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Jan 30, 2013 03:45 AM

Living in Korea... SeOUL Food, anyone?

I have lived in Seoul for a year now and am surprised that nobody, including the locals, can't make a firm recommendation for dining out with out-of-town visitors. From bibimbap & kimbap to galbi, bulgogi & jjigae, most of what the restaurants serve (from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall) all taste the same and served with the same kim chi and chan dishes. I'm originally from Hawaii, so much of the Korean food I know are considered Korean-Hawaiian fusion dishes and they taste AAA-MAZING!!! Does anybody have any good recommendations for best Korean-style restaurants in Seoul? The only advice I ever got was to look for signs which post HANU/HANOO in Hangeul.

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  1. Before traveling to Korea for two weeks, I had no problem finding tons of recommendations on the internet, so I am not sure what you are talking about.

    Seoul was our last stop in Korea. By the time we got there, we decided to to seek out some experiences we hadn't had already.

    My experience was that it more depends on WHAT you want to eat. We found many places that specialized in just one kind of food. Once you sit down, your meal is mostly decided for you.

    I guess my favorite meal in Seoul was the Manuel Garlic Chicken supplemented by a pot of chrysalis at Daelim Maneul Tongdak. The chicken is served also with a typical shredded cabbage salad and an egg soufflé that is perfect. Once I put the garlic sauce in the the pot with the chrysalis, I was in heaven.


    Or is that not the kind of experience you are talking about?

    I live near Annandale, VA where there are about 30 Korean restaurants, most of them serving a widespread menu that now seems humorous to me for trying to cover all the bases. I found that this is not typical of how Koreans eat. It seems to me you're trying to find an ethnically Korean U.S. menu in Korea. Like what you had in Hawaii, but 'better.'

    2 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Steve! Thanks for the recs. I guess it's difficult to communicate with the locals when English is not their first language and they struggle to express what's better than the other. You read my mind. The maneul chicken is definitely something I'm willing to try since it's not the typical/authentic kind of food they serve in the US/Hawaii. And yes, I've noticed that the better restaurants usually specialize in just one dish, and don't offer a variety which stands out from the rest. Not like the restaurants I'm used to in Hawaii. Thanks again!

      1. re: HungryHawaiian

        " I've noticed that the better restaurants usually specialize in just one dish, and don't offer a variety which stands out from the rest. Not like the restaurants I'm used to in Hawaii."

        Welcome to the rest of the world. Same in Japan. No self-respecting Japanese would go to a restaurant that served (say) both sushi and tempura. Except Gonpachi in Tokyo, which is where the locals take their foreign guests who don't know what the real deal looks like and probably would find it unsatisfying, you know, with a limited dish variety.

    2. I'm off to Seoul to see family in Feb. I'm planning to go to Jungsik. I've been to the NY branch and it was excellent, so am looking forward to trying it there. However it's not really Korean food, more like Korean inspired haute cuisine. It's where you may expect it near/in Apgujeong-dong.

      Korean food taste the best in Korea in my opinion, but I agree there isn't too much difference between traditional meals and after a week I get bored. Also the better restaurants in my opinion tend to be out of town.

      Korean food is very strong in flavour, so it takes a little getting used to the cuisine to differentiate between restaurants. Also as Steve notes each restaurant specialises in a dish, so "Han-oo" or Korean beef place would of course serve beef, most likely simply grilled beef. There is however more to Korean food than beef so any rec will depend on what kind of food you like. Whenever we go out the dish decides the restaurant, and not the other way around.

      I'll try to note where we go this time and do a trip report.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ladyprufrock

        I've tried one of the big chains like Bulgogi Brothers, but in my opinion, it's mostly catered to westerners/foreigners who're willing to pay "nice" prices for average-tasting dishes. I know I'm not going back again, although it was nice to try something I've never had. Most of the traditional and fusion Korean-style places in Seoul are very much like the ones I ate at in Hawaii. I like what Steve recommended above with the maneul chicken. The locals here have never recommended something like that so I'm not sure if that Chicken Alley in Daelim-dong is a place that caters to foreigners. I guess I'll have to try it out for myself. I have the mentality that most hidden hole-in-the-wall places usually have the better-tasting dishes. Not the case in Seoul. Thanks for the report!

        1. re: HungryHawaiian

          The manuel chicken place was the only meal we had in two weeks.where there was an English translation.

          If you look at the link, you'll see that the Daelim area is just one of 20 stops on the Visit Seoul food tour. Look through some of the other tours - really interesting stuff.

      2. Seoul has an amazingly vibrant food culture, from the Majang BBQ meat street and Gul Bossam Alley, to the Kwangjang Market and Chung Jin Oak.
        Korean food uses a lot of crazy ingredients like cow innards which doesn't sit well with most people, but honestly, those weird parts of the cow are really good, and foodies should be open minded and give them a try.
        If you're not into really outrageous food however, check out Vatos Urban Tacos. Their Galbi beef tacos are amazing.
        Seoul also has some killer fried chicken.

        Check out more about dining in Seoul here: