Seoul Food Trip Part 2 – Winter Edition
“When it’s cold outside… Am I here… In vaaaiiinnn”. Oops, don’t mind me folks… I got LSS of that song. What I meant was… when it’s cold outside, we need heat to warm our body especially if we are traveling and we’re out in the cold for a long time. That’s usually our case the last time we traveled to Seoul during Winter. Every time we go out, we are hoping to get to our destination quickly or find shelter from a restaurant and eat something hot. It’s always a treat when we’re finally sipping some hot noodle soup.
Food is one of my favorite topics to write about and I did enjoy writing this one. This is the second part of our Seoul Food Trip and this time, during Winter (You can check the first part here).
For our travel guide on our first trip to Seoul, click here.
Looking for budget friendly accommodations in Korea? Check out my review of Zaza Backpackers Hostel here and Hotel Maui here! For more recommended accommodations, click here or search for more hotels/hostels here.
So Hungry We could eat a Horse
We were so hungry when we arrived at our accommodation, Hotel Maui at around 2PM. We checked-in in our room and quickly went outside to find a nearby resto or food stall to feed our grumbling stomachs. Luckily we found one that’s not just delicious but super cheap as well! We ordered a big bowl of Black Bean sauce chopped noodles (4K won), plain chopped noodles (3500 won) and 7 steamed veggie dumplings (2500 won). That’s pretty cheap in Korea standards and not to mention, the bowl of noodle is really big and good for two! Because we’re so hungry, we managed to eat it all.
Can you imagine we ate all of that? I know, we were like two hungry pigs that day.
The staples and more Awesome dishes
Who would miss these dishes in Korea? No one should. If it is your first time in Korea, these are some of the dishes that should be on top of your list.
Korea also have their version of the famous Tonkatsu of the Japanese called Donkkaseu. It’s easy to find this dish in Seoul as almost all of the restaurants serve this. Just like Tonkatsu, I love it when the meat’s soft and tender! Really, even if there’s no sauce as long as the meat’s soft and juicy then it’s a good pork cutlet for me!
The Army Stew
If you happen to pass by a restaurant where people are eating while seated cross-legged on the floor, it might be a good idea to check it out. When we entered such establishment, we didn’t know what food they offer. They have a hot pot table, so we expect something that’s cooked in front of us or us cooking the food. When the owner presented us the food (yes, only the owner can understand English so he was the one who spoke to us) I was like “I kind of remember this from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations! Yes I remember! It is the Army Stew or Budae-jjigae in Korea!
From what I recall from the show, the dish was invented after the Korean War out of necessity and strive for survival. There are lots of surplus foods from U.S. military bases that time such as spam, hotdogs, ham and Koreans incorporated these processed foods to their traditional flavors like the red chili paste and kimchi to create a new dish! In survival, people create something out of nothing and I think this dish is one of them.
Aside from the ingredients mentioned, you can also put noodles and other ingredients like tofu and rice cake.
This dish is best served and eaten hot! The spicy flavor of the stew gave warmth to our body during that cold winter night.
Gwangjang Market and Street Food
On our first trip to Seoul, we ate a lot of street foods but in our winter trip this time, we kinda mellowed down with it but still ate a bunch 🙂
While waiting for the bus in Gangbyeon station, we ate at one of the pojangmacha tents there serving good tasting streetfood like gyoza, Tteokbokki or rice cake, chicken bbq and chili flavored fried chicken in cups! If you’re in a hurry, it’s always a good thing to eat street foods here.
While walking in the streets of Hongdae, we saw this food presentation with cute teddy bears. They’re offering this meal in their restaurant for 19k won. I think that’s alright considering its inclusions.
In these cold months in Korea, strawberries are in season! They are sweet, big and very delicious! They are sold in the streets and groceries all over Seoul. We bought ours from an old man in the streets of Sinseol-dong for 6K won.
For a taste of traditional street foods, head to the oldest traditional market in Seoul – Gwangjang Market. This market was established in 1905 and still thriving up to now! Tourists and locals alike flock the market for its variety of street foods, seafoods and traditional clothing like the Hanbok. You’ll also find souvenirs, silks and wedding stuffs here. But of course we ultimately came here for the food, and we’re starving.
We walked around the whole area first and checked the foods they offer and we were pretty impressed. Stalls were categorized depending on the type of food and we saw lots of fresh seafood, blood sausages, pig ears, kimchi, noodle soup, hotteok, mayak gimbap, bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) and tteokbokki (rice rolls) to name a few.
We tried the sweet, circle shaped hotteok first. It’s a pancake doused with brown sugar, sesame seeds and maybe some honey as well. Best eaten hot and perfect for winter.
Next is the Mayak Gimbap. I really like this one. I love sushi, maki, kimbaps and pretty much anything rolled with a seaweed sheet 😀
Mayak gimbap is no exception. They use simple ingredients here which is the yellow pickled radish, carrot, short grain rice and spinach or cucumber (some vendors don’t put spinach) sprinkled with sesame seeds. It pretty much taste the same as the traditional gimbap but I think the dipping sauce is the difference. According to my research, the dipping sauce is called gyeoja or hot mustard.
Do you know that Mayak Gimbap literally translates to Narcotic rice rolls? Not because they put in some drugs there but this food is extremely addictive. I know, we’re officially a user.
If you are the adventurous type, try some live wiggling octopus for lunch. Yes, they also do have it here in Gwangjang market not just in Noryangjin.
Foodies like you should not miss a visit to Gwangjang market! Include this in your itinerary.
KyoChon Vs Two Two Chicken
Two Two chicken became one of our all-time favorite fried chicken ever the very moment we ate a boxful of it in our first trip to Seoul. We had so much praise for it that I wrote a blog post about it.
We were particularly addicted with their sweet and spicy flavor that even after eating all the chicken we still licked the left-over sauce in the box. That’s how much we like Two Two Chicken.
On our return trip to Seoul, we ordered one box of Two Two Chicken again and had the same great experience. But on our last night, we wanted to try KyoChon coz they said it’s one of the best. We’ve tried KyoChon here in the Philippines and we weren’t really satisfied so we wanted to know if the KyoChon in Korea is different. We ordered the Chicken Combo Honey flavor and an order of wedge potatoes. Compared to the one here in Manila, KyoChon’s KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is definitely better in Korea. But Two Two Chicken still is the true winner for us. We found KyoChon a little oilier and nakakaumay when you’ve eaten several of it already unlike Two Two chicken.
There you have it! I hope I didn’t make you hungry or anything… Did I? I’m sorry for that. Anyways, these are just some of the foods you might see and eat in Korea and there’s a lot more! My suggestion is, if you saw anything that looks delicious, eat it! If there are no English translations in restaurants, that’s ok. Just randomly point one in the menu and be adventurous! But usually they have pictures of the food so you don’t have to worry about that. Enjoy!
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