One thing you can't miss out when in Seoul is the amazing food. But with countless restaurants touting to be the best version of samgye-tang, Korean BBQ, Korean fried chicken, and more, it's hard to tell which is the real deal. With strong recommendations from the ahjummas, here are 7 eateries in Seoul that will guarantee not to disappoint.
Samgye-tang is a traditional Korean dish you can easily find in any part of Korea. However, Tosokchon Samgye-tang is the place to go for an authentic, hearty bowl of this amazing dish. This family restaurant prides itself on its carefully selected ingredients, and for passing down the same recipe since 1983. Indeed, the crowd stands testament to the popularity and hearty goodness of Tosokchon Samgye-tang.
Each bowl includes a whole chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, and is boiled with garlic, jujubes, ginseng and other herbs. A single portion is easily sufficient for two. While Tosokchon is famous for the Dakbaeksuk (original), the black chicken version is also as delicious, and definitely worth a try.
The eatery is located via a 25 minute walk from the Gyeongbokgung Palace. You can rent a hanbok and check out the palace before heading over to Tosokchon Samgye-tang for lunch.
Price: 15,000won per bowl Opening Hours: Daily, 10am to 11pm Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (Walk through the street colourful street, and you'll find the palace-like restaurant).
2. Cha Masineun Tteul
Cha Masineun Tteul is a relatively well-known traditional teahouse in the Bukchon Hanok Village. It serves desserts, both warm and cold, and would be a nice break from a 3-hour hanbok photo-taking session. At this beautiful old hanok, you will get to enjoy a huge selection of teas with the misty mountain views.
Best-sellers from this stall include the red bean soup, red bean bingsoo and steamed pumpkin cake, or hobak sirutteok. These treats are especially comforting on a cold rainy day in Seoul, and are not overly sweet.
Price: ~8,000won Opening Hours: 10.30am to 10pm Address: Samcheong-dong 35-169, Jongno-gu Seoul
3. BHC (Better & Happier Choice) 치킨
Chimeak is a compound word of chicken and meakju (beer and soju mixed together), and is usually enjoyed over large gatherings. It is one of Korea’s specialties, which is evident from the countless branches that offer fried chicken with meakju. For a real taste of chimeak, you should patron BHC, or ‘Better & Happier Choice’ chicken! It is the top recommended place for chimeak, It is a childhood favourite amongst all Koreans. Being the homegrown brand for many, BHC has become a place filled with special memories over its freshly fried chicken, and Cass beer.
Bestsellers include the Original Spicy Chicken, Boneless Sweet Garlic Soy Sauce Chicken and Cheese Sprinkled Chicken. If you‘d like to try both flavours, you can opt for the Half & Half Chicken, where half of the order will be prepared in another flavour.
You can visit the restaurant for dinner after climbing Namsan Park at 5pm to enjoy the sunset. If you have space for more, you can also head to the main street of Myeongdong for more street food and local delicacies!
Price: 20,000won for Half & Half Chicken; 4,500won for 500ml Cass Beer Opening Hours: Daily, 5pm till late Address: 21 Myeongdong 7-gil, Euljiro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu
4. Barley Bibimbap 비빔밥
Most bibimbaps, or mixed rice, are served on a sizzling hot plate, with rice, egg, sliced meat, pickles and other types of vegetables. Barley Bibimbap adds a refreshing twist to this dish, with half the rice replaced with freshly steamed barley. This particular stall in Gwangjang Market (as pictured above) was previously featured on Running Man for its Barley Bibimbap, and understandably so. There are many similar stalls in the market, but you can easily identify the ahjumma’s stall with her bright red lipstick, hair in a bun, and a huge Running Man poster. At this stall, a 3,000won bowl of barley bibimbap gives you a generous serving of rice, barley, mushrooms, pickles, carrots and more. If you’re feeling hungry, you can opt to top up more vegetables for free, or delight in a heartwarming plate of freshly steamed dumplings!
While you’re at the Gwangjang Market, you must also have a taste of the fried mung bean pancake. It is essentially the most famous snack in the entire market, and you can share one pancake amongst 2 for just 4,000won. The most popular stall would be Sunheene Bindaetteok (순희네 빈대떡), which features a wide griddle with piping hot oil at the front of its stall. This stall has been around for the past 40 years, and welcomes daily queues of regular customers and tourists.
The mung beans are grounded first, before being mashed together with green onions, green peppers, or kimchi. It is then fried to crispy perfection, and served fresh to customers. You can also grab a small bite from the samples served at the front of the griddle, and wash down the snack with a swig of makgeolii!
Myeongdong Kyoja is a 3-storey noodle restaurant that is exceptionally popular with the locals for its handmade kal-guksu (noodle soup) and mandu dumplings. The noodles are made by cutting flour dough into thin slices, and its smooth, slippery texture stands testament to its 40-year history.
Its mandus, or traditional Korean dumplings, are easily the best comfort foods on a rainy day. Bite into its thin, elastic skin, and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of flavour from its juicy pork and vegetable filling.
The two other popular items on its menu are the Bibimguksu Spicy Noodle Soup (8,000won), and the Kongguksu noodles in cold soybean soup (available only in summer).
Price: Kalguksu (8,000won); Mandu (10,000won)
Opening Hours: 10.30am to 9.30pm
Address: 29, Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (Myeong-dong 2-ga). Getting there: Upon exiting the station, turn left onto Myeongdong 10-gil Road. Walk straight for about 150m, and you will arrive at Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자) on your right.
7. Yoogane Chicken Galbi 유가네 닭갈비
Chicken Galbi is a popular Korean dish made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken on large, round hot plates. You might have seen or tried this in Singapore, but trust me; the flavours in Seoul are just different.
Established since 1981, Yoogane has evolved from a single branch to become Korea’s premier chicken galbi brand. Its most popular dish is the dakgalbi, which is marinated diced chicken, stir-fried together with sliced cabbage. There are many variations you can make to this dish with the available sides as add-ons. But the locals recommend adding ramyeon noodles and cheese tteokbokki! If you’re alone, you can try the marinated chicken galbi fried rice for 5,500 won per person. Otherwise, go big with various side dishes for a hearty meal at Yoogane.
There are two branches in Myeongdong itself, and you can choose to visit the further branch if the queues get too long. Although it is busy at night and over the weekends, Yoogane has great service, and you’ll be guaranteed a table within 30mins.
Price: 5,500won onwards Opening Hours: Closest to Myeongdong Station: 10.00am to 1.00am Furthest from Myeongdong Station: 10.45am to 12.00am Address: 3-1 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Seoul or 66-6 Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Seoul Getting there: Subway Line 4 to Myeongdong Stn (Exit 8). Turn left and walk for 250 meters. You should see the restaurant on your right.
Eating never stops in the amazing city of Seoul, and these 6 recommended stalls truly live up to the name of Korea’s best. With huge portions, reasonable prices, and great service, these eateries are worthy of a visit even if you have to queue an hour to enter!