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Dining in Seoul


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Ack, that last photo...what is that? That's a plant??? The first one looks like some form of sea urchin...is that right? I love sea urchin, havn't had it since I was a kid. I will definitely keep an eye out.

I actually managed to teach myself Hangul so it would be easier to get around, but I need to learn more vocabulary. Most non-Koreans I've met don't seem to realize it only has 24 letters, and is so easy to learn.

This thread is great, I can't believe I have so much information. The Noryangjin Fish Market sounds like a must. With a camera. And I definitely want to try temple food...is Sanchon my best bet? Or how would one arrange for a meal at an actual temple? And Jim, your suggestions on dishes to try is fantastic. I have been wanting to try the rice cake soup ever since I read about it.

Oh, and is the Lotte center anywhere near the Lotte hotel? That is where we will be staying.

Now I just need to figure out how to snare myself a young Korean guide without coming off too creepy...

I might pack a small french press & coffee with me to avoid a caffeine headache. I've read that coffee is expensive but that you are meant to nurse a cup for a few hours if you want. I've also read there are a couple of "women only" cafes, some just "feminist" as opposed to gay -- I am straight but it is a culture I am comfortable with (4-year women's college, among other things...:rolleyes:) so it might be a good way to meet friendly people...any idea if people might be offended? I gather the gay culture is not very well integrated into society there. Is it a generational thing there as it is here?

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mongeh is sea squirt unless I'm mistaken. It hink it's related to sea urchin (성게)

haesam is sea cucumber.

I have no idea what the translation for kaebul is. I've never had it. Pic looks scary to me.

I like sea cuke cooked, the way they do it at Korean-Chinese restaurants, in a brown sauce. Very easy to like this way, IMHO.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.


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Just wanted to add -- looking at www.tour2korea.com, there seems to be a program where you can get a volunteer guide to show you around the city, for free except to pay their expenses. It seems to get lots of good comments, so for future readers of this thread, that might be something to look into. You need to reserve at least two weeks in advance. I think I will do that. Much nicer than trying to pick people up at bars...:rolleyes:

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jschyun wrote:

mongeh is sea squirt unless I'm mistaken. It hink it's related to sea urchin (성게)

I imagine meong-ge and sea urchin must be related in some fashion, but I don't know closely.

On a few occasions I was fortunate to find live sea urchin available for purchase in Noryangjin. Took them home, cut them open, gently scooped out the five lovely fingers of roe/milt...sheer heaven.

Another great find is monkfish liver (ankimo/agu kan). Koreans don't eat it, but it is a Japanese delicacy. If you negotiate a bit, you can buy for a song from the agu vendors at Noryangjin, but you need to be there in the morning for that.

jschyun also wrote:

I have no idea what the translation for kaebul is.  I've never had it.  Pic looks scary to me.

Similarly, behemoth wrote:

Ack, that last photo...what is that? That's a plant???

Nope...that's an animal. Supposed to be good for the male...vigor...can you believe that?!?!?

It is typically eaten sliced and raw, as are haesam and meong-ge. As jschyun notes, haesam is also often eaten cooked. I'm not crazy about the Korean- Chinese, brown sauced preparation, but I do like it cooked with a lighter, less gloopy sauce...especially stuffed with seasoned pork.

Perhaps this is a reasonable segue point for another food "must try item". I'm not a fan (at all) of what passes as fancy Chinese food in Korean hotels and banquets, but I absolutely love the thoroughly assimilated Korean Chinese food. Things like ja jang myeon (자장면), jjambong (짬봉), and similar items are just awesome. There's a great place in the bottom of the Asiana/Kumho Group Building. It was a frequent lunch spot for me when I worked nearby.

Also...about your hotel. Are you staying in the Lotte on the north side of the river? Or the one in Jamsil near Lotte World? The one on the north side is right by Lotte department store, which will have a good food floor. The Jamsil one is at a department store, as well as Lotte World, an indoor amusement park. I know the neighborhood around the former really well, the latter not much at all.


Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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  • 1 month later...
Also...about your hotel. Are you staying in the Lotte on the north side of the river? Or the one in Jamsil near Lotte World?

