Food tripping at Seoul, Korea

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kim Soohyun warmly welcomed us in Myeongdong. Haha
It was nearing midnight when we arrived at Namsan guesthouse from the Incheon airport. At below 20 degrees celcius, the streets were chilly and walking briskly felt cold despite the layer of jacket we had on. Without a proper dinner, our first concern was how to get food. It was also our excuse to explore Myeongdong and the various street food we can feast on.

But as I said, it was nearing midnight and venturing out on the streets is not safe, at least to two women like us from the province. Fortunately, the streets of Myeongdong were brightly lit by the surrounding buildings, stores, and streetlamps. There were still people walking around and best of all, there were still a few stalls selling street food at that time.

Myeongdong is one of the many streets in Seoul where street food and shopping establishments are abundant. There were a lot of stores selling cosmetics and a handful of Etude House and Nature Republic scattered all over the place. But at midnight, the place quiets down and majority of the stores were already closed.

Myeongdong nearing midnight

Mandu (Myeongdong)

Mandu was our first taste of Korean street food. Hot and freshly fried, the thin mandu was quite oily, including its content of mung bean sprouts and other vegetables. They gave us a strip of paper to hold the mandu. It was only 1,000 KRW.

Egg bread (Myeongdong)

Seoul is not perfect - there were some trash strewn on the ground and the trash bins were full to the brim. But that did not stop us from walking some more until we saw a stall selling egg bread. It is a dense bread with a sunny side up on top. The egg was not seasoned but the bread was compact and slightly heavy to the stomach. At 2,000 KRW, it served its purpose to fill me up for the night and take my medicine.

Buying the egg bread also gave us the opportunity to be welcomed by a local who asked where we were from and if we were tourists. In broken english, she welcomed us and we replied our thanks in Korean. 

 Spicy chicken (Edae)

During our second day, we ventured to Edae initially to shop. Little did we know that we would also be given a taste of Korean chicken in one of the food stalls leading to Ehwa Women's University.

Ehwa Women's University is a sprawling campus with a well-maintained garden and several gothic buildings. It was amazing to see the architecture and the landscape that seemed different from what we were accustomed to back in our country.

Venturing into the inner streets of Edae will let you encounter the shopping stalls while the main street going to Edae had various food stalls you can choose from. We picked the stall selling spicy fried chicken with rice cakes and fried potato balls.

At 3,000 KRW, our cup was filled to the brim with chicken, rice cake, and potato balls, topped with sauce and chopped nuts. We were given sticks to poke and eat the bite-sized pieces. It was delicious! The sauce was sweet and slightly spicy. We weren't able to see a stall in Myeongdong selling this, so we were thankful that we ate this back in Edae.

After we finished eating, the vendor called us out to get the trash. This is what's weird with Seoul - there were too few trash cans so the vendors take care of their trash as much as possible.

Travelling to Edae from Seoul station is easy. Take the green line or Line #2 to Ehwa Women's University. Take exit #1 or #2 and just walk to the main street.  

Fresh lemon drink (Myeongdong)

Koreans seem to like everything fresh including their drinks. Aside from lemons shown in this photo, sugarcane juice was also sold on the street. Being a fan of lemon, I bought one, which they placed in a plastic bag with a ziplock and a straw. Soda is mixed to the fresh lemon juice but still, it was too sour. Sugar was not added to make it a healthy drink. This costed me 3,000 KRW.

Ice cream (Myeongdong)

Street stall
Walk-in store in Myeongdong

Our Seoul trip was on June, which was already the start of summer in Seoul. There were plenty of stalls selling these funky ice cream with a J-shaped cylinder container instead of the regular cone. The dispenser has a long tube, which is inserted into the container, so you can get ice cream with each bite. Its weird shape made it photo-op worthy. Case in point: we saw a tourist posing with the tip of the ice cream on her mouth while looking at the camera. Very suggestive. Haha

Pinoys can already experience this type of ice cream here, as I already saw a store selling these ice cream in Alabang.

Check out the long tube on the dispenser.

Seafood balls (Hangang park)

So expensive .__.

My solo trip to Hangang Park is made more memorable with these seafood balls, which I purchased for 4,000 KRW. I initially thought that this was only 3,000 KRW but the ahjumma promptly corrected me by holding up four fingers for me to see. Without the sauce, I thought this dish was crunchy chicken, similar to what we bought in Edae.

