Seoul Food Guide 2015: How To Eat in Korea?

fried fishcakes with ketchup and mustard

I know it can be very easy if you're in a middle or upper restaurant as they will serve you just most of restaurant in Indonesia, full service. At some places such as coffee shop, bakeries, and dessert cafe, you want to go the counter, ordering the food, doing payment, and pick wherever you want to sit. If it takes few times to make your order, they will give like a small buzzer that will notify you when the food is ready so you can pick it up at the counter. Also when you're done, make sure to bring the tray and empty bowl or cup to the counter. 

Cutleries can be found inside the drawer, just look around the table edges. Or it might be on the table, simply look for a wooden or plastic box, closely like a tissue box. Generally you can only get spoon, metal chopstick, and paper napkins. Water is usually provided for free.

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Where?

Seoul is a big city. It's very easy to find restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops, also street food. For high-end dining, Gangnam area is just the right place. Itaewon for more international dishes, while for affordable Korean food, Edae (Ewha Women University). Myeongdong and Hongdae for following the latest trend. If you really in budget, street food and convenience store food are quite affordable. Small restaurants inside underground shopping center sell cheap kimbap and various daily Korean food such as ramyeon (noodles), kimchi jjigae, sundubu jjigae, and more. Personally, I like to dine in the market such as kalguksu (handmade noodle soup) and galchi jorim (braised spicy mackerel) at Namdaemun Market, boribap at Gwangjang, and dosirak (lunch box meal) at Tongin Market. Go to Sindangdong for authentic tteokbokki, unlike one from the street food stall, Sindangdong Tteokbokki has a lot more such as dumpling, noodles, veggies, fishcakes, all cooked in one pot with minimum serving 2 portion.

Street Food

It is a big thing in Seoul. Made for both locals and tourists, the most popular is tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes). Pojangmacha (street food vendor) is very easy to find, from touristy place to university neighborhood means it can be expensive or very affordable. Hongdae is famous among young people, there are plenty of street food from classic tteokbokki stand to croquette, ice cream, churros, and pretty much what's on the trend.


NO PORK Dishes

I got few questions on Instagram about Halal food in Korea. First, if I said Halal it can't be very difficult, so I'd rather say no pork. I heard from a friend of mine that used to lived in Seoul that the only place to get certified halal meat (means the cutting process follows the Islam laws) is in Itaewon. There were several places selling Turkish kebab and delicious falafel, also in Itaewon. But how about Korean food? Most of side dishes (banchan) are made from veggies: kimchi (pickled veggies), namul (seasoned vegetables). Also rolled omelette, fish cakes, seaweed soup. Jjigae (stew) sometimes contains pork, though usually they used anchovy to make the broth. Ask if it contains pork meat by saying "dwaeji gogi" means pork meat. Even you can't speak Korean at all, they will tell you, you know body language, easy. 

Kimbap the korean rice rolls has ham in it, so if you want a kimbap order for the vegetarian one. Tteokbokki is generally a safe choice and so the other street food such as omuk (fish cakes, also known as oden), twigim (fried things, such as veggies, squid, prawn), fried fish cakes. Corn dog is one you want to avoid because it's sausage and Korean sausage contains pork. Grilled seafood that is easily found around Myeongdong may look so tempting, not sure about the other places but I spotted one that greased their griller with pork fat.


regular kimbap with ham in it


Side Dish (Banchan)

Rice is a mandatory in Korean dining, also the side dish. You can ask for refill or just look around, see if there's a side dish counter. Don't worry, they will not charge, because banchan is free. Kimchi is the most common, there are many types of kimchi. Baechu kimchi (napa cabbage) is the most popular, my favorite. Second was kkakdugi, radish kimchi. Every place has their own special side dishes that usually can be different from one day to another. Gyeranmari (rolled omelette), fried anchovy, pajeon (green onion pancakes), seriously there are a lot! On my previous visit to Seoul, I had a good experience at a Korean restaurant named Sigol Bapsang that serves 30 kinds of side dishes.



End Your Meal with Fried Rice

Though it is not possible at every restaurant but if you having a sharing meal which comes in a large pot, leave some space for fried rice. Sindangdong style tteokbokki is definitely my favorite, also spicy octopus, and dakgalbi, well I have many. Unlike tteokbokki from the street food vendor but it has a lot more such as fish cakes, hard boiled egg, veggies, noodles. The idea is using leftover sauce, trust me it's the best part, it just how the locals enjoy their meal. Rice, gim (seaweed), and egg, pretty much it. But if it's available go for the one with cheese and fish roe. 

cheese fried rice at James spicy back ribs


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