Sorry it's taken so long to reply -- its been crazy trying to tie up loose ends before I leave. We are staing in the Lotte Hotel in Gwanghwamun, so the food court will be a nice way to put my toe in the water on the first evening, without being too intimidated. We also now have a guide who will take us to the fish market. (I don't know if she was so excited about that, might let her take us wherever she thinks is wothwhile and do the fish thing on our own. I just wanted someone who could order for me :smile: )

jrufusj, if you can remember the fancier of the two BBQ places you recommended, it would really be appreciated. (If not, don't worry about it). I think one of the two will be a good choice for taking out my spouse and his colleague. Will also certainly hit the sashimi place you mentioned, I can't wait, I am dying for good fish.

As far as liver sashimi, I used to eat it (lamb) quite often in Lebanon as a kid, and absolutely love it. I'm taking my husband there next May so he can meet my (extended) family, so I think I will hold off on exposing him to that until then, when it won't seem quite as unfamiliar (and he has enough Arak in him :wink: ).

How is the baby?

I've printed out the topic, have my lonely planet guide, my phrase book and my language CDs copied onto mini-disks, have my guide's number and email, have my camera... I hope to bring back lots of pictures from my trip, will try to post a few here. Whew, one more week!

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  • 5 weeks later...
Just got back, and wanted to thank everyone for all the great suggestions. Amazing city, unbelievably nice people and the food... wow. Now I need sleep...

Glad to hear you're back okay. I was unable to answer your final questions before you left as I was travelling without access to eGullet. I've been eagerly awaiting your reaction. Sounds like you had a good trip.

Get some rest. Build your strength back up. Jet lag is hell!

Then, get your priorities straight (?!?!) and let us know what you ate, where you went, and just how fun it was.


Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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Then, get your priorities straight (?!?!) and let us know what you ate, where you went, and just how fun it was.

Lord, I have to admit I have no idea where to start with this. I'll start with what I did not eat. No dog (didn't really come up, didn't make any effort to seek it out), and none of those larvae at street stalls (not that I have anything against insects, but those things smelled like an open grave, gah!)Also, sadly, I didn't get to see the fish market. It just didn't work in our schedule, plus we got to eat fish pretty much every night we were there. Also, in two years the conference will be in Tokyo so I get to see that market instead :smile:

Now then, what I did eat:

So we were staying in the Lotte hotel north of the river. As you know, this is attached to a department store with an outstanding food court and supermarket in the basement. This would be my base camp for the next week, providing me with relatively inexpensive and very excellent brunches as I headed out to explore the city. First night, we grabbed various foods on sticks. Koreans seem to be particularly skilled in this area. We had some sort of shrimp paste rolled on a stick then pan fried, and chicken skewers with a great sweet sour sauce.

We walked around the supermarket and admired the beautiful fish displays, the immaculately arranged multitudes of kimchis, greens, beautifully packaged grains, dried shrimp in various grades, dried sardines in various grades, sesame seeds, seaweeds etc etc etc.

Later in the evening we walked around and picked a random bar to walk into. It looked to be sorta westernized, but in fact the waiter spoke no english, and had only korean menus. I used my full language capabilities here. Sadly, this consisted of "waiter, I would like two beers an the squid appetizer, please." I say sadly because the squid turned out to be this whole dried cuttle fish that had been char grilled. It actually tasted quite nice, but was a little tricky to eat. Basically, squid jerky. The beer was nice though. Hite Prime, I think. On the way home we stopped by a 7-11 and picked up some cacus fruit yoghurt, some soda, water and a couple of triangle kimbab. Tuna salad and some kind of spicy beef, I think. We need to petition all american convenience stores to start carrying these, so good!

That was our first night.

Let's see. Day 2. It was raining like crazy, we grabbed pad thai and some dim-sum style dumplings in the food hall. Great stuff. Later in the evening it calmed down a bit so we could walk around. Took my spouse to his first bulgogi experience. This was a place in the side street next to the bell pavilion. Charcoal grills and all the side dishes. Must say my man was blown away. We got a very nice waiter who spoke good english, he seemed to be a student who had spent some time in Chicago. In any case, most menus have pictures so you can usually just manage by pointing at what you want. Also got Mul Naeng Myun here, very refreshing.

