Travel Date: September 2016
Anyone who has ever been to Seoul knows that 4 full days in this busy city is wayyyyy too short. Unfortunately, because my girlfriends J, S, and I booked a last-minute trip to Seoul over dinner 2 weeks before (#yolo right?), beggars can’t be choosers and the return flight prices were the most ideal during those dates.
So with only 4 days and approximately 13 meals – every meal had to count. We planned most of our trips according to food (and shopping) in the area, and here’s 10 things you absolutely have to eat on your next trip to Seoul! Special thanks to J who did most of the planning this trip haha!
#1. Budae Jjigae
This was definitely on the top of our list to eat – Budae Jjigae (army stew) is shown in almost all Korean shows, making us salivate every single time. Piping hot pan of ramyeon, kimchi, sausages and meat in spicy sauce mmmmmm…
I love Buddae Jjigae to bits, but it’s just SO EXPENSIVE in Singapore, at least SGD$40 at any place. In Seoul, you can literally walk into any restaurant for delicious army stew, and it’ll cost you about $10 or less per person.
Where to go: Anywhere, but we had our fix at these 2 places.
Yoogane, Myeong Dong | Price: 8,500 Won per person / SGD $10.50
Nolboo Budae Jjigae, Myeong Dong | Price: 5,300 Won per person / SGD $6.50
#2. Korean BBQ
MEAT!! Again, Korean dramas. There’s nothing like gossiping around a steaming grill of tender meat and glasses of soju, preferably in winter, because hot food tastes extra good in the cold weather.
Although SG has many places offering good Korean BBQ especially around the Tanjong Pagar, but the prices here in Seoul makes it extra sweet.
Where to go: New Mapo Galmaegi, Hongdae | Price: 16,000 Won per person / SGD $20
We ordered Pork Belly, Pork Shortribs, Beef Shortribs (2 servings), Makgeoli (2 bottles) all for SGD$20 per person! The grill came with a ring of eggy goodness that you could eat with the meat, along all the usual (delicious) sides like kimchi, radish and lettuce. SO GOOD, plus it kinda feels healthy, cause you are eating grilled meat with veggies, right?
I’m still salivating as I think about it #nojoke.
#3. Ginseng Chicken Soup
Another must-try is the traditional Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup. The broth is thick and nutritious, with a whole chicken stuffed with glutinous rice. The meat of the chicken is super tender and peels off easily – yum!
Where to eat: Tosokchon Samgyetang, Gyeongbokgung | Price: 16,000 Won / SGD $19.80
Tosokchon is famous for their Ginseng Chicken Soup – the restaurant was packed with both tourists and locals enjoying their meal in a traditional setting. (You sit on the wooden floor with a low table!)
Pricing is very reasonable at 23,000 Won / SGD $28.50 for Tosokchon Ginseng Korean Black Chicken Soup & 16,000 Won / SGD $19.80 for Tosokchon Ginseng Chicken Soup – they give you little shots of Ginseng that you can pour into the soup or drink it up!
Made popular by the Korean drama – My Love From Another Star, Chimaek stands for Chicken + Beer, a sinful combination! Seoul is full of joints selling Fried Chicken & Oven baked crispy chicken – original and with different seasoning (usually around 15,000 Won, a good portion for 2 people). There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into one of these babies, and washing it down with beer.
Where to eat: Oppadak at Myeong Dong | Price: 15,000 Won / SGD $18.50 for 2 pax serving
Public Service Announcement: Don’t indulge in chimaek right before a shopping spree – it tends to make you talk and walk at a ridiculous speed, and purchase many things on impulse! haha
#5. Tteokbokki + Gimbap (plus live octopus if you dare!) – Traditional-style
It’s such a waste to not experience the traditional Gwangjang Market and see the bustling activities of the locals. Other than seeing a wide range of merchants (selling everything from fabric to snacks, produce and souvenirs) there is a big section of vendors selling local food.
Many of these merchants sell the same thing – Mung Bean pancakes, Tteokbokki, Gimbap, blood sausage, beancurd skins & live octopus (in tiny tanks, ughhh!).
Take a seat at any of these and be served by an Ahjumma ladling fresh hot food onto a plate!
Where to eat: Gwangjang Market | Price: 10,000 Won / SGD $12.30 for a combination of Tteokbokki, Gimbap & Beancurd skin + a bottle of Makgeoli.
#6. O’sulloc Tea House
O’sulluc has many branches throughout Seoul and Jeju Island – it specializes in Green Tea drinks, dessert and products. J had actually tried the outlet at Jeju and raved about it, so we stopped by mid-afternoon for some dessert to cool off!
