Jeju get a taste of that Seoul Food?
Part 1 (1-4):
I’ve returned from visiting this Asian nation, nestled between China and Japan. Having just arrived from Canada and it’s Hoth-like winter, I was surprised by South Korea’s cool climate. This may explain the love affair here for hot, spicy, steamy foods and soju (often described as the Korean vodka) which warms the body from the inside out. I arrived ill dressed for the frigid temperatures and sought out the inviting glow of street food tent stands and packed restaurants for warm shelter like a rebel soldier seeks out bisected tauntauns in a snow storm. Luckily, they didn’t smell bad on the inside.
This need to fend off the cold makes for an interesting culinary adventure that’s unique in my experience with Asian gastronomies. I spent a week exploring food in the capital of Seoul and offshore destination Jeju Island! Here are my 8 picks should you decide to visit this wonderful country (And you definitely should!):
- What? Ddeokbokki
No list of Korean food would be complete without these capsules of joy. Found at nearly every food stand you can find, they pair well with other street food regulars like chicken skewers, fish cakes and breaded/deep fried foods. They have a nice bite to them, chewy like an al dente penne pasta only the centres are filled. Smothered in Korea’s signature chili sauce used so frequently in their cooking, it is fragrant and spicy!
Where? Any busy street corner during the evening to late night.
- What? Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake)
Onion pancakes are relatively common in asian cuisines. These savoury guys are augmented with a beautiful seafood medley. Imagine fried savoury crepe dough infused with an herbaceous kick of bright scallions and freshly plucked from the ocean bits of squid, octopus and clams. Slice them in bite sized pieces, dip them in some soy sauce then savour the flavour and texture explosion! A perfect rainy day favorite in Korea as they say the sound of sizzling pancake reminds one of the sound of rainfall!
Where? This particular one was found in Gwangjang Market but you can find them in most busy night food markets.
3. What? Grilled Fish Breakfast at Honamjib (or any time of day!)
A South Korea breakfast defines the hour of the day more than it describes a certain food. Lunch and dinner regulars are perfectly normal at breakfast. If the grilled fish from Honamjib is a regular morning meal then sign me up!
Cooked just outside our restaurant by our celebrity grill master (pictures of our chef are dotted around the restaurant and they appear to show her face on TV with other celebrities). The fish had a depth of smokiness and the skin a slight char that only charcoal can do. The meat itself was flaky, meaty and buttery. I only wish I had asked for the names of the fish since we decided to let the staff choose for us (I’m glad we did!). The banchan (small sides) complemented the neutral fluffy rice with it’s spicy/pickled kimchi, perilla leafs and bean sprouts. The best part, between us 4 it rang in under 10000 won each!
Where? Honamjib, Grilled Fish Alley, Dongdaemun, Seoul.
Take Seoul Subway Line 1 or Line 4 to Dongdaemun Station.
Take Exit 8.
Use the map above to find your way there. You can almost use your sense of smell to find the place since it is Grilled Fish Alley where the small alley is made entirely of… Grilled Fish restaurants.
Look for the restaurant with celebrity photos of the chef and this yellow sign:
4. What? Sulbing (Shaved Frozen Milk Dessert) @ Sulbing Korean Dessert Cafe
From Japanese kakigori to Filipino halo-halo and everything in between every asian nation has their own version of a refreshingly cool dessert built on a mountain of shaved ice. South Korea has their bingsu but the sulbing variety stands out distinctly from the rest with their formula of delicate frozen milk and specialized ingredients. Contrary to other icy desserts the ingredients aren’t mixed together. This seasonal bingsu gives you an icy cool snow-like bite with ruby tart strawberries, chewy rice cakes and creamy sweet condensed milk. They also have choices for mango, cheese, red bean and their most popular injulmi (a powdered soybean). These were great for sharing as I noticed all three floors were occupied by young couples enjoying a romantic sunny day!
Where? Various branches but I visited the one near Sinchon station. A great direction guide can be found at HelloSiHui.com.