Day 3. I walked all over town, had tea in insadong. Met up later and had dinner at a restaurant in insadong. A braised octopus dish in a spicy/sweet chili sauce (divine!), a scallion pancake, and all kinds of little side dishes, the new one for me was bracken in sesame oil, very good. Much later that night, we decided to hit a club or two near the university area. as we were walking around we found a great little record store, the clerk was really nice and recommended a few local DJ CDs for me, and turned out to be a big cure fan. Then we found a cool bar, had a couple of drinks and basically people watched. We got some puffy peanut flavored chips with our drinks...afterwards, grabbed some kimchi mandu from a place that was open late. Didn't look like much but the food was good and they were really nice to us.

Day 4. Deposited various tempura stuff for lunch for my hard working spouse. Later about town, for me, hand cut noodles with clams. Why have I been denied this dish all my life?? Walked around lots, saw a street rally (and lots of riot gear) in front of city hall, walked past the american embassy, past the museums and up to Geongbukgung. Evening, attended the conference reception in my role as faculty spouse. rather dull, but lots of decent sashimi :smile: later that night we met some friends for drinks in what would turn out to be our favorite bar in Seoul (a japanese place with friendly staff and good snacks and lots of activity wel into the night.)

Day 5. Wandered around the ingwansan shamanist mountain area. Cool atmosphere, really quiet and only 2 subway stops away from the center of Seoul. Also walked around the prison on the other side of the Dongnimmun station. Returned to insadong street, bought a cookbook at Seoul selections bookstore (very nice people, again) and then stopped at a small and rather eccentric little place for some really amazing bi bim naengmyun. The lady there was worried I'd find it too spicy, and apparently I didn't stir it around vigoroulsy enough when I got it so she did it for me. she seemed more amused than annoyed, though. I got over my embarassement as soon as I had my first taste. Another thing I will be craving forever. I need to figure out how to duplicate that version...it was not particularly fancy but the sauce was really outstanding. Then visited jogyesa temple and got a very generous tour of the place with an english-speaking guide.

Oh then in the evening the conference had this giant event with tons of great food, including chapchae, kimbab and sweet rice cakes. Oh yeah, and tons of sashimi.

Day 6. Conference breakfast -- decided the korean soup/rice option was for more appealing than the sausage and scrambled eggs. Walked around Namdaemun mkt, admired the cooking supply stores and lamented the lack of space in my suitcase. Went back to the hotel, bought more tea cakes on the way, seriously addictive! Had lunch in the basement Lotteria -- wasn't nuts about the bugogi burger but the shrimp one was really almost improbably good -- like a very fresh crab cake. We were really late to get to dinner and found a hole-in-the-wall kalbi place with a bunch of friends. The woman there spoke no english but my learning of hangul alphabet came in handy and I was able to order. This place really didn't look like much, but the food was great. Again, we visited our favorite japanese bar for beer and soju. Street food -- spicy rice cake stuff!

Day 7. Last day :sad: We took a DMZ tour. My spouse is german so he is especially interested in this. Was pretty impressive, on several different levels...

In the afternoon we toured another palace (it was insanely humid!) then had tea and coffee in an extremely cute insadong tea shop set up to look like a bookstore. Saw the Jogyesa temple closing ceremony. Had dinner at another place in insadong with friends, most memorable dish for me was a kind of braised pork in chili sauce dish.

Basically, I don't think we did anything particularly remarkable or exotic, but I can't imagine having a nicer experience.

Two things that struck me:

Given the US craze over the Atkins diet, And given the Korean diet of white rice, noodles and rice flour, I have to say we saw all of maybe two people in Seoul who could be considered even slightly overwieght. The supermarkets we saw were an inverse of what you'd find in the states. Prepared foods were a tiny percentage of the stores, with most of the space taken up by fresh foods. The complete opposite of an american supermarket. Also, even the poorest markets had beautiful produce, in large variety. I currently live in the midwest so the difference is especially striking.

The other thing was, I consider myself someone who has travelled a good deal, and I know this is kind of a cliche, but I have to say I have never been treated so nicely, or felt so well taken care of as when I was in Seoul. People were actually coming up to me and asking me if I was enjoying my visit, if I needed help getting anywhere, at the city hall rally one guy actually asked my if I would like to share some lunch with the soldiers(!) really incredibly cool place. I am hoping to study more Korean and travel back, to see more of the countryside.

Thanks again for all the suggestions, you all really steered me towards some new favorites.

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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  • 1 month later...

