10 Iconic Seoul Street Foods to Try

10 Iconic Seoul Street Foods to Try

We may know and love Korea for its as K-pop and K-dramas, but Korean cuisine offers just as much variety, excitement and visceral satisfaction.

Although, for many foreigners, the experience of Korean food tends to center around cultural mainstays – BBQ, fried chicken and kimchi stew, just to name three very ready examples – leading some to malign Korean food as somewhat lacking in variety.

But we all know that’s not true. To get a deeper grasp of a country’s cuisine, we must take to the streets and the markets – where we recommend you try these 10 iconic Korean street food.

1. Tteokbokki

A beloved dish of many, Tteokbokki is surely one of the contenders of the title of  ‘quintessential Korean dish’. While many today enjoy this rice cake dish drenched in a red sweet chilli sauce, Tteokbokki actually dates back to the Joseon dynasty.

Today, some of the most commonly featured ingredients that go with Tteokbokki are boiled eggs and fish cakes, all topped with a combination of sesame seeds and scallions. You’ll find many street-side stalls selling this along Myeongdong with novel creations such as Mozzarella and Tteokbokki skewers or Sausage and Tteobokki skewers.

2. Hotteok

Hotteok is a sweet treat not to be missed when you’re in Seoul, or anywhere else in South Korea. My body can attest to it that winter is the best time to get enjoy Hotteok where its warmth just fills your body.

A pancake stuffed with a mixture of brown sugar, honey, peanuts, and cinnamon is pan-fried on a hot greased griddle to give it a nice crispy skin that makes for a satisfying mouthful. You can find savoury versions of Hotteok, though nothing quite beats the original for us.

3. Pajeon

Pajeon is a pancake dish that you almost certainly can find on every table at most Korean restaurants you go. Not the usual fluffy pancake stack with honey drizzle, Pajeon is a savoury pancake with scallions as its core ingredient.

Revolving around scallion as the anchor are a variety of ingredients depending on the flavour of Pajeon, ranging from beef to pork, kimchi, with seafood in particular being the supremely popular flavour of choice.

4. Chimaek

Chimaek celebrates one of the most heavenly food pairings known to man – fried chicken and beer. The word and concept originates from a combination of “chi” from chikin (chicken) and “maek” from maekju (beer).

Starting in the 1970s, this food pairing has been a staple in Korean cuisine which is surprising since neither of the individual components of chicken nor beer originated in Korea. But somehow, together, Chimaek has evolved to be a favourite amongst the locals. It has reached such a point that there’s a festival devoted to chicken and beer that happens in Daegu, and most definitely a must-try when you’re in Korea.

5. Soondae/Sundae

Not to be confused with the sweet dessert beloved by everyone, Soondae or Sundae is a type blood sausage in Korea. Often made by boiling or steaming cow’s or pig’s intestines which are stuffed with ingredients like squid or fish but the most typical variety sold are made with pig’s intestines that are stuffed with dangmyeon (cellophane or glass noodles), barley, and pig’s blood.

Again, not the most Instagrammable dish out there, but Soondae makes it up from being packed full of flavour, though we must admit that it’s not a dish for everyone. If you love it however, there’s a Soondae Town that’s located in Sillim-dong, Seoul where you can find a host of various Soondae to your heart’s content.

6. French Fry Hotdog

The French Fry Hotdog was certainly not one of the dishes I was expecting to see so abundantly available in the world of street food in Seoul. This is even more bizarre than Chimaek as you can hardly find it in restaurants or small eateries.

Though it’s not seen in restaurant establishments, there are street side stalls littered all over Seoul where you can grab your hands on one of these. Basically a corn dog or a hotdog coated with a baked with a bunch of chopped, crispy French fries, and topped with ketchup, it works as a great fried snack, especially for the kids.

7. Tornado Potato

You’ll definitely spot every one or two people on the streets with a large stick of potato spiral in his or her hand. Known as the Tornado Potato or Twister Potato, a whole potato is sliced into a giant spiral and later skewered either on a wooden stick or sometimes, a sausage.

The flavourings have become more complex and innovative with time, and it’s not unusual today to be offered a myriad of seasonings from cheese, to chilli, onion, and honey. A cross between French fries and potato chips, the Tornado Potato remains a crowd favourite.

8. Mandu

Whether pan-fried or steamed, Mandu (dumplings) is a classic street food in Korea. It’s not difficult to spot stalls with huge steamer baskets or smell the fried fragrance emanating from the dumplings sizzling on the pan.

