In Photos: A Food Tour Of Seoul
Written by Jaillan Yehia
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How much food can one girl eat (and photograph) during a single day on a food tour of Seoul? Let’s find out…
I didn’t know much about Korean food before my trip to Seoul. I’d had a brief and bizarre introduction to Korean cuisine a few years ago in Buenos Aires of all places.
While travelling with a friend who has quite different culinary tastes to my own, we stood on a street corner having our first major bickering session of the trip over what we wanted for dinner that evening; I was ready for Italian food, she wanted yet more Argentinian Steak, and neither of us wanted to give in.
We came up with a compromise of finding any cuisine that was new to us both, so neither of us would be winning the argument – this led us to a random Korean restaurant plucked out of a Lonely Planet where we both had Bibimbap for the first time and loved it. That’s pretty much where my Korean food knowledge began and ended. Until now.
First stop on my food tour of Seoul is a stall specialising in dumplings or mandu which are a sort of Korean version of Japanese gyoza. Standing in the fog of dumpling steam it’s not possible to resist sampling them, so despite the fact that I’ve already had dumplings for breakfast (jet lag, my stomach thinks it’s dinner time) and am about to have a slap-up Korean lunch I dig in.
The next few street foods are sweet: hoddeok – doughnuts made with cornflower, brown sugar and nuts and the multi-monikered Dessert of Kings, Dragon Beard Candy or 16000 strings which is made by hand in front of your eyes from a single piece of dough and comes with a variety of fillings such as nuts or chocolate. (Do excuse my lack of nail varnish in this picture, I was saving myself for a Korean Manicure.)
Amazingly I still manage a full scale lunch. This includes pumpkin soup, sweet potato noodles, a salad with black sesame dressing, a typical Korean dish of spinach made with salt and sesame oil, pollack and a bean paste soup Dengjang Chigae which is the Korean equivalent of miso though fermented for longer and therefore stronger tasting, all washed down with barley tea and Cass beer.
The final food stop of the day is Namdaemun Market to see plenty of seafood, raw produce and local street food. Sadly this is also one of the places where it is possible to order and eat dog – about 30% of people still eat specially bred dogs in South Korea and though it used to be out of hunger and necessity it’s now more a form of nostalgia. I’m relieved to learn that you can’t order it by accident as you have to go to special restaurants which wouldn’t be found on Seoul’s main streets.
Canine consumption aside I’ve been totally converted to Korean food, but if you think you’ll still want a taste of home while in Seoul – whichever country home may be – you can complete your food tour of Seoul with a trip to International Food street in Itaewon which has an amazing selection of world foods including both Italian restaurants and South American barbecued meet – so there’ll be no arguments about what to eat here.
SavoirThere was a guest of South Korea Holiday specialist Cox and Kings on her food tour of Seoul
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