In just two weeks I will be lucky enough to spend one full day and two half days in the wonderful world of Seoul. While I'm game for anything, my companion is less than adventurous when it comes to food. So, I come here begging for suggestions of restaurants that might serve perfect (or at least very good) bibimbap and/or bulgogi. Any ideas? We're sort of on a budget, and can only spend US$30-40 each for the bulgogi..is there such a thing as good bulgogi for less than that?

I did read the other threads on Seoul, but didn't find much in terms of restaurant names for these particular foods. We'll be staying at the Hamilton in Itaewon if that helps any.

Help me eat good Korean food, please!

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Since I started the last thread and was just there in July, I can try to give you some general info. Have you been to Seoul before?

People were telling me it would be hard to figure out restaurant names (when and if they have them) and I found this was true even though I could read Hangul. Also, according to my lonely planet guide (which was really useful) it is almost impossible to figure out where a place is based on their street address as all house numbers are assigned according to when the place was built! Apparently you need to fax the place and they send you a map :blink:

There are a couple things you can do. A) you can wing it, we had no bad meals while we were there, and the "merely good" ones were had in places we wouldn't have really chosen by their looks had it not been past 10pm on a weekday. All places that looked good turned out to be great. We had some picky eaters with us and they were very impressed with the food. For a Bulgogi place, choose one where they have the charcoal grills rather than the gas ones, though we had the gas one once and it was fine too.

B) Check out that Fat Man Seoul page (there are links from the "Seoulville" thread.) This guy keeps a blog of his meals in Seoul, with photos and directions so it would be easier to find the places.

While authentic chinese, indian and some traditional formal restaurants were somewhat expensive (by local standards), we found most regular Korean places in Seoul to be very nicely priced. You could easily get away with a nice Bulgogi dinner for under 20,000W. Bibimbap shouldn't cost more than 5,000W, even in nicer places. Since we were staying at the Lotte hotel, we tended mostly to eat somewhere between there and Insadong. Definitely check out Insadong street, even though it is a little touristy, it also has lots of neat galleries and the tea shops are very cute and eccentric, and there are lots of places to eat. (Be sure to check out the little side streets.)

I didn't go far off the beaten path, granted, but it was a lot to see for a first time Seoul visitor like myself. I really want to go back.

Oh, also, while the restaurants in the lotte hotel itself are a total ripoff, the basement of the attached Lotte department store had some great cheap food, and is very popular with the locals. Great place to try street food if the stalls look too scary for your friend :smile:

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while I am not familiar with the area and therefore will not be able to give you any good suggestions, why don't you just make your own bibimpap? It's really easy and a common dish in our household. In fact we just had it for lunch today. Just pm me if you want the instructions/recipe.

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  • 11 months later...

Seoul needs more attention :biggrin: I took a trip there in early June and wanted to share some pictures with everyone. The food was great and filling, but unfortunately I could not takes as many pictures of the food as I wanted after an altercation between my camera and a large body of water :angry:

This was a really great city and there is a lot of eating to do, and fun to be had. I was only there for 4 days so I only got a small sample of what there is to be tasted. I'd definitely return to Seoul and for an opportunity to see the rest of the country. I will post details of my food adventures later, but here is a quick summary:

First Night: Boiled pigs feet, and and an egg-mayo-ketchup sandwich. (no picture)

Day 1: Spicy noodles and sausage.

Day 2: Oxtail soup and bulgogi.

Day 3: Baked goods and grilled beef.

Day 4: Seafood feast and deep-fried chicken.

Last day: Pancakes, yams, and kim-chi soup.

Anyways click here to see some pictures.

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  • 3 months later...

Well, Shawner from Korealife has moved to China, and Fatman Seoul is no longer blogging, so I thought I'd add some of my experiences from dining in Seoul. I've lived in Incheon for the past three years, and I'm by no means any expert on Korean food. I'm not nearly as adventurous as I should be, for someone who lives in a foreign country!

But Korea often gets overlooked when people come to Asia, and I thought putting some pictures up might inspire some to give it a second thought! My parents visited me here last year and had a great time. They had me helping them in restaurants, though. It can be tricky if you don't speak Korean. Also, when I first got here, I had no idea what kind of restaurants served what - it's a real help if you can read hanguel and know what a few food words look like. A lot of restaurants put a helpful picture on their signs, though - so if you see a picture of a happy pig - it's probably a pork restaurant.

