For those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, ddeokbokki is a popular Korean snack of cylindrical rice cakes cooked in a spicy sauce. Traditionally street food - wonderful for warming up on a bitter Seoul night - there is one place you can visit in Seoul to try a real restaurant quality version; Ddeokbokki Town.
Located in Sindang-dong, Ddeokbokki Town is a long street with numerous restaurants dedicated to ddeokbokki. While most will provide you with a delicious meal, one restaurant is particularly worthy of a visit; the wonderfully named "I Love Sindang-dong." Dining at this restaurant is an easier affair than is typical for the foreigner in Korea, providing a full English language menu along with pictures of the individual dishes. You can choose from a variety of different options, including cheese-stuffed rice balls and the intimidatingly named "Tear Jerker." All the ingredients are brought out in a large pan to cook in front of you - each table having its own gas hob - so be ready to stir the mouth watering mix of rice cake, ramen, glass noodles, mushrooms, dumplings, 'odeng' (fish cake), egg, onions and more while it cooks. Then simply pick and choose which parts you like best, and tuck in!
A huge restaurant (the floor space was used by seven different restaurants up until 2002) "I Love Sindang-dong" gives you a fantastic chance to try some traditional Korean food well away from the more tourism-heavy areas of Seoul. There is often a wait for a table at weekends, though rarely longer than 5-10 minutes, and this really is a must-do for all visitors to the city.
Simply leave Sindang station (lines 2 & 6) out of Exit 8, take the first left (just before the firestation), and walk straight for about 200 metres. There will be a large sign with Korean script marking the entrance right in front of you.
South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu, Jeokseon-dong, 29
Google map: bit.ly/zCsf8A
Kim's combines all BBQ styles in one. Try Seashells or pork bacon or chicken on copper-wire mash placed over charcoal, or a heated metal-dome on which you place marinaded beef and more. The menu has nice pictures you can point at. The prices are average.
But the best dish is the wide, shallow, simmering pot filled with aged kimchi (pickled, spicy cabbage) with boiled bacon, mushrooms and tofu.
Mugunji-Sangyop-Jim is myy favourite Korean dish. (Won 18.000 for two). It's served with a huge array of side dishes for free. Rice (Bap) is Won 1000 extra.
Order a small bottle of Chang-Ha (a bit like Sake) only won 4000 perfect for washing the dish down.
It's near Jongno, the heart of Seoul. 10 min walk from Changyong Palace and the Science Museum.
Exit palace and turn left. Keep walking until the huge orange Dunkin Donut cafe. Cross the big road to the opposite side. You are at Family Mart. Take the tree lined street on the left of it. Kim's is the second building marked by many blue and red cube lanterns as well as a big seafood tank left of the entrance.
OR - Take subway line 4 (light-blue) to Hyehwa Station. Exit 4 opens to a busy shopping street. Walk to the end of that and take a sharp -hairpin- turn left. Can't miss it! Shouldn't miss it! :o)
(Ps. Golden Pond Guest House is 30 seconds away in a nearby small alley)
Korea is a nation of carnivores. The national dish is Galbi (marinaded beef or pork rib meat grilled on charcoal). Koreans are the world's largest importers/consumers of bacon -Samgyopsal (although the general Korean belief is that those are two different things.) We are basically talking about three-layered pork fat. The said thick slab of fat is grilled and cut into slices, dipped into salted sesame oil and wrapped into a lettuce leaf - great fun with chopsticks!
Vegans will have to make do on Bibimbap. It's steamed rice topped with boiled vegetables. Locals drench it in a thick, ketchup-like sweet, hot chili sauce. (Kochu-jang)
Fish eating vegetarians will have less problems. Plenty of Japanese Udon Noodles and California Rolls around for those on the budget. Plastic dishes are in the window.
But I'd recommend visiting a Raw Tuna House (Chamchi) for lunch and order a He-Dop-Bap which is a bowl of salad topped with a handful of raw tuna. You are supposed to add the small bowl of steamed rice and mix (and with the eternally present Kochu-jang as above) - I just put a bit of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil in the mix.
The best He-Dop-Bap lunch set (including soup and side dishes for 6000 won is found at a restaurant chain called Dokdo Chamchi (all over Seoul.) Wash it down with a nice hot cup of sake for the full effect! (5000 won).
If you really love Sashimi. Order an "Eat All You Can" tuna meal for 19.000 Won - they'll keep it comin'...
Jongno 3-Ga take exit 13 and walk towards Changdok Palace (it's a straight road between Jongno and the Changdok Palace entrance. It's the 3rd or 4th door after the cinema on the left). Recognize it by the Tuna pictures all over it's front sign.
Or walk from Changdok Palace - cross the road and keep walking straight on the right. 10 min later you'll get to a junction with a big cinema on either side opposite each other - you went a bit too far.
Backtrack a bit and see as above.
***Ask anyone Dokdo Chamchi?***
Huge concrete building packed with market stalls selling fish.
Fresh stuff gets snapped up early (4am) in the morning by chefs, but whatever time you get there you can choose your catch and have restaurants in the same building cook it up for you.
Prices are marked so you won't get ripped off (although there's always a little room for haggling) and it's all very photogenic.
Subway Line 1- Noryangjin station (follow the map in the subway station when you arrive).
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