7 Must-Try Food when in Korea

9:23 PM

Well, it's been a while (fine, an entire semester has passed by argh) since I've been back from my Summer school programme in Seoul but I haven't even gotten down to documenting my trip there properly. (not counting dayre updates haha) I guess this is better late than never to do some sharing here and I shall therefore begin with... FOOD! Glorious, delicious Korean food. You may say I'm a convert because I was hardly a fan of anything Korean to begin with before my month long trip there (well, except cosmetics maybe?)

I had initially wanted to list down all my fav food from Korea... but it's impossible, because everything was a favourite.  So yes, Korea is a food heaven definitely but here's 7 that I've shortlisted and these are food that's definitely worth the buck ;)

#1. Chimaek (Fried Chicken + Beer)
Price: 15,000-18,000 KRW for fried chicken, 2,000-3,000 KRW for beer.
Best for sharing in groups

For the entire semester spent in Singapore since I'm back, I've been looking forward to eating some seriously legit fried chicken paired with beer (which costs cheaper than water there). The first fried chicken I had was a home delivery made by Nene Chicken and I remembered N ordered and requested for "extra spicy" chicken, which really got all of us caught up with fire from our lips to our stomach! The "kick" from the spiciness was really there, and if you love spicy, this is a shiok for you, but if you're not that a fan of it, you'll find yourself gulping down water/milk/beer -- simply anything drinkable in sight LOL.

Nene Chicken
Chicken bus

The fried chicken shop I frequented the most was definitely Chicken Bus! Went there a grand total of 4 times in a month and while it's not unanimously the best fried chicken as voted by everyone, it definitely is one of my fav shops there! Did my summer prog at Hanyang Uni, so we frequented the Chicken Bus at Wangsimni, just one subway station away from HYU! My fav order there after so many visits has gotta be the garlic pepper boneless chicken! The spicy sauce one wasn't too bad either. Don't forget to complete your meal with beer :D

We tried so many other fried chicken shops, some I can't even remember what they're called anymore!!! I'll just let the photos do the talking. (not gonna put ALL the chimaek I've tried here, because there's too many)

Kkanbu Chicken, which I thought tasted like zichar LOL But it was quite nice
Cheese powdered chicken. Had this in Busan but cannot remember the shop name!

This one is interesting! The shop name is called Oksang Dalbit, located in Hongdae. Their grilled chicken is flame grilled on the spot meaning your chicken is on fire! I think I sound a bit suaku now but really, it was one of the most tender chicken I've eaten in Korea. It's not a franchise and it might be a little difficult to find, so I'll just include the address here!

Oksang Dalbit
411-2 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

#2. Seafood (Stewed, steamed, EVERYTHING)
Best for sharing, price varies.

First up, there's Seafood Stew which I/we had when we were in Jeju for a weekend trip! To date, the seafood stew we had is my NUMBER 1 favourite food in Korea! The seafood were so fresh that they were still moving when it was served lol! Probably we were hungry after a day of traveling, but it was really so good we finished it clean:) We were recommended to the shop we went to by another shop owner where we had Black Pork BBQ, and the place was filled and we had to queue for about 20 minutes? Seeing that we weren't locals, the table of 2 korean guys next to us taught us how we were supposed to eat the stew, and the ahjumma also helped to serve us the seafood LOL it was quite an experience. I think seafood stew is a must try in Korea! We had the medium stew (45,000 won) for 3 pax so that's 15,000 won per pax which is around SGD20. Really worth it for the amount of seafood (think an entire pot of abalones!!) But you might find it a bit hard to begin if you can't stand seeing seafood "die" right in front of you. 

We couldn't finish our flatfish sashimi, hence we cooked all the remaining ones and preferred it that way LOL. 

All the lalas!!!
This was the bomb, really.

In Seoul itself, visiting a fresh seafood market is a must! We visited Noryangjin Fish Market twice, and Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan once. Comparing both, I must say Noryangjin Fish Market is more worth the buck cos the seafood is fresher, but the servings we had over at Jagalchi was bigger. Price wise, they're about the same. One tip is to visit Noryangjin in a bigger group so that you can try more things without breaking your bank! :) Also, some of the vendors there can speak fluent Chinese, so don't forget to bargain! 

Also, if you're adventurous enough, don't forget to try Sanakji, which is live octopus! Don't get the huge one if you're afraid... we usually just bargain for a free small octopus to eat when we buy our seafood! But to be frank, it's not as scary as I thought it would be and I also thought it was pretty yummy. It's worth the try, but I will still prefer eating the cooked version anytime, any day. lol 

Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul
Subway station: Noryangjin

Jagalchi Market, Busan
Subway station: Jagalchi

Everyone's favourite layer!
Would love to upload all 9 layers, but I don't want to be guilty of making everyone hungry, so here's just half of the 9 layers of seafood :)

Besides the stew and live variants of seafood available in Korea, there's also the STEAMED one. And it comes in a really "Grand" manner, it comes stacked in 9 layers! More commonly known as the "9 layer steamed seafood", this is best shared amongst a group of 7-8 people though we only had 5 and we finished it anyway. Basically, you have to finish it layer by layer and the last layer is fresh seafood soup and you can choose to cook ramyun with it! Yums, really. If you're going in smaller groups, there's also the 3/4/5/6 layer options available. But since it is famed for the 9 layers, we went ahead for it ;) 

For the 9 layer option, it is 88,000 won and shared among 5 of us, it's around 17,000 won each which is slightly over $20. But if you're going in a group of 8, then it's only 11,000won which will be super worth it!!! Even for $20, it's worth it 'cos you'll never be able to enjoy such fresh variety of seafood here in Singapore!

9 layer steamed seafood
Nearest Subway: Bongcheon (Exit 6)
924-40 Bongcheon-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Directions: After exiting from Exit 6, walk straight till the first junction (As of August 2015, the shop you should see at the first junction is Paris Baguette) Turn left, walk straight till the end of the alley and cross the traffic light to the opposite side of the road. The shop is the second/third one on the right side of the traffic light, with a blue signboard! 

#3. Spicy Tofu Stew (Soondubu jigae)

Priced at 7,000won (~SGD$9) per pax, this Spicy Tofu stew shop located in Sinchon comes with free flow seaweed, rice & eggs!!! What's even better is that this shop is open 24 hours! :O They also serve other kinds of stew like beef stew, kimchi stew but I think the tofu stew is really the nicest!

I got to know about this from KM&A who found this by chance and A claims this is better than the Jeju seafood stew, but imo I still think the seafood stew in Jeju was nicer LOL (maybe I'm just biased towards anything seafood) But this is also really nice and worth the price!

The tofu was really soft and melts in your mouth and it comes with seafood, chicken and of course, the free flow eggs. I have no idea what is this shop name called (signboard is in Hangul lol) and the directions to there is also quite difficult to put it down in words :O

 (Edit: 30th Dec 2015. I realised I got the shop name wrong! I went back to eat at the shop during my recent trip and here's the updated photo of the shop. Directions stay the same haha)

Nearest Subway: Sinchon exit 3
Directions: Walk straight till you reach the "diagonal" junction and turn right into the street. Keep walking (the shop is pretty deep inside, there's a smoothie king nearby) and the shop should be on your right and it looks like that:
 This is the shop!
Also took a photo of their menu :)

#4. Bingsu
Best for sharing, price varies.

Yes, desserts. How can we ever forget about desserts? Bingsu has been taking Singapore by storm and sold at ridiculous prices lol.. although it is not THAT cheap in Korea either, it's still a lot cheaper than sold in Singapore. I'd suggest to share a bowl of bingsu with friends because one bowl to one person may be too much unless you're having that for a meal. I honestly didn't try that many bingsus in Korea but I guess from whatever I've tried, I already have my favorites.

First of all, it'll be the Tiramisu Bingsu from Tour Les Jour! Yeah it's a bakery and not a shop specializing in selling bingsu but don't be too quick to judge. Unlike other bingsus, instead of pouring condensed milk over your bingsu, you pour a hot shot of expresso!!! The Tiramisu bingsu was full of surprise, with tiramisu cake cubes served alongside the bingsu and... a scoop of vanilla ice cream hidden in the middle! We were really lucky because we tried it on the day they were having a Summer promo and there was 1 for 1, but honestly I can't rmb the other flavor we tried LOL It was also served on a pie crust :O The second time i had it the promo was over so there was no more pie crust T.T I'm not sure if this is a permanent item on the menu or just a summer promotion for this year, but this bingsu is simply too... unforgettable.

There's also the Injeolmi bingsu at Sulbing, a popular bingsu chain in Korea. Putting it simply, it tastes like muachee with shaved ice LOL but I really like it cos it wasn't too sweet unlike all the other bingsus full of syrup, milk and all. The injeolmi toast here is also worth a try! 

Summer isn't complete without some melon bingsu! The melon was really super sweet... I'm not sure if they soaked it in sugar prior to serving us that or what lol but it's really, really good and filling. Sadly, they ran out of melon shells to serve us (??) that night so we had it served on a normal bingsu bowl. Incomplete dessert presentation but still full marks for the taste! Had this at this cafe called LGA cafe tucked away in a relatively quieter alley in Hongdae! Had this on my last night in Seoul and I was so glad I tried this. 

