Seoul’s essential food experiences

Seoul’s essential food experiences

From barbecue beef to fried chicken, don’t miss these Korean classics.

Words by Ute Junker

Photo Cyprien Delaporte via Unsplash

It is not hard to find a good meal in Seoul – but these are some of our go-to dining experiences.

Get sizzling with barbecue beef

Long before K-pop existed, Korean barbecue was the country’s gift to the world.  There is no shortage of beef joints around town but the beef short ribs at Byeokje Galbi (205-8 Songpa-gu) are legendary. Unlike other barbecue joints, which source their beef from Australia or the US, Byeokje Galbi raises its own cattle at an organic ranch. Just remember not to wear your favourite outfit to dinner: that sweet, smoky aroma generated as you cook your meat over the blazing grill can get into your clothing.

Does yourself with ginseng chicken soup

From the Chinese to the Jews, every cuisine has its own special chicken soup and the Korean version comes pepped up with the addition of ginseng, chestnut, glutinous rice, pumpkin seeds, black sesame, gingko and garlic. Seoul’s best chicken soup is found at Tosokshon (85-1 Chebu-dong), which used to make special deliveries to the presidential palace. Don’t be put off if there is a line outside – the restaurant can seat up to 400 diners and tables turn over fairly quickly.

Unwind in a traditional tea house

It is just a few steps from the bustling boulevard of Insadong but stepping through the doorway of Shin Old Tea House (164 Gwanhun-dong) is like stepping back through time. From the wooden shutters and the tapestries to the floor pillows that are used instead of chairs, this charming tea house immerses you in time-honoured style. There are dozens of teas to choose from including plum and ginger, with traditional accompaniments such as rice cakes and puffed rice.

Kick back with spicy chicken and beer

The combination of fried chicken and beer is so popular in Korea that there is even a word for it: chimaek, a portmanteau of “chicken” and “maekju”, or beer. One of the most popular chimaek chains is Pelicana, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The menu offers a bewildering range of fried chicken styles, from garlic or soy sauce to hot chili, but the best-seller is the seasoned chicken, made with more than 20 different spices.

Graze your way through the market

Koreans love eating and shopping, so it is no wonder that Seoul has a thriving market scene. A stroll through Myeondong Night Market is an opportunity to sample some of the city’s best street foods. Alongside well-known dishes such as mandu, or dumplings, you will find plenty of seafood (abalone skewers and grilled lobster with cheese are popular) and dishes likes tteokbokki, fishcakes served with boiled eggs, shallots and a spicy sauce. Finish with a serve of hotteok, a pancake filled with honey, nuts and cinnamon.

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