One of the most popular foods is bibimbap, which I saw was even a subject of a cook-off here on eGullets. This is a dolsot version prepared at my local gimbap house. The adjumma always cooks the egg runny in the middle...just the way I like it! I like the egg best raw - but not a lot of places do that anymore.


The side dishes in the background are deonjang soup, black beans in soy sauce, kkadukki (radish pickle - apologies for hanguel to English translations), some sort of veg in pepper sauce - it may have been burdock, and a kelp salad. All lip-smacking, and a steal at roughly $4 for the lot.

This sort of place serves a selection of things, and you'd be hard pressed to find something for more than around $5 US. Doncasse (tonkatsu), Ramyeon - instant noodles, Mandu (steamed pork dumplings - usually the frozen kind, sadly), and of course gimbap are yummy choices. Gimbap is a Korean style rice and laver roll (I'm struggling not to use Japanese terms here, as I know it annoys a lot of my Korean friends - but think maki rolls). These are filled with yellow pickle, imitation crab, spinach, carrot, cucumber, spam and sometimes odeng (fish paste strips). My favourite kind is chamchi gimbap, which also includes canned tuna and mayonnaise. These are a great lunch or snack, and cost about a dollar for the plain kind, and two dollars for the tuna kind. You can get yachae gimbap (vegetable), kimchi gimbap, chiju gimbap (american cheese) and some places even serve so-gogi gimbap (with minced beef). Here's a picture of a typical gimbap store - they rarely have English writing on them, but they're just the place you want to stop into for lunch.


For some reason, they're always orange. Two popular gimbap chains are Gimbap Nara (Gimbap Country) and Gimbap Cheonguk (Gimbap Heaven).

If you like spicy food, I recommend you try a local favourite - Kimchi jigae (Kimchi stew), which can be made with either canned tuna (Chamchi Kimchi jigae) or pork. I prefer the pork kind. It'll come with a side of rice and panchan (side dishes) as well. Deonjang-jigae, (Spicy bean curd soup) is also fabulous. Just remember when you eat your jigae, take a spoon full of rice and dip it into the soup. It mellows the spice, and cools it down, too, as it always comes bubbling hot.

edited to add: note to self: Do NOT post thumbnails. Post regular photos. Duh.

Edited by nakji (log)
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A Gimbap restaurant specializes in...you guessed it..gimbap. Even a lowly stick of gimbap will come with soup, yellow pickle, and kimchi. Here's some take-out I got the other day. Normally, the tuna salad is in the shape of a fish, but the owner was in the weeds when I went in, and her back-up supply was exhausted. So this one was made quickly.


Here is a close-up of those side dishes from the bibimbap. These are rotated on a daily basis, depending on what's seasonal and cheap. I usually only like two out of the four - black beans and radish pickle were the ones I like here.


If you like dumplings, you can usually find them at a gimbap store, but they'll probably be the frozen kind. There have been a couple of big food safety scares over the past few years. The first one was when a major mandu maker was exposed for using rotten cabbage in the filling. Second, recently tests have been done on Chinese made kimchi revealing the cabbage is often full of worm larvae. Cheap imported kimchi is often used as a filling for Kimchi Mandu. Appetizing! If you see a place that looks like this:


They make their own from scratch. This one was in Sinchon, a popular university nightlife district.

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Some street food you might see in Seoul:


This is a typical set up. The hot red bubbling stuff is Ddeok Bokki; thick rice noodles and fish paste in a hot chili sauce. Yummy and spicy. If you get an egg in yours, make sure you break it open and mix the cooked yolk into the sauce. The sticks are odeng, and kind of solid fish paste. It's dipped in a communal bowl of soy, chilis, sesame oil, sesame seeds...I can't say I'm a fan, but you don't get the whole street food experience without trying it. Then, of course, there's lots of tempura, or Twiggim. This is usually pretty cold, but it's nice if you buy a few pieces to get swirled around in your ddeok bokki. In the front are some half-moon shaped things - those a fried mandu, called goon mandu. Yummy. In the back, wrapped up in plastic, is soondae; Korean sausage.

This was also between Sinchon and Ehwa Women's University. But they're everywhere.

edited to add some more details.

Edited by nakji (log)
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Continuing on in the street food vein, you can find dried snacks like these in popular shopping areas. This photo was taken in Myeongdong, a popular shopping area.