At first glance, Mandu doesn’t seem like it differs much from the kind of dumplings you’ll find in the East Asia region, but one bite into it and you’ll notice a world of difference. The filling is what sets Mandu (in general) apart from the various dumplings you get from China or Japan. Filled with a combination of minced meat and tofu along with spices such as garlic and ginger and not forgetting green onion, Mandu is often served with a side of kimchi and dipping sauce.

9. Gimbap

Also stylised as “Kimbap”, this popular street food is aptly nicknamed ‘Korean sushi’. For Korea to have develop their own version of the sushi is not all that surprising when you consider Korea’s close proximity to Japan, cultural exchanges and influences across the straits have happened over the many generations.

In Korea, Gimbap is made using short-grain white rice, though you can find variations which adopt brown rice, black rice, and other forms of grain rice. Though similar in appearance, a closer inspection will reveal subtle differences between Gimbap and its Japanese counterpart.

The rice found in Japanese sushi is most often made with vinegar while sesame oil is used in Gimbap. You’ll not find sashimi (fresh raw fish or meat slices) wrapped within Gimbap but a slew of cooked ingredients such as egg, ham, and a julienne of carrots and cucumbers, all topped with a heap of sesame seeds.

10. Bungeoppang

There’s no more fitting way to end off this list with dessert and Bungeoppang has got to be one of the cutest ones out there. Shaped similarly to the Japanese Taiyaki, this is South Korea’s answer to the Japanese street food dessert.

Featuring a waffle batter that is moulded into the shape of a goldfish, Bungeoppang is most often filled with a red bean paste, though as with most of the items on this list, we are seeing more innovations in terms of flavour such as cream cheese and custard. With a crispy exterior and a sweet gooey filling, Bungeoppang has no shortage of fans among locals and tourists alike.

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10 Cafes & Restaurants that Every K-drama Devotee Should Visit

10 Cafes & Restaurants that Every K-drama Devotee Should Visit

If you are a Korean drama devotee, a trip to South Korea must be on your bucket list. We have round up a list of cafes and restaurants that are featured in some of the most popular and greatest K-dramas of all time! Here are 10 dining spots to live out your favourite Kdrama aspirations during your next trip!

 1. Plate B

In the light-hearted Kdrama series ‘Strong Woman Do Bong Soon’, this cafe appears as Dobong Walnut Bakery managed by Bong Soon’s father.

In real life, this little cafe serves coffee, brunch and salad. Due to overwhelming fans’ requests, they have included walnut pie in their dessert menu.

As seen in: Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Google Maps by Embedgooglemap.net

Address

415-1 Huam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Tel: +82 2-318-6980

Opening Hours

Daily until 23:00 PM

Getting there

Sookmyung Women’s University, Line 4 (Exit 2 or 3). Walk towards the direction of Namsan Park or take Bus 202 from Namyeong Post Office (2 stops) to Huam-dong Woori Bank.

2. Chocolatier Zino

This European-style steakhouse where Kim Shin and Ji Eun Tak dined in had us fooled into thinking that they were in Quebec, Canada!

In fact, Chocolatier Zino is in Paju city, an hour away from Seoul, and as the name suggests, Chocolatier Zino is not a steakhouse, but rather a dessert restaurant for the chocolate aficionado.

As seen in: Goblin or Guardian: The Lonely and Great God  

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Address

195-56 Saeori-ro, Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

Tel: +82 031-949-8365

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday: 12:00 PM to 07:00 AM (Closed on Monday)

Getting there

From the bus stop at Exit 1 of Hapjeong Station (Line 2, 6), take bus 2200 to Heyri Art Village. Then, take bus 036 and get off after five stops. From there, it’s a seven-minute walk.

3. Dal.Komm Coffee

Cafés are essential in the K-drama world. A perfect venue to meet your love interest, rival or mother-in-law for a confession or confrontation.

This is the café where Captain Yoo Si Jin and Dr. Kang Mo Yeon went on their first date in ‘Descendants of the Sun’.

Dal.Komm Coffee has since appeared in popular K-Dramas like W:Two Worlds and Goblin. Riding on the popularity of the hit K-drama series ‘Descendants of the Sun’ in 2016, they have opened three outlets in Singapore serving quality coffee, fruit tea and Korean desserts. The latest addition is located at JEWEL Changi Airport. 

