowded all night long on the weekends that traffic could be still busy at 4 am in the morning.

Itaewon, however, looks quite different in the day. There are many restaurants serving international dishes including cuisine from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Mexico.

Nitro Coffee

Yummylicious Seoul - Nitro CoffeeWe had some time to kill before dinner and so we were strolling in one of the alleys behind Hamilton Hotel (a popular meeting point at Itaewon) and found Bruworks Nitro Coffee. In fact, Nitro coffee is nothing new. Nitro Coffee is a coffee infused with nitrogen gas, which makes it creamier and richer than straight-up iced coffee. I love it! Nitro Coffee is available in a lot of cafes (as if we need more cafes in Seoul – South Korea is one of the biggest coffee markets in the world), but not a lot of them are authentic. First off, I don’t think Nitro coffee should be mixed ice, but some places do. Luckily the Nitro Coffee that we had in Itaewon was amazing!

Gogigui 고기 그리

We had a date with a friend in Seoul yet she told me she hadn’t been to Maple Tree House before. It is ranked #17 on TripAdvisor out of 120,940 Restaurants in Seoul.

Yummylicious Seoul - Maple TreeIf you would like to try Korean BBQ at Maple Tree House, it’s better for you to make reservations because it could be crowded during peak hours. 🙂

To be honest, barbecue beef is always one of my favorite dishes and I could have it all day every day if I can. Maple Tree House has quite a lot of choices and I would definitely come back in the future when I am in Seoul!

Maple Tree House
Address: 26 Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-790-7977

Yummylicious Seoul - BBQ

Hyehwa (#420)

Dak Galbi 막 갈비

Hyehwa is an area close to Dongdaemun, which is commonly known as Daehangno. Since Seoul National University Yongon campus is nearby, the area has an exciting shopping scene and dining alleys, and vibrant nightlife.

Yummylicious Seoul - Dak Galbi (2)But that day we were looking for Chicken Galbi. Dak-galbi, or spicy stir-fried chicken, is a popular Korean dish made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken (on a sizzling hot pan at the table) in a gochujang-based sauce with sweet potatoes, cabbage, perilla leaves, scallions, tteok, and other ingredients. To me, it tastes the BEST with cheese and never, never, skip the cheese. It is also a habit for Koreans to add rice to the pot after the chicken is finished.

Address: 8 Myeongdong 4-gil, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-3789-2492


Nonhyeon (#732)

For this one, it’s very secretive.

Seashell hot pot

Yummylicious Seoul - SeashellGDTONG makes a great seashell hot pot and that place is popular among not only tourists but the locals. It was used to be near the busy Konkuk University district (which is a popular shopping area for the locals), and then just when we finished shopping, we realized that the restaurant has moved to Nonhyeon! I particularly like the clear soup base and the taste of the soup, while they do not have a variety of choices on their menu but fish balls, noodles, or seashells to add to the hot pot.

Address: 143-26 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Dongdaemun (#419)

Chimaek 치맥, Chi-Mc!

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 entire East Asia a couple of years ago. As a result, the demand for chicken shops up-surged tremendously across the country.

Seoul Food

Yummylicious Seoul Chimaek, Chi-Mc!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 (Read more: 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 hot pot restaurant that was quite funky. Each diner has its 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.

Patbingsu 팥빙수

IMG_0806What is patbingsu? In Korean, “Bingsu” means shaved ice, and “Pat” means red bean. The word, literally, is “red bean shaved ice”. While shaved ice isn’t new to food lovers, South Korea’s shaved ice has its own unique taste and style.

A traditional patbingsu consists of fine and soft shredded ice with red bean paste (pat) and condensed milk; Today, the dessert is served with various exciting toppings that include seasonal fruits, azuki beans, tteok, yogurt, matcha sauce, sometimes with a scoop of ice cream! Having a bowl of patbingsu is a popular culture among locals and it is spreading to the rest of Asia. There are many patbingsu shops in Seoul, especially Dongdaemun, Insa-dong, Myeong-dong, and Itaewon.

As for me, my favorite patbingsu is still the traditional kind, the soft texture of red bean and condensed milk complement each other, and the sweetness is softened by the cooling ice. Not only the dessert tastes great and is presented with colorful toppings, but also fun sharing a bowl of ice with a group of friends after a fun night out and dinner!

Okrumong Bingsu
Address: 18-9 Euljiro 6(yuk)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Insa-dong (#130)

Juk 죽

Insa-dong is definitely 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 has also quite a few nice restaurants with Korean-style tea and juk (porridge).