In the back are chips made from dried fish. In the middle are dried octopus tentacles, which may look a little disturbing to some, but actually have a nice sweet taste. Squid and octopus are very popular snacks to take to the movies, so you'll often see these vendors outside of movie theatres as well.

Also in Myeongdong are the famous "hot bar" vendors. Line-ups can get pretty long for one of these. Basically, it's a kind of batter with some vegetables, laver, ganeep leaf, imitation crab, and other various ingredients, shaped and then deep fried. Ketchup and mustard are de riguer. A Korean fusion hot dog? Perhaps.

In action:


A close up:


I must say I've never been able to put one of these into my mouth. Tentacles? No problem. Hot Bar? I don't know. There must be some reason for that line-up, though....

A traditional place to get some street food is Namdaemun Market. At night, carts are wheeled in (and in the winter, tents are set up around them) so tourists and vendors alike can grab a quick bite.


You can see traditional pancake - kimchi pajeon and Haemul (seafood) pajeon in the bottom left corner. A must try! The oiliness is meant to protect your stomach while drinking, so make sure you get a bottle of soju with this.

(Experts: Is it always pajeon? Or is it sometimes just jeon? Because I know pa means the leek/green onion that goes in....and why is it sometimes called buchingae? Is that related at all? I've never had anyone in Korea give me a satisfying clear answer to this.)

Along the front you can see dalk gochi, or chicken kebabs, which they'll grill up with a spicy sauce for you. Another must try! I often put back a couple of these after a night of soju debauchery while trying to flag down a cab that will take me back to Incheon. (Chowhounds: hands down best chicken kebabs are located at Songnae station in Bucheon, outside of Seoul. Tragically, there is no other reason to visit Bucheon. Unless you're coming to scenic Incheon! :biggrin: )

There are whole prawns, small octopus, large cockles, oysters (served with gojujang...mmmm), and other unidentifiable (to me) things available as well. You can order by pointing and using your fingers for numbers. There are steamed mussels in the back (no butter, alas! Do as a friend of mine and bring your own). I believe there is some soondae on the left as well, in the back, and on the far right in the back is the insidious odeng. On the far right, you can see a green bottle - that's makkeolli, which is an unfiltered rice wine (although I find it a little fizzy - like beer) In my estimation, makkeolli tastes like a banana milkshake that has been left in the fridge for a couple of days. My love for it is only surpassed by my love for dong-dongju. Anyway, makkeolli is refreshing, and I'd choose it over soju any day, although others may beg to differ. It has a reputation of being a working man's drink. Read into that what you may.

Prices here depend on what you eat. It's not particularly cheap if you get the seafood, but it's worth a stop for the atmosphere. If you're on a budget, makkeolli and pancake are the way to go.

I'm going to have to do a whole separate post for sweet street food - more favourites!

edited for typos

Edited by nakji (log)
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Okay, most readers here have probably been to a korean barbecue house before. I'll admit I had never been to one before moving to Korea - my hometown didn't have a single Korean restaurant. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting for you to see what's offered here in Seoul and compare it to what you can get at home. Unlike with street food, when the most variety comes out; winter time in a regular restaurant means a move away from fresh ingredients and side dishes, and a movement towards preserved vegetables and kimchis. I will say that the kimchi tastes best to me at this time of year (perhaps because it's young? Mostly, I think, because most places are still on their homemade stock and haven't had to start using commercially made stuff, like they do by the end of summer). So, it's the best of times and the worst of times in side dish land. Sweet fresh cucumbers and spicy pa-kimchis disappear, and are replaced by radishes and cabbages. Part of the reason that Korean food is so delicious is that it is very much tied to seasonality.

This is my local pork house which is called 90 (tan) 92, which is a pun on the coals that are used to cook the meat. I'm told. My husband just took five mintues to try and explain it to me, and it didn't sink in. Those of you who speak Korean, please enjoy a laugh. Those of you who don't? Welcome to the vague bemusement that defines my world.



