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7 days in Seoul

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Me and the wife recently spent 7 days in Seoul. Why? Not sure, we got cheap airfares and it seemed like a good idea. We had very little knowledge of Korean food, culture and language beyond the basics of "Korean BBQ", "Hot Stone Rice Bowl", "Pancake" & "Soju". By the end of the trip, we'd tacked on "hello", "bye", "thank you" and some very basic understanding of numbers. I figured I'd post some photos of some of the food, in what is decidedly an incredibly different take on the excellent Travelogue being run by Peter Green. His is the real Korean foodie experience one can get, this is more what happens foodwise when you're a tourist and go shopping and "touristing" a lot during the day. But we certainly do love our food, so without further ado, this is what we came across.

(Note: We are based out of NY, and therefore is gonna be quite NY Centric)

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Hot Dogs

Holy Hot Dogs, I could post 20 different photos on these alone. They're everywhere, in every form, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Given the hissy fit here in NY over a new hotdog store that offers one with a fruit topping, I can't even imagine the conniption these same traditionalists would have in the face of such an onslaught:


Fish Cake wrapped, then deep fried hot dog (2000 won, about $1.50)


At the convenience store, hanging around cryovac'ed and ready to roll


Curiously enough, this Korean Hot Dog chain has now opened up in NY - it's got quite a few stores around Seoul


These were wrapped in raw dough, which was then rolled in breadcrumbs, which was then deep fried. I saw a Korean mom swirl a pretty intricate ketchup pattern onto her son's treat, so I'm guessing that's the condiment of choice around these parts. 1500 Won.


"Cheese Sausage Pastry", 1900 won. Note that the pastry just to the right is also a hot dog pastry.


I think this one was a hot dog pizza if I recall correctly

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Street Food

I actually ran into less street food than I expected, given that there is so much talk of it. I guess that's the point, most people don't expect it, and find quite a bit of it around, which is surprising. Of course, convincing my wife that dinner under a tarp would work out just fine proved to be nearly impossible, so I guess it didn't matter too much in the end. We never wound up eating a full meal off any asphalt & tarp based operations, but we did grab some snacks:


I'm glad I'm not having to pronounce these (you get one little accent or sylable wrong, and people look at you like you've had a stroke), but these stuffed golden pancakes are "hotteok" or something like that (also of note: MORE sausages...). I'd previously read Peter Green's description of his son biting into one and almost losing a tongue, so I proceeded with extreme caution, nibbling like a damn bunny rabbit. It still got me pretty good on the tip of the tongue, these things are merely containers for molten lava (or brown sugar & peanuts in this case)


Note the two cardboard holders I was handed. I still had to move it around a bit due to the heat of the hot oil.


This walnut cake operation probably doesn't qualify, since it's an actual shop. But it's street like, so here it is. A man (with the patience of a saint, or a lot of valium at his disposal) sits there and feeds walnut segments into an empty (rotating) mold. Sometimes he decides he put too many and quickly takes back a little piece. Sometimes he adds more just before it reaches the doughy squirt gun. Anyways, then comes the dough gun, then the red bean paste gun, then the thing closes and rotates around the belt, baking at just the right temperature. At the end of the track? The old man once again, pops the cake out, and into a bucket right next to him. 3000 ($2.30 or so?) won bought you a whole bag full.


Walnut Cake innards. The bean paste must be cut with something to make it cheaper, it wasn't strong at all.


This may have been the best thing on the whole trip. Just outside the Lotte Department Store (the one next to the Westin) sits this lady cranking out a 1000 won egg cake. They are slightly sweet and amazingly delicious. We actually returned for a second visit, something entirely unprecedented on this trip.


Closeup showing the egg in the mold with the cake while cooking.


Egg Cake Innards. The best.