Must-try: Hojicha Bingsu – super refreshing and light, topped with a scoop of Hojicha Ice Cream! I’ve always preferred Hojicha to Matcha, somehow it tastes more roasted and less sweet to me, which made this Bingsu perfect for the hot afternoon. For matcha lovers, try their Green Tea O Fredo, 7,000 Won (Green Tea shake topped with green tea ice cream) – it’s really rich but delicious!
Where to eat: O’sulloc Tea House | Price: 34,000 Won / SGD $42 for Hojicha Bingsu, 2 special iced teas, Matcha roll & Green Tea O Fredo!
#7. Handmade Knife Noodles
Another specialty in this city is Handmade Korean Knife Noodles. The noodles are very delicate and thin, not chewy or heavy like others. When we visited this place, it was full of locals during the lunchtime crowd – not many tourists at all.
The portion sizes were big in my opinion, but the locals did not have a problem cleaning off the bowl! The light noodles contrasted well with the thick broth. My personal pick is the Spicy Handmade Noodles.
S had the special Noodles in White Bean Broth – which was served cold. The broth tasted like soya bean milk, but thicker, and the dish was actually delicious. She loved how easy it was to eat (not getting too “gelat”) although I was more conservative, preferring noodles in hot broth!
Where: Gangnamgyoja, Myeong Dong | Price: 8,000 Won per bowl / SGD $9.90
#8. Fusion Jjampong
Jjampong – Korean spicy noodle soup flavoured with seafood and gochugaru.
This is not usually on the lists of “Korean food to try” but it was SO GOOD! This was our super-cheat meal of the trip, but no regrets ok?
Nipong Naepong serves fusion jjampong and pizza – a popular hit among the younger crowd. We ordered the Ro-pong and the signature sweet potato pizza. The Ro-pong was a bowl of noodles with a roe + tomato cream sauce, topped with a mountain of cheese. The result was a tasty, umami, gooey spoonful of noodles, which leaves you wanting more.
We also loved their sweet potato pizza, which tastes exactly how it sounds – sweet potato and cheese on a thin crust. Although the crust was less crispy than I expected, the pizza was very good.
Where: Nipong Naepong, many outlets in Seoul | Price: 18,800 Won / SGD $23 for a bowl of Ro-pong & Sweet Potato Pizza – big enough to be shared by 3 people!
#9. Random Cafés
Of course, we stopped at many cafes along the way for our coffee fix (ok, I admit that I’m a coffee addict, and my girls had to lead me to cafes when I was running low on caffeine.)
A few notable cafes were Angel-in-us Coffee and Holly’s Coffee – which were all over Seoul.
An interesting café was Tia Pol – near the Bukchon Hanok Village. They served Cotton Candy coffee (which was basically cotton candy on top of your coffee lol!)
I liked their Cotton Candy, which was not as sweet than the usual Pasar Malam ones in Singapore, and ended up putting most of it into my Americano to sweeten it up – hey, it works!
Where: Tia Pol, Bukchon Street | Price: 5,000 Won / SGD $6.20
Another café was at the new Common Ground shopping “mall” in containers. Don’t forget to take your #ootd in front of the iconic blue containers haha!
Although most of the shops there are rather pricey, the café Dore Dore is a good place to chill out, with instagrammable interior, lots of natural lighting and pretty cakes. We had such a hard time choosing between the Rainbow Cake and the Tiramisu – and went for tiramisu instead!
Where: Dore Dore Cafe at Common Ground, Gwangjin-gu | Price: 25,000 Won for a Vanilla Latte, Hot Cocoa, Tea & Tiramisu cake! #nofilterneeded
#10. Tea Egg + Sweet Rice Drink @ Jjimjilbang
Jjimjilbang – Korean public bathhouse
Last of all, how could you not have an authentic Korean experience at the Jjimjilbang? It’s something everyone should try at least once.
There are quite a few sauna rooms at different temperatures for you to try out like the Ice Room (this one no joke, too cold), Salt Room (around 40-50 degrees celcius) and Jade Room (above 60 degrees I think, also no joke!). Other than that, there are different floors for exercise, entertainment (watch TV), rest and more!
We partook in the Jjimjilbang ritual we saw on Korean dramas – cracking a tea egg on your forehead and drinking cold sweet rice drinks! On hindsight, those tea eggs were not that easy to crack (ouch, painful man!!) but still good to eat. Oh, we also googled how to tie the towels on our heads and walked around like stupid tourists!
Other than an ahjumma letting out some potent gas next to us (we ran), it was an amazing experience.
Where to go: Siloam Sauna, Seoul Station | Price: 15,000 Won / SGD $18.50 for entry & about 3,000 Won /SGD $3.70 for food/drinks
Have you tried everything on this list? If not, you should be planning your next trip back to Seoul! Btw, shopping burns calories, so you’re good!
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