The sides are (in the back, L-R, Sweet spicy pickled radish strips; sliced raw garlic; samjang dipping sauce; in the front; shredded cabbage in wasabi vinaigrette; wasabi pickled radish (containing, I believe, crack cocaine; a vegetable equivalent to Krispy Kreme donuts to me; I simply cannot get enough; I eat it until I have a belly ache), and cold radish pickle soup. All of these have Korean names; I am embarrassed to try and spell them without my dictionary handy. You wouldn't be able to order them anyway, as they're rotated on seasonality and price. Although cabbage is omnipresent in Korea. It seems like these guys had a deal on radish this week.

The main event:


The deonjang jigae on one side; the meat grilling on the other. We chose pork galbi (they call it yang nyeom - I think as it's marinated- dwaeji galbi) and spicy pork galbi (maeun dwaeji galbi - humblest apologies for spelling)

We always get the question, "Isn't it too spicy for you?" You'd think since we go every week they'd figure out we're okay with it. :biggrin:

More sides and, in the words of noodlepie, "foliage":


A kimchi pancake, and a dish of red-leaf lettuce, ganeep, and gochus. And some kimchi and beer in the background. The kimchi looked suspiciously Chinese, so I left it.

An average place, with bog-standard sides. I'd prefer that there were some mayonnaise salad offered (thus named as the chief ingredient is neither vegetable nor starch; but is pure ottogi brand mayo), but overall they complement the richness of the pork. Two orders of meat; a large bottle of beer; and rice came out to be around 18,000 won. Not too shabby. Of course, sides are all you can eat.

You can find a place like this in any neighborhood. Just look for the vacuum tubes hanging down from the ceiling, and a blue haze over the diners.

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Words of encouragement! Thanks! I was beginning to feel like I was alone in here.

Okay, another note on gimbap restaurants - they're one of the few kinds of restaurants in Korea where you can dine alone. Galbi and other "main dish" restaurants often won't serve only one person. So they're definitely worth searching out not only if you're on a budget, but if you're a solo traveller.

Okay, another quick photo of a street snack:


Bbeondaeggi, or silkworm larvae.

Previously described in this thread as smelling like an open grave, the smell tends to send foreigners running and gagging for safety. I've tried it, and I'm sad to tell you it tastes exactly like it smells. It has the consistency and texture of a cheese curd, though. Perhaps some brave Canadian will attempt fusion poutine with this...

Koreans enjoy this snack as part of something that has been described to me as, "remembering the bitterness of the past with sweetness". This is also the reason, apparently, for the popularity of the pojang machas, or the outdoor drinking tents. Even though worm larvae are no longer needed to provide protein; nor are tents needed for drinking in, people enjoy these experiences to remember the difficult times Korea has had in the past. A kind of nostalgia for the bad old days, if you will.

On a more delicious note, some photos of Hansik.

This is often translated in English as a Korean table d'hote, and if you get the opportunity to try it, go for it! You can find restaurants that serve this sort of meal in the area next to Gyeonbuk Palace, near Anguk station, and I believe Korea House serves it as well - and you get to view some dancing as well!

The meal involves soup, rice, and will have an incredibly large amount of side dishes and kimchis, and (I think) always a grilled fish. Again, I invite any readers with more experience with this dining to weigh in...I usually just eat the stuff, and am only rarely lucky enough to have someone explain the thinking or tradition behind it...

Here's a picture of the side dishes at a Hansik meal I had near Gyeongju.


The soup and rice are out of view, but you can see (from top to bottom, left to right)

Kimchi; Japchae; Potato Salad (It may have been sweet potato); pickled garlic; kimchi pajeon; a kind of seaweed salad; three kinds of field greens; the grilled fish; meatballs; a kind of steamed millet cake; young radish kimchi; the side of a scallion pancake; fried tofu with a chili sauce; I'm not sure; tempura sweet potato; burdock in chili paste; and preserved seaweed or kelp. Some of these items, like potato salad and meatballs, are new kinds of side dishes. Remember, these dishes will be constantly refilled if you empty them, so it's a real feast! My parents were utterly blown away by this meal.

Fish glamour shot:


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What great memories from seeing the bbeondaeggi! I used to eat it just to startle my Korean friends. We even had a song we sang as an ode to the crunchy snack - four part harmony no less. Yes, pochang macha, hodduk and bbeondaeggi all bring back memories of life in Seoul in the 70's and early 80's.

