seoul food
October 22, 2008 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I am a food tourist, and I'll soon be in Seoul to bring my adoptive daughter home from Korea. I will have 1-3 days to kill and try not to be too nervous before I meet her, so I need immersive, fun, food-related things to take my mind off the upcoming excitement and give my nervous energy something to focus on.

I read there is a huge fish market in Seoul; I'd like to spend some time there. And a friend mentioned that a short train ride away is a smaller city with entire food "zones," where different streets are devoted to restaurants dealing in specific ingredients / types of food.

Are there neighborhoods best for trying lots of interesting street food? Interesting farmers' markets or greenmarkets? Anything comparable to Krungthep's amazing Chatuchak Market?
posted by luriete to Travel & Transportation around Seoul, South Korea (9 answers total)
 
Never been there and I dunno if you ever watch the Travel network, but Anthony Bourdain has a show called "No Reservations" where he basically wanders around looking for food and exploring (and often being an ass - he's pretty brusque). Anyway, they did a show on Seoul awhile back that was pretty entertaining and mentions stuff that may interest you. Here's the YT page for that episode.

Also you may consider checking (or asking the same question) on Lonely Planets Thorn Tree. You may get some answers from folks who are there right now.
posted by elendil71 at 2:00 PM on October 22, 2008


I enjoyed reading FatMan Seoul's food blog. Although he stopped updating a few years ago, it's archive is still online.
posted by cazoo at 2:13 PM on October 22, 2008


From my experience, don't try any western-style restaurants. I remember working there 20 years ago and every time I would try to get anything like a pizza or a hamburger, they would always present something concocted from the worst processed ingredients that pretty much just looked like the item in question (think of sliced chinese hotdogs instead of pepperoni). I don't think there's anything wrong with trying places out blindly. Flag a taxi (even if there's people in it) and when he slows down to check you out, shout "Shillim Dong". Wander around looking for restaurants.

Never order tripe soup.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:31 PM on October 22, 2008


Not to be missed-- samgyupseul (sp?) .. We call it 'beef and leaf' around these parts, even though it's pork. Think table with a propane grill built into it- cook strips of pork on the grill, and then wrap it up in lettuce/spearmint/other leafy substances and then add some toppings like garlic, pepper paste, onions, mushrooms, etc. etc. Just tell the cab driver you're looking for 'samgyupseul'-- sahm-geeyup-sool. The taxi drivers seem to know great places to go and get it. If you're in Seoul proper, shouldn't run more than 15,000KRW a person (about 11$, nowadays, with the exchange rate).

Echoing the don't try any western-style restaurants, unless you really need a burger fix, in which case, try the place on the lower level of Incheon Airport on the way in- they serve burgers made with NZ and AU beef, and aren't half bad. Called Kraze Burger, IIRC.
posted by SeanMac at 6:24 PM on October 22, 2008


Are there neighborhoods best for trying lots of interesting street food?

If you're adopting through Holt, the neighborhood around the old Holt guest house was largely a collection of little non-touristy restaurants (of the "point at the food" variety, because neither the proprietors nor the menus speak English). I understand that the guest house has moved, so I'm not sure what the new area is like. But I'll be finding out sometime early next year when we're traveling to adopt our second child!

Good luck with the adoption!
posted by larsks at 6:24 PM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, no answer to your question, but you're adopting a young child from overseas?

My God. How wonderful of you. I have two daughters of my own, and often think about adopting (either locally or overseas). To offer a child a loving home, care, shelter and a future they otherwise would not have is a noble and righteous thing.

I salute you.
posted by Mephisto at 8:04 PM on October 22, 2008


Hey, look, a tourist coming to my neck of the woods. Welcome and annyong haseyo :)

I read there is a huge fish market in Seoul; I'd like to spend some time there. And a friend mentioned that a short train ride away is a smaller city with entire food "zones," where different streets are devoted to restaurants dealing in specific ingredients / types of food.


The huge fish market is at Noryangjin (line 1 of the Seoul subway system) - haven't yet gone, only because fish aren't personally my cup of tea. A huge fish market exists in Busan, if you find your way south of Seoul (actually along the southern coast) for any length of time.

Are there neighborhoods best for trying lots of interesting street food? Interesting farmers' markets or greenmarkets?


If by interesting street food you mean 'eaten by the locals as well as brave tourists', you can't go wrong in the Jongno area (one of the historic streets that's been used in Seoul for hundreds of years - City Hall station, line 1), the Dongdaemun area (especially late at night or on a weekend - also a great place to shop - Dongdaemun station, line 1), and Insa-dong (Anguk station, line 3) is worth eating as well. The Kimchi Museum may be of interest as well, and there's usually a random festival celebrating food or life in Seoul at almost any time of the year.

If you'd like more information about Seoul, feel free to PM or check out my blog here - all about life / travel / working in Korea, with a couple posts on the food :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:44 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks Chris & et al.

I am actually very familiar with Korean food as I grew up eating it regularly and my wife (who was born in Korea) cooks it at home on her cooking nights. Also, language will not be a problem as I have a handle on basic phrases and of course she is fluent. My questions are more just about the best places to eat lots of different types of food & other interesting food-related things that don't get mentioned in the tour guides. I will eat anything, although the silkworm larvae that many kids seem to really enjoy over there did gross me out a little bit, although they tasted good.

I will try Dongdaemun and Jongno etc, will read Chris' blog, and hit Noryangjin because I am certainly a fishaholic (at least a sashimi-aholic).

Larsks, we are indeed adopting through Holt - got our placement 2 months ago and are NVC in right now and waiting to get her visa. Not sure if we'll stay at the guest house or not. Even though Holt Korea frowns on it, we have a lot of friends and family in Seoul, Busan and elsewhere and there will be quite a bit of pressure to stay with them.
posted by luriete at 10:57 AM on October 23, 2008


You might be interested in Sanchon, a vegetarian restaurant in the Insadong neighbourhood that serves Buddhist temple-style food. If you go for dinner, they have a traditional dance performance in the evening. Insadong has lots of little tea shops in the back alleys off the main road. Lots of Koreans think Insadong has become too touristy so I can't say if the tea shops there are really quality but they are certainly adorable and have a great atmosphere.

Waitaminute, you say you have friends and family in Korea? Are they native Koreans? They for god's sake, don't listen to us. Any Korean worth their salt will be dying to take you to the best samgyupsal joint, the best agujjim restaurant, the best galbi grill, and shoving all the choicest bits onto your plate. If you have Koreans to ask for restaurant recommendations but don't ask them, you are wasting the best resource you have available.
posted by Rora at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


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