Food is ingrained into the Korean culture. Everywhere you turn, there’s a food cart or specialty restaurant, beckoning you in; there’s even a food ritual at the bathhouse! For a taste of local food culture, plan these experiences into your itinerary.
Barbecue restaurants like these are frequented by locals, from students all the way to the after-drinks crowd
Enjoy a late night barbecue
Koreans love their meat, and what better way to enjoy it then freshly cooked over a grill? There are tons of barbecue restaurants in Seoul, from hole-in-the-wall joints frequented by locals to rowdy all-night joints popular with energetic college students and the after-drinks crowd. Stroll around Honda or Gangnam, and you’re more than likely to find one that’s up your alley. Snag a table, order a round of soju, point out your favoured cuts — pork belly and beef ribs are universal pleasers — and grill away.
You cannot get any fresher that this - choose your seafood and have it cooked at a nearby restaurant for a small fee
Pick your own seafood at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
A sprawling market rife with touting ahjummas, Noryangjin is a haven for seafood lovers. Every stall displays their best produce, from abalone to oysters, scallops and some of the freshest and cheapest salmon sashimi. Once you’ve decided on a stall, begin the bargaining process (a handphone calculator will be handy) to purchase the fresh seafood. There will usually be a restaurant runner on hand to take you to a restaurant, where they will cook the seafood you’ve paid for. These restaurants will typically charge you a nominal cooking fee. There are tons of stalls and restaurants, so don’t be too quick to settle.
Food carts serving piping hot street food are a godsend when temperatures dip
Huddle around a food cart
When temperatures dip, locals make a beeline for food carts dotted all around the city centre. With smoke rising from hot food and plastic curtains to block out the cold, these carts promise full bellies and warmth. Huddle around the stoves to slurp up spicy toppoki and skewered fishcake — just be careful not to burn your tongue!
Try sikhye, a sweet Korean rice drink
Must have bathhouse snacks
From stripping down and getting scrubbed raw by towel-wielding ahjummas and ahjussis to sleeping amongst strangers, Korean bathhouses (jjimjilbang) are an experience to remember, as are the snacks! After a good soak and sweat in the saunas, head to the common areas to reconvene with your travel mates. Do like the locals and order boiled eggs and sikhye, a sweet Korean rice drink that’ll cool you right down. For a Korean drama inspired moment, crack the egg against your head — we can’t promise it won’t heard, but it'll make for great fun.