As seen in: Descendants of the Sun, W:Two Worlds

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Address

Level 1, Central Park Prugio, 23-5 Songdo-dong, Yeonsu District, Incheon, Korea

Tel: +82 32-858-0504

Opening Hours

Daily from 08:00 AM to 23:00 PM

Getting there

Incheon National University Station, Line 1 (Exit 4)

4. Ma Po Dumpling

For the K-drama aficionados besides posing for pictures in filming locations, it is also equally important to eat like your favourite characters for dinner or supper! Head over to this 24-hr small restaurant Ma Po Dumpling that serves up comforting dishes like kimchi stew, kimchi fried rice, cheese ramen, and as its name suggests – Dumplings! Now you know where to go if hunger pang strikes in the middle of the night.

As seen in: I’m a Flower too!

 

Google Maps by Embedgooglemap.net

Address

17, Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul

Tel: +82 02-782-2014

Opening Hours

Daily 24 hours

Getting there

Hapjeong Station, Line 2 or 6 (Exit 10)

5. Ssangdaepo Sogeumgui BBQ

Almost all K-dramas seem like a cultural export, tacitly weaving in Korean traditions, slangs and cuisine. I don’t remember watching any K-drama without the mention of their local dishes and national pastime: Korean Barbeque!

Ssang Dae Po Sogeumgui BBQ restaurant has appeared in several K-dramas because of its traditional interior décor featuring wooden pillars and traditional doors. This restaurant rose to fame after being featured in the romance-comedy television series ‘Secret Garden’.

As seen in: Secret Garden, The King 2 Hearts, Ramen Flower Boy Shop, Fashion King, Man from the Equator, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Google Maps by Embedgooglemap.net

Address

291, Cheongpa-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Tel: +82 2-707-1380

Opening Hours

Daily 24 hours

Getting there

Sookmyung Women’s University Station, Line 4, (Exit 9 or 10)

6. The Flower-scented Cartoon Café

Being a top Hallyu (K-wave) actress is tough and the protagonist in the astronomically popular K-drama ‘My Love from the Star’, Cheon Song Yi is constantly under media scrutiny.

This comic book café was her secret hideout, in contrast to her glamorous celebrity lifestyle, she would read comic books, eat instant noodles and consult her friend about her relationship issue here.

The film production crew created a VIP room within the café which no longer exist in the actual site. It is not difficult to locate this café as you’ll see a large poster of the television series and several autographs by the celebrities at the entrance.

As seen in: My Love from the Star

Google Maps Generator by embedgooglemap.net
Google Maps by Embedgooglemap.net

Address

Tel: +82 2 6012 7719

50-6, Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul

Opening Hours

Daily from 11:00 AM till 00:00 AM

Getting there

Sinchon Station, Line 2 (Exit 3 or 4)

7. Mango Six

Remember the scene in ‘A Gentleman’s Dignity’ when the snobbish architect Kim Do Jin first saw high school teacher Seo Yi Soo taking shelter from the rain under a bright yellow umbrella cafe table? Enter Café Mango Six, a famous juice and coffee chain in Korea. Their bestseller- mango coconut juice has made its appearances in these two K-dramas we’ve listed below.

As seen in: A Gentleman’s Dignity, The Heirs

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Address

97 Nonhyeon-dong (734 Eonju-ro), Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

+82 2-518-7266

Opening Hours

Daily from 09:00 AM to 23:30 PM

Getting there

Hakdong Station Subway, Line 7 (Exit 10)

8. Foresta Book Café

Possibly one of the most charming book cafés in South Korea. The Foresta Book Café is located in the Heyri Art Village which is an hour away from Seoul. Step into this café, and you’ll be captivated by the colossal floor-to-ceiling wall of books, which is one of the filming backdrops for a fight scene between Cha Ji Heon and Cha Moo Won in ‘Protect the Boss’.

As seen in: Protect the Boss, Fated to Love You

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Address

59-6 Heyrimaeul-gil, Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do

Opening Hours

Tue to Fri: 11:00 AM to 18:00 PM

Sat and Sun: 10:30 AM to 18:00 PM

Closed on Monday

Getting there

Hapjeong Station, Line 2 or 6 (Exit 2)

9. Alex the Coffee (Goyang Branch)

We all know there are plenty of cafes in Seoul and what makes Alex the Coffee stands out is its reclusiveness – tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Seoul – a perfect venue for a coffee date with your significant other. Plus, the minimalist interior décor and ambiance are perfect for the ‘gram. In ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’ the narcissistic vice president Youngjoon brought his secretary Miso for a lunch date here.