However, the vendor heated it in the microwave and it became soft and quite soggy with the sauce. Aside from the sweet sauce, sesame seeds were also sprinkled on top. It wasn't the yummiest street food I've eaten in Seoul but at that time, it served its purpose of filling me up before I biked in Hangang park.

View of Hangang Park

Sausage with tteokbokki (Myeongdong)

This was an attractive sight in Myeongdong, especially with the promise of rice cake within the sausage. You are given a stick with four sausages, with two of it having rice cake inside. After grilling it perfectly, you can buy one for 4,000 KRW.

Although a bit expensive, it seemed to be worth it as the sausage was juicy and not too salty. The sausage with the rice cake is a bit disappointing though. The rice cake was not chewy and tasted bland. The sausage meat compensated for the lack of flavor of the rice cake. Maybe the addition of rice cake is probably just a way to attract customers to their stall.

Japchae (Myeongdong)

By now, Pinoys are already familiar with japchae, which is quite similar to our pancit bihon. Instead of vegetable oil, japchae uses sesame oil and slightly thicker glass noodles. The aroma of sesame oil from the street food stall selling japchae was so inviting that I ordered one.

At 3,000 KRW, your cup is filled with noodles but sadly, without vegetables. There were long and thick slices of white onion but no vegetables in sight. The noodles were thick, chewy, and you can taste the sesame from the abundant oil used. It was slightly disappointing but I just charged it to experience.

The ahjumma selling the japchae had her hands covered in plastic gloves. She mixes the noodles by hand, making sure each noodle strand is covered with sesame oil. After you finish your meal, you can drop your empty bowl and used chopsticks on her stall's table so she can dispose of it later. 

Fruit juices (Dongdaemun)

Hydrating and keeping healthy in Seoul is easy with the presence of these fruit juice stalls. They already give you a choice to have a single fruit or mixed juice that they blend with ice. I bought banana yogurt and strawberry for 3,000 KRW.

Dongdaemun is another place where you can do your shopping, whether for high-end or budget products (it's separated by two buildings. Lotte mall is always the place to buy high-end products).

Odeng (Myeongdong)

The first time I heard about odeng or fish cake was from my sister, who was determined to look for this and buy one to experience it. We were able to spot this on the other side of Myeongdong, facing Lotte mall. The fish cake were skewered and were drenched in a huge bowl of soup with stalks of chopped scallions and chili. At 1,000 KRW, you get a cup of fish cake with soup, which you can refill as much as you want.

My sister said that her friends who studied in Korea treated this as their budget meal, especially during cold days. With unlimited soup, you can already get full from one order. 

Chicken barbecue (Myeongdong)

The all-time favorite Pinoy grilled street food can be experienced in Korea - but with a twist. It's chicken barbecue! The chicken seemed to be cubed to resemble pork squares and skewered. It looks deceiving but the grains of the meat can instantly tell you that it's chicken. Best of all, it's a healthier option as it's white meat. It's only 3,000 KRW.

The chicken barbecue stick is drizzled with sauce (which I cannot fathom... until now) and topped with nuts. The meat was not dry and it was still juicy. The vendor was advised us to eat in front of his stall as eating it was messy. As usual, we gave him the used stick after eating for him to dispose. 

Fruit juices (Myeongdong)

As I said, healthy hydration is easy in Seoul. At Myeongdong, there's also a stall selling fresh fruit juices that you can pick and let them blend. I bought watermelon juice, which is a bit expensive at 3,000 KRW.

Red bean bun (Nami island)


If you are going to Namiseom or Nami island on a day trip, then you can spot the stall selling red bean bun on the corner going to the food court. On top of the huge stone steamer are palm-sized buns, which you can buy for 1,000 KRW. Since it looked interesting and we like red bean so much, we sampled one.

Our verdict: don't bother buying it. The bread was slightly tough but the red bean was a bit dry. It was not a comforting, fluffy, and hot steamed bread we thought it would be. Oh well.

On your trip to Korea, be adventurous and try street food. It would be an awesome experience that you won't forget - and even miss from time to time. Enjoy food tripping in Korea!

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