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I’ve been looking for recommendations for blog posts for a while, and I finally got one that I feel is worthy to write about. My brother’s fiancé has a severe shellfish allergy, and she asked me if this would cause any difficulty for her when she comes to Korea next year to teach.

So, I will keep this page updated with my food experiences. I should have started this when I first got here.

When I first came to Seoul about 14 months ago, I was a bit shy about trying new stuff. I had a few bad experiences, like when I accidentally ordered fermented fish, and wasn’t quite expecting the taste to be what it was. I think that a huge part of a culture lies in their food, so I do my best to dive in head first and try anything that’s put in front of me, except for anchovies, which my students eat like potato chips. I tried one and I simply couldn’t do it. I’ve had some really strange food here, including a fish eye, pork knuckles, chicken’s feet, and eel, among other things. Anyway my point is that Korean food is really diverse. It’s hard to get bored of it, because there are so many different things to try, and it’s mostly relatively cheap, in comparison to restaurant prices in Canada. Dive in and give everything a try.


Korea, as with other Asian countries, has a staple in rice. Rice here comes in many forms; steamed, in wafers, in kimbap, in cookies… you name it. Fish is also very popular in Korea, more so than Canada. I guess it’s because Korea is surrounded by ocean. Makes sense.

DSC_6039Bibimbap with various side dishes. All for about $5.

A very popular dish here is bibimbap (비빔밥). It’s basically a bowl of rice with various vegetables on top, with spicy pepper sauce, a bit of beef, and seaweed. This is one of my personal favourites, and has become somewhat of a comfort food for me. It’s cheap and available pretty much everywhere for around $5 Canadian. I think the human body can live on bibimbap, since it has a variety of ingredients that cover vegetables, carbs, and meat. My favourite is 던섯비빔밥 (stone bowl bibimbap). They put all the stuff in a stone bowl, and blast the bottom of it with fire. The rice that touches the bowl gets hard and chewy.

The grocery store near my place always has live crabs in big boxes full of sawdust. If you have an extreme seafood allergy to the point of anaphylaxis by simply smelling it, you should be careful.

You won’t accidentally order fish though. The seafood dishes here are usually seafood-only, if that makes sense. When you order food here, you get a huge variety of boncheon (번전), or side dishes, which very often contain fish, shrimp, or octopus.

Another staple here is soup. This was more of a necessity back when Korea was a poor country. My favourite soups here are seaweed-based. The thicker the seaweed, the better. Some of the seaweed soups have meat in them too. I wish Canada would catch on to the seaweed taste. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s got to be healthy.

Grilled meats are very popular here as well, with dishes such as samgyeopsal (pork) (삼켭살) and galbi (beef) (갈비) available pretty much everywhere. With samgyeopsal and galbi, you grill the meat yourself, and cut it up with scissors when it’s ready. You then wrap the meat in sesame leaf or lettuce, add some kimchi (김치) and put the whole thing in your mouth. It’s absolutely delicious.

This brings me to another cool (and historical) thing about Korean food. Korea has a pretty long winter, so in the past, they had to preserve their food so that they would have something to eat during the winter months. Fermented food is very popular here. They ferment everything from cabbage to fish. If you ask a Korean what the most famous Korean food is, each one of them will say kimchi (김치). Kimchi is fermented cabbage with a spicy pepper sauce. They literally eat this stuff for breakfast. It’s served with every meal. Spicy, fermented cabbage for breakfast? Yup.

So now that I’ve talked about the background os Korean food, I will start to write little reviews about what I’ve eaten and, hopefully, some of the adventures I will take. I haven’t been able to find anyone to join me for fermented fish or live octopus. I just may have to do it alone.

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October 24, 2009

호떡 (Hoddeok)

Hoddeok (호떡) is an old Korean food that is often seen on the streets. Basically it’s a glutinous rice pancake with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and peanuts in the middle. To make it, you mix up the dough and lay it flat, then put the brown sugar and stuff in the middle of it, and make a ball. You throw it on a pan for about 30 seconds, flip it over, and flatten it. Flip once more, cook for about 2 minutes, and you have a delicious treat that’s very popular with Koreans and foreigners alike.

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Yummy.

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Saturday, October 17. 2009

Tonight I went out looking for a place called Dos Tacos in Hongdae (홍대). I couldn’t find it. The directions I got told me to leave at exit 6 of Hongik University station, but there is no exit 6. Anyway, I ate at a Korean place, and had this one dish that I really like, but have only had a couple of times here. It’s called 해물파전 (hae mool pa chon). I don’t know what that means, but I think that 해물 means seafood. It was pretty much a seafood pancake, but instead of being light and fluffy, it was dense and chewy. I think it’s made from rice flour. Anyway, it was like a really chewy omelette with octopus, green onion, peppers, and other stuff. I had that (enough to serve 2 people), and a bottle of “cider”, which is pretty much 7up.