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Miscellaneous Junk Food

I swear this is starting to look bad, we did find and eat plenty of proper food - I guess we just didn't take too many pictures of it. For some reason, the stuff we wound up eating the least of (most things above we just bit into for taste, egg cakes being an exception), we wound up with the most pictures of.


Junk Food Galore. From left to right:

- iced tea

- a package of strawberry cream stuffed cookies

- a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies (the store attendant gave us these for free, no clue why, maybe he wanted to help out the trip report?)

- a huge package of "Spicy Chicken Cheetos Balls". I didnt taste these, but was told they were quite good

- On the bottom row are two weird cream stuffed breads. First one is like a sweet brioche with whipped cream, the second one was very strange: crustless white bread with strawberry whipped cream. Kind of like crustables, but with whipped cream instead of PB & J. Also didn't eat these.

- Onion Chips. Not very good, US & England are far better.

- Ramen Bowl

- Grape Soda Can. Very Classic flavor.


I guess Volcano's are a Korean thing? 4500 won = ~$3.50 or so, but this was from a pricey place. Finding this seemed pretty random.


This one had only cheeses, and was INFINITELY worse than Momofuku Milk Bar's version. Barely touched it.


These are everywhere, but I have no clue what they are. It's like a sweet light bread dough with a nice crunchy thin sweet crust. Again, at a total loss, but even the hotel breakfast bar had these.


We walked past a Burger King, noticed a sign for "Garlic Cheeseburger" and went right in. These were really good: meat, cheese, cooked onions, pickles and slightly spicy red garlic paste. We also had a bulgogi burger, but in the fast food world "bulgogi" just apparently means "sweet" (and nasty).


Another apparent national obsession (pizza being the only apparent obsession I didn't document) is waffles. Only got two photos of these. The above is at a fancy mall, we got the second one in from the left.


"Caramel Crunch" flavor.


More of a mom & pop shop operation, those are our waffles cooking away.


Each waffle has a fruit sauce (one strawberry, one blueberry) and a choice of whipped cream or soft serve yogurt inside (we went with 2 whipped cream). Each waffle costs 1500 won, which is about $1.20, which is insane - they are cooked to order. The iced coffee & iced mocha were 2000 won each.


I believe this is the Korea version of McDonalds


The full menu. This place was (to our taste) completely awful. The meat reminded me of truck stop frozen microwave burgers. The fries reminded me of what you get right before closing from a Manhattan McDonalds with pissed off employees who hate their jobs. Burger King was infinitely better, we didn't finish anything here.

Ok, the next and last part is all healthy. I promise...

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Wow, seems like you guys had an amazing trip. Was going to take a trip to Korea myself this summer but other factors dictated otherwise.

Eating ventures through a new city/country are always the best. Learn so much from a culture just from the food and people present.


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  • 1 month later...

Outstanding! You've given me a number of excellent reasons to go back. The hot dogs deep fried in fish cake along have got me a salivating!

My apologies for not getting to this sooner. July was probably too introspective a month!


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  • 3 months later...
  • 11 months later...

Ate at lotteria 3x and one at KFC. Lotteria was far better which to be honest isn't saying much. However, when a 6 year old starts screaming for bread and burgers, not much choice.

I really like Seoul (just came back about a month ago) except for one reason. The air quality was hurendous. I don't know how people live. A few days, I thought it was fog until a local set me straight. you could not see the sun nor the near by mountains clearly. If they could every clear that up, it would be an amazing city. Clean, modern, efficient mass transit, and readily available cheap food. I never really had a bad meal (except at western rest).

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  • 1 month later...

Lotteria sucks, but I'm addicted to their shrimp burgers.

When I was a wee lad growing up in Seoul, my mom used to take me to Lotteria after swim practice...I remember loving one of their burgers that had like a teriyaki/bulgogi sauce on it. Mmm.

The last time I was there was 2000 and remember noticing how awful the air was as soon as I stepped outside the airport. I wonder if things have gotten better or worse since then?

Edited by Joon (log)
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