Too few people know that Seoul is a haven for foodies like me. Not only did I enjoy barbecue and kimbap, I also ate food from all corners of the world, and with all the walking and hiking I did, I did not gain a pound.
I touched down at about 6pm at Incheon International Airport-who knows what time it was back home. After the microwaved tortellini and beef bibimbap, I could use some real food and a shower.
Nancy met me at the airport, and we headed straight to Hongdae to eat. We ate at celebrity restaurant HaHa’s 401, a rastafarian-themed BBQ spot.
It was on this first half-sleep night that I began my obsession with pork belly. As soon as those thick slabs of fatty meat hit the grill, my olfactory senses sang, then my tastebuds followed. Paired with the self-serve sides of onions, garlic, radish, and rice, this meal was the perfect introduction to Korea. I was worried about leaving my bags with the staff, but the trustworthy staff returned my suitcases after my meal unopened or harmed.
I worked up quite an appetite after my trek through Gyeongbukgung Palace. No shade or places to rest meant food-stat. I found a little spot right outside of the palace walls that had traditional food. The owners greeted me so nicely and brought me an English picture menu. I ordered the beef bulgogi, which I order often at home. After getting over the shock of burning my tongue on the broth, I enjoyed my thin, flavorful slivers of beef and kimchi. (Interesting fact: Beef is rare in South Korea. Due to lack of space to raise cows, beef will be overpriced, or it will be thin or poor quality.)
On my first trip to Myeongdong, I expected mediocre food based on online reviews. I stumbled upon Saboten , a Japanese spot filled with businessmen in suits. The maitre d’ escorted me to a seat, and I braced myself for a high priced menu, but I discovered quite the opposite. A few items reached about 20,000 wan, but what peaked my interest was a Wakyu beef rice bowl. It did not disappoint. Raw egg typically grosses me out, but the sizzling slivers of beef underneath cooked it just enough. Still frightened by the drinking the water, I washed it all down with the clear soup. Boy, were those reviews wrong.
My hipster soul rejoiced when we visited the Farmacy juice bar. Owned by two friends from Toronto, this place was just the fix we needed-considering that our group was battling sleep-drunkenness (that delirium that accompanies being up too long), some bug EmergenC failed to fight, and vitamin deficiencies from our diet staples of sugary lattes and churros. These fresh juices made us feel like responsible adults.
Myeongdong during the day is great for shopping, but when night falls, street food comes out in full force. The street is littered with a plethora of food vendors offering dried squid to kimbap to Mexican corn. I opted for pork meatballs cooked like shawarma would be, served with tzaziki (I skipped it the lukewarm sauce to avoid getting sick).
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for a liege waffle (I blame Waffles and Dinges). Every touristy neighborhood in Seoul features at least one waffle stand. I decided to finally try one near Deoksugong Palace. Topped with Lotus spread (speculoos made with those Delta Airlines cookies) and almonds, this crispy waffle revived me after my tour of the palace.
I was pleased to try some good beignets at the French Quarter. Due to the language barrier, however, instead of hot tea, I received a glass of hot water. Which I drank. The beignets may not have been traditional, they did the trick. But then again, I’m a sucker for a fried, sugary treat-zeppoli, funnel cake, you name it. These Korean beignets join the list.
No Asian trip is complete without noodles, and my noodle consumption definitely competed with my churro habit. My favorite noodles were in Yeouido at Ramen and Bibimbap. I did not know what I was ordering, but when it arrived, I saw that I had some sort of spicy fish ramen. It was amazing.
If you pass by this stand, wait until later in your trip to stop. Otherwise, you’ll be stopping to buy these custard filled, corn looking pastries everyday. Learn from my mistakes.
Shop my style:
Navy knit blazer: Ralph Lauren
No Wake Zone sweater: Shae, browse other Shae sweaters here: http://us.asos.com/search/shae?hrd=1&q=shae&SearchSuggestUsed=true