Best and most underrated foods in Seoul: What's good to eat in South Korea's capital
Food for the Seoul
The capital of South Korea is known for many spectacular things — an uprising fashion army, breathtaking ski resorts, the K-Pop stars of tomorrow, a leader in unconventional beauty trends... the list goes on. But apart from all that glitz and the glamour, lies a severely underrated food scene that most people are overlooking. The hard truth? Probably because they aren't exactly the prettiest social media material.
Fried chicken and beer? A lethal combination. Spicy instant ramen? Perfect for a midnight snack. Kimchi? That's just a side dish that pretty much comes with every meal in Seoul. These are the foods we know by heart and usually indulge in at the Korean restaurants we have in Singapore.
I made my first trip to Seoul recently, and was utterly blown away by what my senses were treated to. My word of advice? If you ever find yourself in Seoul, avoid the rookie mistake of only eating what you're familiar with but instead, take a chance and explore the exciting food arena of this beautiful city. Here are the foods to try — you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Spicy galbijjim (Spicy braised short ribs)
It's easy to find spicy braised short ribs in Seoul — and one that's well done. Think succulent chunks of meat bearing a charred and smokey flavour. But this particular no-frills restaurant adds a generous portion of squid into the one-pot equation. Inside this bubbling stew, you'll find your fix of red meat, squid, chewy glass noodles. Best paired with copious spoonfuls of Korean black rice.
Where to go: Jeonjuog, 3 Supyo-ro, Supyo-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Saengtae Jjigae (Pollack stew)
You'll find that the Koreans love their pollack, and for good reason. The fresh catch eschews any typical fishy odours and sits nice and light on your palate. Definitely a refreshing alternative to have, alongside your fiery choices on the table.
Where to go: Ayajin Saengtae Jjigae, 135-090 8, Samseong-ro 108-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Gopchang-ju (Barbecued intestines)
We all know the simple pleasures of huddling in front of a warm Korean barbecue grill. But it's time to move from bulgogi to something a little gamier. As daunting and grotesque as it might sound, the offal served from cattle or pork is usually perfectly marinated and grilled to perfection — leaving it smoky, tender, and deliciously caramelised. So do yourself a favour and give it a go.
Where to go: Sinchon Hwangso Gopchang, 31 Yonsei-ro 9-gil, Sinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Naengmyeon (Cold noodles)
People recommend it for summer weather, but I enjoy eating ice cream on a cold wintry day so honestly, there's no better time to savour a bowl of Naengymyeon than in winter. It's a cold noodle dish, made of thin, chewy buckwheat noodles and steeped in a refreshing beef broth. Honestly, it does sound a little strange having a savoury dish served ice-cold — but at the end of the day, it is a dangerously addictive concoction.
Where to go: Wooraeoak, 62-29, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Samgyetang (Ginseng chicken soup)
Picture this: A whole chicken stuffed with glutinous rice in a bowl filled with milky broth, garlic, dates, and ginseng shreds. It's hearty and not to mention, extremely nourishing. Without a doubt, the chicken soup for the soul. Bonus points for the endearing Ahjumma servers.
Where to go: Tosokchon Samgyetang, 5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Sajik-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Yukhoe (Raw beef tartare)
It might be a French classic but Korea's take on it proves to be entirely ingenious. Their slab of raw beef tartare is well dressed with fragrant sesame oil, adorned with a raw egg yolk and served with pear strips. Let's just say, you can never go wrong with an Asian twist.
Where to go: Gwangjang Market, 03195 88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Sannakji (Live Octopus)
I saved the best for last. To be perfectly honest, I was terrified and had once veto-ed the idea of shoving squirming tentacles down my throat. But still, I caved — and it paid off. The trick is to chew it really fast if you don't want it launching an attack in your mouth. The tentacles turned out to be perfectly chewy and served with a soy-wasabi dipping sauce. Pair with a bottle of Soju and you're all set.
Where to go: Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, 674, Nodeul-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul