Seoul is a lively metropolis, just waiting to be discovered. It boasts of so many things tourists love – a rich cultural heritage, a powerful economy, innovative building designs, a burgeoning music and film industry, an eclectic art scene, and of course, lots of good food.
Korean cuisine, thanks to the Hallyu wave, is gaining ground all over the world. Just watching those glorious food preparations in Korean dramas and movies is enough reason for someone from halfway across the globe to check out if there are Korean restaurants nearby. For many travellers, having a taste of authentic Korean food is enough reason to travel to the South Korean capital.
If you are planning to go holidaying in Seoul, here are the top 10 foods you should try.
1. Kimchi. Kimchi is a case of love it or hate it. When sampling a bite of kimchi for the first time, you may find its intense flavours and pungent smell. However, this sour and salty Korean side dish, made from fermented vegetables, is loved by many for its nutritional value and unique taste. And of course, it goes well with almost anything – fried food, grilled meats, noodles, and even soups.
2. Bibimbap. Considered a comfort food among Koreans, bibimbap is simply sticky white rice topped with stir-fried vegetables, chili paste, sliced meat, fried egg and drizzled with sesame oil. Bibimbap is traditionally served on a hot stone bowl so the food is kept warm.
2. Samgyeopsal. If grilled pork belly is your thing, then you will love samgyeopsal, a staple during group or family dinners. Aside from the fact that you have to grill the meat yourself, what’s great about having this Korean dish is that a serving includes a whole spread of side dishes, sauces, and vegetables and whatnots. And do not be surprised if the restaurant or eatery you’re at in Seoul serves a free pot of beef soup to go with your samgyeopsal. Koreans will not hesitate to go the extra mile to keep customers coming back.
3. Jjajangmyeon. Considered the most popular takeout food in South Korea, jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) is a delectable mix of sweet, salty, and just the right amount of bitterness. This dish, of Chinese origin, is embraced by South Koreans with so much gusto that it is said that millions of bowls are sold in the country every day. Another interesting thing about jjajangmyeon is that it is often referred to as the “dish for lonely hearts” and eaten by singles during Black Day, which falls on the 14th day of April each year.
4. Japchae. Another noodle dish you should try during your vacation in Seoul is japchae, a dish of stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables. What most people love about japchae is its slightly sweet flavour and chewy texture, owing to the sweet potato starch used to make the noodles.
5. Bulgogi. Probably the most popular Korean beef dish in South Korea, bulgogi is served in a variety of ways. Often called Korean BBQ, this marinated beef dish may be grilled on the table like samgyeopsal, or stir-fried with broccoli and other vegetables.
6. Mandu. Mandu is quite simply, Korean steamed dumplings. Often filled with meat and a few vegetables, these dumplings — usually dipped in a dipping sauce made from chili, soy sauce, and vinegar — are somehow similar to the Japanese gyoza. While most South Koreans prefer to eat mandu with kimchi and rice cakes, it can also be used in soups or served pan-fried.
7. Tteokbokki. Perhaps the most popular street food in Seoul, tteokbokki is a popular dish of chewy tteok (rice cakes) and odeng (fish cakes) swimming in spicy gochujang (red pepper) sauce. This dish is found all over South Korea so you won’t have trouble buying it from food trucks, eateries, and street stalls.
8. Soondae. Soondae or blood sausage is one dish we’d love for you to try during your trip to Seoul. That is, if you are on the adventurous side. This South Korean street food is made from pork blood, noodles, and barley in a casing made from pig intestines. Just like tteokbokki, soondae is widely available in Seoul.
9. Yangnyeom tongdak. If you think you already know fried chicken, wait until you’ve tried yangnyeom tongdak or Korean seasoned fried chicken. This twice-fried crispy chicken dish is sweet, spicy, and tastes so good that you’ll definitely go for seconds or thirds. And judging from the gazillion fried chicken restaurants in Seoul, the Korean seasoned fried chicken is clearly one of the most popular snacks there.
10. Dakgalbi. Originally from Gangwon Province, dakgalbi is another must-try Korean dish. To make dakgalbi, diced chicken is marinated in chili sauce and then stir-fried on a wide hot plate, along with cabbage, rice cakes, sweet potato, perilla leaves and other ingredients. Cheap and widely available, this spicy chicken and vegetable dish is a favourite among students and office workers in Seoul.
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By: Brendelyn Balaga