Eating my way in South Korea
Street-food, «ready-to-eat foods or drinks sold by a hawker, or vendor, in a street or other public place, such as at a market or fair», [Wikipedia].
When I went to Seoul a friend of mine answered my Istagram stories asking “did you go there just to eat? – Of course not“. But still…
In June 2019 I went to a very hot Seoul during one of my usual solo trips and yes, I have to admit that it was on my wishlist since the first time I tried Korean BBQ in China, but I went to Seoul also to visit a new country, to get in touch with a culture that even if closer to the Chinese one – pretty familiar to me – was still quite different.
I spent 4 days in the Korean capital, more or less full days but definitely enough time to visit the city and try many strange and tasteful stuff.
The Cube Hotel I booked was in a great position, very close to the metro station and to the peatonal area of Myeong-dong, full of clothes and cosmetics shops (South Korea is “the Mecca” of Asian fashion and cosmetics), restaurants and, mostly at night, street-food.
After a little snack of Gimpab (Korean rice roll – basically Korean sushi), I took the metro to go to Gang Nam Style… ehm, I meant Gang Nam District, that actually is all about this big sculpture of Psy’s hands because for the rest is just skyscrapers and malls.
In case you are wondering… yes, I took the stupid tourist photo with the hands crossed like in the music video – shame on me – but I won’t show you. 🙂
Something very cool to see in this area, especially if you are a good reader, is the Starfield Library in Coex Mall where you can also just sit and have a break surrounded by thousands and thousands of books.
From March to October, on fridays and saturdays along the Han river it’s held the Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market; since I landed in Seoul on a friday afternoon, I knew where to start my foodie-tour.
Between Yeouido Hangang Park and Banpo Hangang Park, food trucks are parked to let you try different kind of food; music playing loudly, people just laying down on the grass but very well organized with tents, towels, chairs… super chill atmosphere, I loved it.
“When in Rome do like Romans do”, no? I ordered my box of grilled Korean beef, took off my shoes and chilled while sipping mojito in a plastic glass but with a paper straw at least.
Sun went down and I went back to Myeong-dong where the crowds were munching the huge variety of snacks available: fried chicken, skewers of “mozzarella” and tteokbokki or the meaty version where the mozzarella is replaced by sausage; tokkebi hot dog, as to say an hot dog covered by chopped french fries; bungeo-ppang, sweet waffels filled with red beans…
Tasted something, walked a bit then went back to my “cube” to take some rest.
Day two started with the visit to the Gyeongbokgung, the biggest and main one of the 5 palaces in Seoul, where you’ll see loads of tourists (and locals) wearing hanboks, the traditional korean dresses.
From the palace I walked to Bukchon Hanok Village; not exactly a short walk but I always prefer walking rather than taking metros when visiting a new city, because it gives the chance to see how the local daily life flows.
This “village” is a district of cute houses in typical korean style; very quiet (if not for the tourists around) and perfectly Instagrammable.
And we arrive to lunch time: after the long walk under the sun, I opted for sitting at a table and order fried chicken (very popular dish in the country) accompanied by rice, fresh salad and fried mandu (Korean dumplings).
Enough food to find energy again and walk to the Changdeokgung Palace where, be aware, to visit the gardens you will have to pay an extra ticket and follow the guide.
Gotten out of the palace, I found my way to the art district called Insadong to spend some time before going to the Gwangjang Market for dinner: crowds of people; symphony of cooking tools and pots; perfumes, smells and smoke…
An amazing mess! The kind of food market that I LOVE.
Here I could try the spicy tteokbokki, which look like our Italian gnocchi in tomato sauce but taste absolutely different;
bindaetteok, mung bean pancake.
One step forward I met my favourite Korean grandma, thanks to whom I tried:
–jokbal, the typical and fat and greasy braised pig’s trotter (you can also eat it somewhere else in the world with a different name);
–sundae; similar to the Italian sanguinaccio or the Argentinian morcilla, it’s simply about a blood sausage;
–maekgolli, which is an alcoholic drink made from rice that looks a bit like almonds milk.
This smiling lady was the sweetest ever! We could not understand each other as she could not speak English and me, I don’t speak Korean but we spoke the language of food 😛
She chose for me the best jokbal, gifted me with gimbap to take away and even made me discount after insisting to let me try maekgolli!
With my stomach full and my smile happy, I called the night knowing that the day after I would have to walk more, visit more and, most of all, eat more – I still had some food on my list.
Day three started with a visit to the Cathedral of Myeongdong and followed with the visit to the Seoul Tower: amazing view over the city and tons of “love-locks” (a habit spread all over the world that I honestly don’t understand).
Later I had lunch in the last food market in my schedule, the Namdaemun Market where I ate yachae hotteok filled with vegetables and noodles, and bibimbap, the typical korean bowl of rice and vegetables.
Last spot on my schedule was the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, building of impressive architectural shape. Thereabouts, only malls and shops.
I can affirm that four days in Seoul were more than enough: I visited all that I planned so on the forth day I only strolled a bit around; I ate more or less everything I wanted but truth is that the Korean cuisine is extremely rich and if you are a #foodlover you must include this stop in your Asian tour.
Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!