Hi! Welcome to 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 Amanda Slavinsky, a fellow Michigander who just finished her time teaching in Seoul, Korea. Amanda is a fellow foodie so anything she writes about is definitely good- this post seriously had my mouth watering! For more posts on food in Seoul check out Jessica Wray's take as well.
Hi! I’m Amanda and I’m currently wrapping up two years of teaching English in Seoul, Korea and, more importantly, scoping out the food scene in this huge city. I was clueless about Korean food when I arrived and have put in a lot of effort to learn about the food of my temporary home.
I’ve come to love the communal aspect of Korean dining, the spiciness of the food, and the variety in the cuisine. I’ve also learned that in Korea, a chain restaurant doesn’t necessarily mean low quality ingredients and sub par food like it generally does in the United States. When I head off for my travels around Asia next month these are the places I will find myself missing most.
Mapo Galmaegi (마포갈매기)
Everyone has heard of Korean barbecue, but this blanket term does little to explain the various types of meat (or intestines) out there. My favorite is called galmaegisal. Though galmaegisal can also mean seagull in Korean, you aren’t eating any birds here. This tender, marinated pork almost resembles beef in its color, texture, and taste.
What makes Mapo Galmaegi my favorite barbecue restaurant, though, isn’t even the meat- it’s the egg ring. A mix of kimchi and egg is poured into a tray that wraps around the grill and while the meat cooks so do the eggs. This creates a tasty barbecue panchan, or side dish.
Saemaeul Sikdang (새마을 식당)
This chain of restaurants serves up another type of barbecue. Though it comes from the same animal, yultan bulgogi is nothing like the galmaegisal at Mapo Galmaegi. For this dish the pork is sliced extremely thin and topped with a spicy sauce before it is thrown on the grill. These flavorful bits of pork are perfect wrapped in a piece of lettuce with a clove of garlic.
My other must order dish at Saemaeul Sikdang is the 7 minute pork and kimchi. This is a thicker version of the ubiquitous kimchi stew found in many Korean eateries. It is said that 7 minutes is the perfect amount of time to stew kimchi to maximize the flavor.. The stew is served over rice and topped with bits of kim, or dried seaweed.
Koreans love fried chicken and there is no shortage of options here. My favorite place is the Fry Pan. They serve up “American style” chicken tenders that are juicy and flavorful. They come with two sauces- a sweet chili and a cream based one. I always order a set, what Koreans call a meal, to share with a friend. This comes with a salad and homemade potato chips. Oh, and don’t forget a large mug of draft beer. It’s only right when you’re eating fried chicken!
I Love Sindangdong
Tteokbokki is a common street food made with savory rice cakes and a spicy, red sauce called gochujang. Sindangdong’s tteokbokki bears little resemblance to its street food counterpart, served in a large pot with things like fish cakes, ramen noodles, dumplings, glass noodles, and hard boiled eggs in addition to the customary rice cakes. The sauce is also noticeably different in color and taste due to the addition of black bean paste.
I Love Sindangdong is one of the larger restaurants in this “tteokbokki town” and is about as no frills as they come, though, strangely enough, some nights they have live music. Be prepared to cook the food yourself! Use the tables next to you as a guide.