Hi! Welcome to the second edition of My Local Eats, a guest post series in which foodies from around the globe share their favorite local places to eat and drink.
Today’s guest post comes from Jessica Wray, an American who is currently residing in Seoul, South Korea. Jessica writes one of my favorite travel blogs, Curiosity Travels, which chronicles her sometimes crazy and always delicious explorations into Korean life. Here she shares some serious food porn of what to eat in Seoul that is actually making me consider moving to Seoul.
Hi, I’m Jessica. I teach English in Seoul, South Korea and have been living here for almost two years now. While I’ve been here, I’ve become very fond of Korean food and it’s part of my everyday diet. I love how social Korean food is, as many meals are shared, and some are even cooked at the table in front of you. In February, I’m starting a five-month trip which begins in India and ends in Cambodia. Before I leave, I’ll be trying to enjoy some of my favorite Korean foods as much as I can. Below are a few I’ll be sure to fit in!
Going out for galbi, or beef BBQ, is the quintessential Korean food experience. Raw, seasoned or marinated beef is brought to the table, and cooked right in front of you on a small grill. Once cooked, and cut up into bite sized pieces, you dip the meat in ‘gochujang’ (Korean red pepper paste), top with assorted side dishes and wrap in lettuce. It is common to have galbi with friends before a night out, and beer and soju bottles usually surround the grill.
My favorite galbi spot is located in Haebonchon (HBC). It is small, inexpensive and offers some of the best meat I’ve had. The marinated galbi is the best, and I usually find myself ordering more and more. Unlike most popular galbi places, this one is pretty small. Sometimes there is a wait, and when there is, I head up the hill to Phillies for a beer to pass the time. Most Korean meals are meant to be shared, and BBQ is no different. After you order the type of meat you want, and the amount of servings, everyone at the table digs in and also splits the bill. With beer and soju included, I’ve never left spending more than 12,000 won (about $11).
Yoogane (유가네) Dak Galbi in Hongdae
Not to be confused with “galbi”, “dak galbi” is a spicy chicken dish. Though also cooked at the table and shared, it is entirely different, being closer to a stir-fry than a BBQ. Vegetables usually come with the spicy chicken, and from there you can add other items to it. I always choose ramen noodles and cheese. The mixture is cooked in the middle of the table, then washed down with beer to sooth burning lips.
I usually frequent the same spot in Hongdae, one of the university areas around Seoul. It can get pretty crowded from 8pm on, so I usually try and get there earlier.
King Bone Haejangguk in Mokdong
Though coined the “hangover soup”, to me, this Korean dish doesn’t require a hangover for it to be satisfying and delicious. One of my favorite Korean foods, haejangguk is a flavorful stew which bubbles and boils around a large pork spine. When arriving at the table, the first thing to do is to shred all the meat off, discard the bone and add it to the broth. Though the traditional version is made from coagulated ox blood, the most popular kind around Seoul (and my favorite) barely has the blood noticeable because it is dissolved into the broth.
On chilly days, or when I’m looking for a hearty meal, I head to the “King Bone” haejangguk house near my boyfriend’s apartment. For 6,000 won ($5.50) you can get an individual bowl, or with a larger group you can get a big pot to share.
Street food around Hongdae
Sometimes I just don’t feel like a full meal accompanied by side dishes and rice. When I just want something quick and filling on the go, I stop by one of the many orange tents scattered around Seoul to get my street food fix.
Just by pointing and saying “hana” (one) and “du-gay” (two) I accumulate a delicious assortment of fried goodies. My favorites are the fried shrimp, octopus and dumplings. I then ask for the spicy red “dokbokki” sauce on top. These orange tents have many different treats on offer and I usually choose from what looks good at the time. Other times, I stop by the smaller tents offering meat skewers. Vegetables and chicken in a teriyaki sauce are always a tempting snack.
Ordering an assortment of items is always cheap and filling, and only paying a few thousand won (a few dollars) can get you a filling meal.