#5 Korean dumplings (mandu)

I have no idea how the Koreans make their dumplings but it is just... so good. And I'm not even a fan of dumplings to begin with! Tongs& I first tried mandu by chance in Sinchon on our second day there and were pleasantly surprised by how great it tasted. Since then, we went to the supermarket and bought 2 big bags of Korean dumplings back to cook for our lunch/dinner almost everyday! LOL It's so easy to cook and so yummy that we can have up to 6 dumplings per person in one serving!!! Well, since we were constantly eating mandus in our apartment for the 1 month, I seldom tried any dumplings from any eatery outside... so I can't really recommend much! But if you're going to be there on exchange/summer school or a long holiday, I recommend buying the dumplings from supermarket and cooking it on your own to try. You won't regret it! 

#6 Gimbap
Solo diner friendly, price starts from 1,000won

Coming from a person who hardly eats vegetables, this is pretty something eh? Of course, gimbap can be really cheap at just about 1000won per small roll and you can find them right outside some subway stations. But the one I'm raving about here is this surprise find at Express Bus Terminal Underground Shopping mall! (this place has no end omg... girls and guys will go crazy here for different reasons LOL)

Their gimbaps came in a variety of flavours and ingredients and I recommend the spicy pork one!!! We took away these for a picnic at Hangang River Park/Banpo Bridge (10min walk from express bus terminal station) and just look at the photo... the serving is so generous! It was 4,500won for one and the packaging is really pretty also. We bought 2 of these to try (can't rmb what's the other flavour, again. I am extremely biased towards food I like I guess) and 3 of us shared it so that's 3,000won per person and it was pretty filling. I'm pretty sure they have more than one outlet for this? I returned another time when I was solo traveling but the shop was soooo packed so I ate at another stall instead :(

This gimbap stall is located at the end of Exit 1 of the underground mall and is located next to Paik's coffee (which is freaking good too!) They have an English translated menu too so you won't get too lost if you can't read the menu:)

Best enjoyed with friends! Usually under 5,000won for 1 bottle of Soju + 1 can of beer

This. is. da. bomb!!!  Somaek is a term derived from soju + maekju which means soju+ beer! It's an awesome combination and a really cheap way to... get high lollollol

Soju costs 1,300-1,600 won (that's under SGD$2) in the convenience stores there and a can of 330ml beer is around 500won I think? The beer makes pure soju tastes less gross. If you don't wanna mix your soju, try the flavoured ones. My fav is the tangerine one which is SO GOOD even on its own. If you're more of a cocktail person, I recommend mixing your soju with yakult + sprite! It won't even taste like alcohol anymore LOL Someone recommended this recipe to me on my dayre when I was trying to finish up my soon to be expired yakult in Korea LOL and I have a lot to thank that reader for omg hahaha

Best place to drink somaek? None other than right outside the convenience store with a packet of chips or a bowl of ramyeon. And with some friends, of course. It was probably the most enjoyable catch up sessions I ever had w my friends and it is SO BUDGET!!!

There are so many more food on the list that I wish I could include but the list is really NEVERENDING. Think cold noodles, churros, Korean BBQ, korean zha jiang mian, and ALL the cafe food you can ever have :O 

I shall add in some bonus "snack" food here:
If I have to choose a fav street food, it'll be THIS!!! It's hotteok + seeds WHICH IS SO GOOD. Available in Busan (BIFF Square) and we had this twice in 2 days lol
I think this is called Jeju ice cream?? But actually it's worth the try but not say super nice, probably will be nicer if the cone didn't lao hong LOL
Tteokpokki! It's a super huge serving for 3,000won and really 3 of us couldn't even finish cos it got gelat after a while.. Bought it at Dongdaemun night market. but I loved the sauce though, spicy!!
If you like green tea, you'll never regret buying this! Available at Osulloc! There's a tea museum of Osulloc in Jeju, but in Seoul there're retail stores selling these :) I saw one at Myeong Dong before!:)

By the way, a simple price guide will be that food ranging from 4,000-6,000 won ($5-$8) is considered cheap and affordable in Seoul, Korea as mentioned by one of the profs in my summer prog module haha and also from my own observation :) A lot of dining places have a "2 pax" policy meaning there must be at least 2 people dining in one seating or if you're a solo diner, you have to order 2 people's share. But there're also some food places that are solo diner friendly, which I'll share more another time :) 

I hope you guys enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed putting this up! There's really a lot of awesome food in Korea and I probably ate more vegetables there than I have ever consumed in my entire life here LOL.

Xin Lin

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