The meal cost me 11,000 won, which is about $10 Canadian. I ate 3/4 of it and was nicely full. It came with a side of one of my favourite Korean foods, seafood soup. It has a very subtle taste. Very slightly salty, and the seaweed gives a bit of a ‘umami’ taste, which is neither sweet nor sour, not salty or bitter. I’d describe it as a ‘savoury’ taste… apparently that’s what MSG tastes like.

The thing about eating here alone is that most dishes are served in big enough portions for 2 people. I’m always alone, so I end up eating a lot more than I planned, but that’s ok because I need to gain some weight.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ddeokbokki (떡볶이)

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I was at Yongsan (영산) just hanging out, as I usually do, and thought I’d check out some street food. Street food here isn’t as plentiful as I first imagined it would be, but it’s definitely available at most places, and because restaurant food here is so cheap, street food has to be even cheaper. So, I got the classic Korean junky comfort food: ddeokbokki (떡볶이). It’s basically chewy rice cakes floating in a sauce that tastes like the spaghetti-O’s sauce, only really spicy. I mean, burn-your-face-off spicy. Really. I could barely finish. Unlike restaurant food, you don’t usually get any side dishes with street food. Ddeokbokki is usually served with slices of what seems like fish meal. Mine was served with this, and a cup of fish broth.

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When I first came to Korea, I tried ddeokbokki, and immediately hated it. It’s sort of like chewing a big wad of old chewing gum. But after a while, it grew on me, and now I really enjoy it, but I try not to eat it often, because frankly, it can’t be good for you. It’s just glutinous rice flour in sweet and spicy sauce.

This meal cost me 2500 won, or about $2.25 Canadian. Not bad, but I wouldn’t say it fills you as much as a $3.50 bowl of bibimbap would. Still definitely worth checking out, and definitely a big part of popular Korean food.

There is a place in Seoul called Sindang (신당). It has a place in it called ddeokbokki town (신당동 떡볶이다운). As you can guess, this place is entirely devoted to ddeokbokki, and they serve it in countless ways. From the simplest, a paper cup of the slimy sticks, using a toothpick as a fork, to the most extravagant, a huge bowl of it cooking in front of you over an open fire, you can find ddeokbokki prepared pretty much any way imaginable in Sindang’s Ddeokbokki town. To get to Ddeokbokki town, take exit 8 from Sindang station (신당 역) on line 6, and look for the big sign that says “Ddeokbokki Town”. I can’t remember if it’s in English as well.


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Sunday, October 18. 2009
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Dos Tacos, Apgujeong
Well, I finally made my way to Dos Tacos. This time, I went to a place where I knew I would be able to find it. Apgujeong is where I used to work before moving to Singeumho. Here’s how to get there:
Get off at Apgujeong Station (입구정역) at exit 3.
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Walk about 10 minutes until you see Hotel Sunshine on your left.
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Take a left there, and walk for another 3-5 minutes. Dos Tacos is on your right.
Mexican food isn’t huge in Seoul, but if you have a craving, you’ll find it. Itaewon (이태원) is a popular place for foreign food, like Mexican, Thai, Italian, and Middle Eastern. I don’t particularly like Itaewon, mainly because of the huge number of foreigners there, so I usually avoid it. It’s also a bit pricier than other places.
I ordered a soft taco with chicken, cheese, and vegetables, which cost about 3,500 won, or about $3 Canadian.
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It was good. Spicy, but not too spicy, and warm. For $3, you can’t really go wrong. I downed it in about 2 minutes. I ordered a beef quesadilla, which the guy is making right now. Here it is:
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Now this hit the spot. It was loaded with cheese, jalapenos, kidney beans, and beef. Again, spicy, but not too much. They provide hot sauce, so if you’re a heat lover, they’ve got your back.
I ordered a coke without thinking. I read elsewhere that they have a really good lemonade here, and you can have free refills.

Judging by today’s meal, I will definitely be back here before I head back to Canada. The whole thing cost 11,800 won, or about $10.50 Canadian. Considering price, food, service, and atmosphere, I give Dos Tacos Apgujeong a 4/5. They lose one point only because while this was delicious, it didn’t exactly strike me as some of the best Mexican food I’ve had, but still is great for a fix, if you’ve got a hankering for Mexican.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post Mike, it was awesome.
    Your descriptions are very vivid, nice choice of words.
    Nice that our palette has become so adventurous, but I am a bit concerned about your return to Canada, and our little more timid food,
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Oh man, I’m going to live at that Mexican place … I LOVE Mexican food!

    Although, I love Korean food (in Canada) as well.

    Thanks for the help Mike, I look forward to reading what else you have to say!

    🙂

  3. Christ I want Mexican. How is it that Seoul has a decent mexican place, but the entire Niagara region doesn’t.

    Shit’s whack.


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