The story appears on

Page A13

February 20, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » iDEAL

Seoul food far more than kimchi

SEOUL serves more than kimchi, blending Chinese and Japanese influences, offering ginseng lattes and perfecting its own fried chicken. Better learn to say ma-si-sseo-yo - delicious. Chehui Peh digs in.

The capital of the land of kimchi, Seoul rose to international fame in the global K-pop craze that's still running hot. Though it's an entertainment and Asian financial hub, its cuisine is justly famous and features far more than kimchi, garlic and chilis.

Seoul's cuisine is a diverse banquet drawing on influences from both China and Japan.

A nation's food reflects its people and if the characters in Korean dramas are indicative, then the food must be passionate, loud and audacious.

A common scene in Seoul is a crowd of fashionably and impeccably dressed men and women clustered around a street cart and eating sticks of spicy barbecued chicken or enjoying ddeokbokki (rice cakes) in paper cups filled to the brim with bright orange gochujang (a Korean sauce).

Snacking is a way of life and there are street carts on virtually every street and every corner; there are comparatively fewer sightings of global fast-food chain restaurants.

One of the signature dishes of Korea is bulgogi (literally "fire meat") or barbecued beef and bulgogi restaurants are a favorite.

Myeong-dong, in the heart of the trendiest shopping district in Seoul, offers a full set meal with local Korean beef. Wrapped with raw vegetables and topped with a bit of sauce, these thin slices of meat melt in the mouth.

Another representative dish is ginseng chicken - samgyetang. Lightly flavored with just a hint of ginseng, the chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and then cooked in ginseng chicken broth. Highly nutritious, it is also eaten in summer since Koreans believe that it helps regain stamina lost in the summer heat.

Since winter is freezing, hotpot is extremely popular. The Han-ok village area near Samcheong-dong is lined with restaurants, most offering hotpots and various types of jeon, or Korean pancakes. The best part of every hot pot meal is the end, when the waitress drops a bowl of rice into the leftover soup and cracks an egg into it before sprinkling seaweed into the pot of perfection.

Seoul is also known for seafood and seafood hot pot. A related dish is bibimbap or "mixed rice" served in a heated stone bowl. Since it's filled with vegetables, it's a flavorful, healthy option; even vegetable-haters love it. It's also a picturesque dish. Every once in a while it needs to be mixed to prevent charring.

Seoul is a city that never sleeps and guides frequently advise tourists to visit shopping areas after 10pm since sightseeing areas close early. As a result, many street stalls and restaurants are open late into the night, offering simple food such as ramyeon instant noodles that are spiced to perfection, soju rice wine and its variations and snacks like gimbap, or the Korean version of sushi rolls.

Cafes are common, with a few on most streets and many different chains. Korean variations of latte are refreshing and ideal for the adventurous who try ginseng lattes, red bean lattes and others with local ingredients.

Desserts are modified with a local twist, the main ingredient being teok, a chewy rice cake commonly served with sweet red beans or pan-fried and seasoned with sesame powder.

Samcheong-dong is particularly famous for its cafes, and many local taitais (housewives) can be found having tea in the area.

Seoul also has its own take on a dish common around the world, fried chicken, which is fried a golden-orange color and served in a basket. The crust is thick and crispy and can be ordered spicy to taste. In the world of fried chicken restaurants, Seoul offers some of the best comfort food.

It is easy to find an excellent meal and it's hard to go hungry. To spot the best, look for the spots with the most families enjoying their meal together. Family outings are common in this society of Confucian values and families keep returning to their favorite restaurants.

Although Korean restaurants in Shanghai tend to offer a wide variety of foods, most Seoul restaurateurs specialize in a particular dish, which they perfect for their patrons. Many satisfied guests loosen their belts a notch.

For the best foods, hang out in Myeong-dong, Insa-dong and Samcheong-dong. Aim for food stalls with a long queue, and you'll never go wrong, particularly in the artsy Insa-dong area. You'll be a busy and satisfied foodie, so learn the word for delicious in Korean - ma-si-sseo-yo.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend