One of the great things about traveling is food. When I travel, I think it’s always great to be a little adventurous and try out some of the traditional local cuisine. A country’s traditional cuisine speaks a lot on its past and history. And trust me, Korea, a country who prides itself and embraces its tradition, you will find plenty of local delicious bites.
Tea House in Bukchon Village
Check out Bukchon Hanok Village near Gyeongbokgung Palace. Here they have traditional crafts for tourists, small local cafes, delicious restaurants, and affordable street food. We found this cafe just wandering around the streets. A lot of cafes in this area happen to be traditional houses turned into cafes. At this particular cafe, we ordered coffee, hibiscus tea, and a bean mochi.
Keep in mind that a lot of cafes and restaurants in this area have a shoes off policy. They may or may not have slippers to borrow, so bring some socks if you have an aversion to bare feet.
Samgyetang near Gwanghwamun and Bukchon Village
We happened to be walking from Gwanghwamun and ran into this restaurant. It was very chilly the week we were in Seoul and some chicken soup was perfect to warm us up. This restaurant had kimchi pots buried right outside the restaurant where they ferment their own kimchi and serve fresh to the customers. When entering the establishment, there are many Korean celebrities signatures on the walls. My Korean friends even spotted a few of the older ones inside the restaurant!
The ginseng chicken soup was fantastic on a chilly rainy day. It wasn’t too heavy to slow us down for our day, and gave us the energy we needed. In an earthenware pot, you are served your own cornish hen stuffed with sweet rice. The broth is made of ginseng, jujubes (dates), onion, and garlic. We were served fresh kimchi on the side and given a bucket for our chicken bones.
Pajeon near Gwanghwamun
We met my local Korean friend once again. After walking to the Statue of King Sejong, we went south to find some Korean Savory Pancakes (pajeon). As my local friend told me, it’s very common for Koreans to eat pajeon on a rainy day. She was definitely correct. The local place we went to was packed, and we waited over an hour to get food.
However, for the food and good times we spent at the restaurant, it was completely worth it. We bought around 3 seafood scallion pancakes. And from the picture, that single plate is just one serving. The pancake was made perfectly and had a crunchy bite with a chewy interior. It was served with some traditional side dishes: radish kimchi, kimchi soup, and onions in a vinegary soy sauce mix.
Seafood Noryangjin Fish Market
If you love seafood, you will find heaven and all your true desires at this fish market. Browse aisles and aisles of fresh seafood, and if you have a native Korean speaker have them barter for good prices. The great thing about the fish market is that most vendors have a relationship with the restaurants upstairs.
We were able to pick our fish, crab, and octopus, and have it freshly cooked and prepared upstairs. We were served soybean paste and side dishes to go with our food. The sashimi and crab tasted so fresh and delicious, but my only complaint was that the fish we got had very thin bones inside. The octopus is not for the faint of heart. Many Koreans eat fresh octopus tentacles. Yes, that means that they still move and wiggle around on your plate. Make sure to thoroughly chew before swallowing.
Bibimbap at Incheon International Airport
If you happen to have some extra time before your flight or just happen to be passing through Seoul, check out the restaurants they have at the airport! There’s plenty to do and see for visitors. We arrived early and decided to get food before taking the bus towards Seoul.
We ate at a place called Gajokhoegwan. Here I decided to have Bibimbap as my first Korean meal. It was a great, simple meal. My friend’s Korean mom disagreed with me and said that it was just okay, but after a long plane flight the Bibimbap was very satisfying and cured any residual plane sickness.
Thanks for reading about my traditional food travels in Seoul! If you have any suggestions for me or for others let me know in the comments below!