Yes, 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…

Gaesung Mandu – Koong
Address: 30-11, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-733-9240

Sinsa-dong (#337)

On the other side of the Han River, Sinsa-dong is a trendy and hip 700m walking street for the trendsetters and fashionistas. Fashion labels, outlets, cafes, bakeries, and flagship stores could be found on both sides of the street. ELBON the Table 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….

Anguk-dong (#328)

Ganjang Gejang 게장

IMG_0852Close 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 home-stays 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.

IMG_3281Another great place is the Ganjang Gejang Alley in Sinsa-dong, which is just a few minutes away from subway exit 4. There are a few places that are popular, and Wonjo Masan is one of the most crowded. The crabs are a bit salty but it tastes much better with a bowl of rice 😛

Places in Sinsa-dong’s Ganjang Gejang Alley:

  1. Masan Halmae Ganjang Gejang (마산할매간장게장)
  2. Bangbaksa Agwi Jjim (방박사아구찜)
  3. Wonjo Masan Agwi Jjim (원조마산아구찜)
  4. Mokpohang (목포항)
  5. Seobaekja Pro Ganjang Gejang (서백자프로간장게장)
  6. Ttungi-ne Pro Ganjang Gejang (뚱이네프로간장게장)
  7. Pro Ganjang Gejang (프로간장게장)

Yummylicious Seoul - Crab

Yangjae (#342) and Hoehyeon (#425)

Jokbal 족발

IMG_2014Jokbal is a Korean dish of pig’s trotters cooked with soy sauce and spices. (Super yummy) It is usually braised in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice wine. I love anything wrapped in lettuce and the trotters taste even better wrapping with miso sauce. It is kind of a “celebration” food for a group of people to enjoy (while drinking).

I was brought to two different places for Jokbal and they are both great. One is in Yangjae, and the local friend told me the Young Dong Jokbal is actually famous to the locals.

Yummylicious Seoul - JokbalFor the other place, we ventured to the Namdaemun market, pretty close to Hoehyeon station), and I was told the Jokbal there are highly recommended. True, I did like the “delicacy” in some of the places there and I also enjoyed a lot the convenience of shopping local groceries, snacks, and products in the market before on my way looking for the place!

Young Dong Jokbal 영동족발
Address: 1-8, Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 2-575-0250

Sinseol-dong (#126 / 211-4)

Gogigui 고기구이

Sinseol-dong Yukjeon SikdangLove Korean Barbecue. For pork, you have to have visited a local joint – the Yukjeon Sikdang. This is the most popular among the locals, and a long waiting line could be seen in the evening as early as 5 pm. I had to wait for about 30 minutes for a table (luckily, they have a waiting room upstairs of the restaurant and you could chill before getting a table), and it’s totally worth it. Choose 150g or 200g of 4 kinds of premium porks; the servers will handle the rest, I ordered 3 kinds of 150g pork so I could have a taste of everything.

The pork was so good (and I stayed nearby) that a local friend of mine brought me there again the other night. The restaurant closes at midnight and it’s still very crowded at 10 pm – so you know just how good it is 🙂

Click here to Explore the Lesser-known Neighborhoods in Seoul 

Yukjeon Sikdang
Address: 16 Nangye-ro 30-gil, Yongsin-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 2-2253-6373

Majang-dong (#541)

Gogigui 고기구이

Seoul FoodGogigui (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 upside of shopping in Korean markets is that shoppers may not only shop for food there, but there are a kitchen and restaurant for them to eat there. In this case, it makes the shopping the cooking process much easier because of 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!


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25 thoughts on “Seoul Food Guide: What to Eat in 9 Local Neighborhoods

  1. […] aftertaste. Another personal favorite would be nitro coffee (which I have also introduced in Yummylicious! Seoul!), the trend is quickly spreading throughout the world and it Nitro Coffee could be seen in many […]

  2. Your tour de food of Seoul is very interesting. The rich and varied cuisine of the place springs to life with all its flavours and aromas in your post. For me of course the Nitro Coffee is something special and invigorating.

    1. Thanks Sandy. I love coffee and so I woke up every morning looking for Nitro coffee in different places. Not all are authentic up to this point – don’t go for the ones with ice 😐…. there are just iced coffee.

  3. This is a very comprehensive overview of what foods are available in different neighbourhoods. I’ll have to consult it if I make it back to Seoul! I’m most familiar with kimchi and Korean bbq and hot pot, but it’s good to learn about some other Korean culinary specialties.

  4. Yes, Korean dishes are not same at all. Even you have listed many, but the rest is still heap. Whenever I come to a Korean street (a street having over ten Korean restaurant with several Korean mini markets) in Vietnam, I should need a Korean friend to guide me how to order food there. Quite amazing !

    1. That’s special! what’s your favourite Korean dishes? and do you have any suggestions for yummylicious places in Vietnam?

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