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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I visited Insadong-gil yesterday, which is a great way to kill a Sunday afternoon. A must see place on your Seoul itinerary, it's a place where you can find a lot of traditional Korean souvenirs, art, and some great food. Since we were in dire shape from the night before, we limited ourselves to some dumplings (mandu); but if you're there in the early evening, I really recommend visiting one of the tea shops along the way for some makkeolli, dubu-kimchi, and some pa jeon.

We stopped for dumplings at Sinpo Woori Mandu, which is near the bottom of Insadong, nearer to Jong-no. I really recommend this place for travellers, especially for lunch, as the dumplings are fresh, you can get bibim-nangmyeon or sundubu as well, and the menus have photos and English! For some reason, it only occurred to me to take a photo of the fried dumplings. We also got kimchi mandu, shrimp mandu, and pork mandu.


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  • 2 months later...

Well I just found out that I have to leave Japan for what could be up to a month (visa run departing 25th april). I decided to make Seoul my destination because I am very interested in Korean food and it is relatively cheap to get there from Japan. This thread has already given me a lot of ideas about what to try and where to look around but I have a few other questions.

I would like a small primer on how to ask where things are, order in restaurants, and any other customs or phrases that will make it easier for me to get along in Seoul. I find myself using these phrases all the time in Japanese: excuse me, thank you, where is X?, where can I find delicious X? what is this called?, and how much is this?

How much do I need to know to get around comfortably and let people feel somewhat at ease about me poking my nose in their restaurants and stalls?

I can read Hangeul very slowly, so this should help. I am staying in a mix of guest houses, jjimjilbang, and in people’s apartments that I met on couchsurfing.com so I will most likely meet people that have a better idea of where to eat than I do.

General recommendations for a young, poor, respectful, curious, and very hungry traveler?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am afraid I'm too late to reply. You know what, I really need to make a primer like that on my site because I wish I had something like that when I first came here. Lonely Planet helps a bit.

Annyeong Haseyo (pronounced more like "Annyong'e'say yo") -- Hello

Yeogi-yo or Cheogi-yo -- literally "here" and "there" but are also used to call a waitress to your table. This is only necessary if you don't have a "ding dong" button at your table to push for summons.

[whatever] juseyo -- "Please give me [whatever]." Ex: "Kimchi juseyo" or the very useful "Maekju hana juseyo" ("Please give me a beer.") Modifiers you add in between the [whatever] and juseyo, such as the following: hana (one), toh (more), and chom (a little)

Igot -- This

Cheugot -- That

You normally do not have to ask for a check at a Korean restaurant. The check is either already on the table, or they're keeping track at the register. You pay at the register.

Don't be shy about asking for more side dishes if you run out of something. It's free.

Mash'kita -- That looks yummy.

Mashisoyo -- This is yummy.

Mashda moggoseumnida -- That was yummy.

Kamsa hamnida (pronounced in Seoul more like "kamsa'mnida") -- Thank you

Mul -- Water

Kimchi -- Kimchi (duh!)

Daeji -- Pig

So -- Cow

Dalk -- Chicken (sometimes it's just "chicken")

Gogi -- Meat; DaejiGogi = Pork; SoGogi = Beef; KaeGogi = Dog meat

Hwajangshil odisoyo? -- Where's the bathroom?

Hobak -- Pumpkin

Hobak -- Ugly woman

Jamshimanyo -- "Just a minute" or "Excuse me"

Annyeongi Gyeseyo -- Goodbye (if you're leaving and the other person is staying)

Annyeongi Gaseyo -- Goodbye (if you're staying and the other person is leaving)

Cho-a-yo -- It's good.

Cho-a haeyo -- I like it.

Haejang issoyo -- I have a hangover.

Mae-un -- spicy

Gochu -- Chili pepper

Gochu -- A man's unmentionables

Yangpa -- Onion

Pa -- Green onion

Gochujang -- Red pepper paste

Gochugaru -- Red pepper powder

Ssam -- The lettuce served for wraps

Ssamjang -- The paste you use in lettuce wraps

Sogeum -- Salt

Saltang -- Sugar

Hoochoo -- Black Pepper

Kim -- Dried seaweed

Bap -- Rice

I guess that's a start.

Edited by ZenKimchi (log)

<a href='http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal' target='_blank'>ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal</a> - The longest running Korean food blog

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks zenkimchi. I just got back from Seoul but I will probably have another chance to use these phrases, maybe even in Japan. And I'm sure they will be useful for other visitors.

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