As seen in: What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim

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Address

103-30 Tongil-ro 493beonan-gil, Sinwon-dong, Deokyang-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do

Tel: +82 070-4138-7714

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 12:00 PM to 20:00 PM

Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 AM to 21:00 PM

Getting there

Hansung University Station, Line 4, (Exit 6)

10. Restaurant Small Town

Looking to relive the awkward romance between Bok Joo and Joon Hyung? Then you need to visit this restaurant. In ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo’, this was a Korean fried chicken shop run by Bok Joo’s father. In real life, the restaurant oozes rustic charm and serves a variety of Korean dishes.

As seen in: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Google Maps by Embedgooglemap.net

Address

35 Jeongneung-ro 6-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul

Tel: +82 02-916-2049

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 12:00 PM to 20:00 PM

Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 AM to 21:00 PM

Getting there

Gireum Station, Line 4 (Exit 4) from here take bus 153 or 7211 which is a 20-minutes ride and alight at Kookmin University and walk across to the restaurant.

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Kimchi: The Korean Way of Life

Kimchi: The Korean Way of Life

“What is this?” I asked as I picked up a reddish cabbage with my chopsticks and stared at it.

“It’s nice, give it a try. No harm anyway,” replied my parents, smiling.

Famous last words if you’d ask me. I took a bite and a sour tang just exploded in my mouth. My face cringed and that pretty much summed up my first experience with kimchi.

Kimchi is synonymous with Korea and Korean culture, right there beside the Kpop tsunami that has swept across the world. At almost every single meal, and I mean every, you’ll spot a small dish of Kimchi amongst the sea of banchan (small side dishes).

Unlike the modern wave of Kpop fandom though, kimchi has a long-standing tradition and position in the Korean culinary world, seeing many iterations and variations pop up over the years.

The signature red colour you associate with the tangy, searing dish with began with the introduction of chilli peppers during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Brought over by the West, the commercialisation of the chilli peppers resulted in a crafting of an ideal type of kimchi, one that is eaten throughout Korean society today.

What is Kimchi?

At its core, kimchi is a spicy, fermented vegetable usually comprising of cabbage and radishes. Made with a paste consisting of chilli powder, garlic, ginger, red pepper, and sugar, the inclusion of fish sauce gives it that tangy punch.

Part of the reason kimchi has remained a mainstay in Korean cuisine is due to the health benefits it brings to the table. Being low in calories and high in dietary fibre, kimchi is tailor-made for the health junkies of today. One serving of kimchi can also provide you with more than half the required daily intake of vitamins to boot.

 

The most common version of kimchi we are exposed to, Paechu Kimchi, made with napa cabbages, is but one of 100 varieties of kimchi that includes Kkakdugi (cubed radish), to Oi Sobagi (cucumber) and Gat (mustard leaf).

In the 21st Century, kimchi has evolved from a simple side dish made to combat the health impact of ever-changing weather, to being the central ingredient of very wholesome dishes ranging from Kimchi Fried Rice to Kimchi Stew.

Paechu Kimchi

Image by cegoh via Pixabay.

Kkakdugi

Image by bangjunki via Instagram.

Oi Sobagi

Image by foreveryoungmi1 via Instagram.

Gat Kimchi

Image by thelonious22 via Instagram.

Image by hong kim from Pixabay

Battling the Seasons

The concept of fermenting food, and in this case kimchi, harkens back to our intrinsic human need of food for survival. This plays out especially during winter where it can get quite harsh in Korea. It hence necessitated a way to preserve food for consumption when farming becomes impossible.

Kimchi was initially dipped in salt in a pottery jar before being placed underground to ferment further. Its durability and nutritional benefits made the making and storing kimchi a common practice for all families and businesses.

 

This process of fermenting kimchi has been passed down from generation to generation and has seeped into the blood of many Koreans. Every November is pickling season, and Koreans set out to prepare a brine for kimchi fermentation. This tradition has netted Korea a coveted spot on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.

If that wasn’t enough, there are countless festivals such as the Seoul Kimchi Making and Sharing Festival. There’s even a museum, Museum Kimchikan, which is dedicated solely to all things kimchi.

Such a deceptively simple vegetable dish has its roots dating back to a bygone era, with an enduring legacy and influence that stretches across all strata of Korean society, and even the world.

So the next time you’re taking a photo in Korea, say “kimchi” instead of “cheese”, because kimchi isn’t a mere side dish or ingredient in Korea, it’s a way of life.

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