There’s no better way to know a foreign country than through their food. Seoul has always been a world-renowned fashion Mecca, but in recent years, it is slowly emerging as an international food hub for all foodies.
Myeongdong seems to be the center of this fad. It houses countless of food stalls that offer aromatic dishes you could smell from meters away. I am a self-confessed foodie that lives for everything that is edible. Imagine how heavenly this experience was for me.
Dried lips, uncontrollable snots and frizzy hair — that seems to be the norm in cold-weathered places. My body has never felt this cold in forever. And to cope up, we need to eat a lot of food just to feel some warmth inside our frozen bodies.We were all famished from walking in and out of the subway going to several locations prior that afternoon. Eating some good food would actually be the most glorious part of our day. We started our journey at Myeongdong Cathedral which resembles those structures found in European cities. It is situated on top, just in front of the streets lined with numerous stalls.
Though a lot of fashion and beauty shops are sprawling here in Myeongdong, my eyes are only fixated on food kiosks. It’s like a mission that I need to accomplish. And so, I started my gastronomic voyage around the thriving district.
Our first food to devour was an egg bread — moist, warm and delicate piece of paradise. Its burnt edges gave it a bit of texture. The bread is sweet but with a little salty seasoning kind of made the taste a tad more dynamic.
Next on our list was potato tornado — a long stem of pure bliss. A foot long wrapped in potato is something that you wouldn’t think would work but it surprisingly does.
Fish-shaped bread was a prelude to our sweets extravaganza. It was a wise choice that we picked this first because its sweetness was not that overpowering. It is best eaten when it’s still warm.
Has someone mentioned to you before how delicious Korean fried chickens are? Well, if someone hasn’t, then I will be the one to persuade you in eating one. Spicy with a pinch of sweetness makes this staple Korean food a super go.
Bacon-wrapped hotdogs, need I say more? This is the absolute snack on stick for all the meat lovers out there.
After a few snacks, it was time for some refreshments. There’s no perfect way to quench our thirsts than trying out their fresh fruit juices. I love how hygienic Korean vendors are. I would highly recommend drinking one. After all, we need to balance our “healthy” diet. Gluttons should also look after their bodies.
We saw this stall selling fried kimbap before we snooped inside a fashion boutique. With no words uttered, we subconsciously (as a group) agreed to buy some. I am amazed with the power food. It can sync everyone with just a glance. My telepathic skills were unlocked this day.
South Korea is known for spicy delicacies and tteokbokki is one of them. This meal is consisted of sticky rice cakes dipped in red hot paste. We ate one and it’s funny how different it tasted from the ones we had back in our home country. This one definitely has a richer flavor.
This lovely treat comes from delicate meats ground together which are then marinated with spices. I ate a few sausages but remembered that it was not my own food. Oops, my bad.
I can’t even describe how much I love their dumplings. The gritty texture of ground pork as soon as it hits your tongue is almost heavenly. Don’t even get me started on how the sauce makes the taste strike much stronger. Koreans have found the middle-ground with this tasty snack.
Unfortunately, I have not gotten to buy myself one of these pastel-colored snacks. Maybe this cotton candy will be one of the reasons why I need to go back to Korea. Stat.
The cold weather didn’t get in the way of us wanting to try an authentic bingsu. 8 degrees seemed incomparable to the satisfying sweetness of every spoonful of this shaved ice. So we roamed outside of the busy alleyways and found a quaint shop silently sitting beside a rather noisy road. The shop was constructed with wood that gave it a more classy and chic look. Two Korean men ushered us when we got in and suddenly we felt their warmth amidst the frigid temperature outside.
We each ordered a bingsu bowl of our own – each of different flavors. We wanted to try out as many flavors as we can because it’s not everyday that we’re going to eat in Korea. Mine was a shaved ice topped with blueberry bits and syrup that dripped just an inch before the bowl’s edges. The presentation was nothing spectacular but I figured that it’s their way of underplaying its taste. And voila! As soon as I took my first spoonful, sudden explosions of nirvana hit my taste buds.
What’s nice about Seoul is that despite it being a very big metropolitan city, everything still seem very close, very intimate. It feels like a day of walking is not as tiring as it had been with other cities I had a pleasure of visiting. Seoul has perfected that irresistible charm — that certain lure that pushes you to walk more and never leave the streets.
We circled restlessly around the city and found ourselves under ground. I was surprised that even their underpasses are filled with shops selling high-quality products. I guess it has been an utter religion for Koreans to be always on point with fashion. It’s really a shopaholic’s dream and a cheapskate’s nightmare. I can say that I am just coasting in the middle of being thrifty and being an over-spender. Don’t get me wrong, I love to buy things when I know I can use it a lot but sometimes my impulsiveness gets the better of me (just because it looks cute).
We returned in the busy streets of Myeongdong around 6 o’clock. Now the skies were painted in darker blue tones. The winds started to blow a little colder and we’re in dire need of food to burn. We looked for scrumptious-looking food and started eating again.
Technically, I bought my chicken skewers back in Incheon where we stayed. Skewers are cooked through burning. Soft meat are then intricately brushed with your desired flavor of either spicy or sweet. This was my first meal in South Korea and I must admit this made everything interesting. If you’re going then you MUST have one of these.
Another favorite of mine are these meatballs coated with mayonnaise. I munched on this within a few seconds and actually burned my tongue a bit. Had no regrets because this meatball is a sure fire.
I remember getting an advice from a friend that I should try their beef steak and so I did. And it is honestly of one the best-tasting meals I have had. I did not know that cheese would work with beef but it perfectly did. The beef marinated with sweetened solution mixed with the salty melted cheese creates this unexplainable burst of flavor once savoured. This is easily on my top 3 must-eat street foods here in Myeongdong. Though it is a little pricey, I assure you that this is worth every cent.
And for the icing on top (well, in this case, honey), I bought myself an ice cream. I know its cold and I shouldn’t be eating it but then again, why shouldn’t I? I was here to try everything and it did not disappoint. Watching the vendor create this masterpiece was amazing enough, but to actually have to eat was more than awesome. I always scoop the honey first, add a little bit of ice cream and waffle to perfect the magical experience. It was so good that I wasn’t able to give much to my friends because I have eaten all of it in a matter of seconds.
I believe that food should be experiential — an out-of-body, gastronomical encounter. We should be able to dig deep into a country’s culture and it is widely apparent through their delicacies. So far, South Korea has come off to me as a multi-faceted nation — from its eclectic fashion to architectural designs beyond their years.
Seoul has surprised me for two consecutive days. I was first amazed with their people and now with their food. I’m off to a good start and I can’t wait for tomorrow to come so I can explore more of South Korea.