This is the Ultimate Guide to What to Eat in Seoul.
Why? Because Koreans live for food.
Although I live in Los Angeles, where you can probably get the best Korean food outside of Korea, I still yearn for the delicious food of Korea
Korea is one of the ultimate foodie destinations, I would easily plan a trip to Korea just for the food (although you might want to check out their beaches too).
Why is the food so much better in Asia?!
I've rounded up a list of the MUST TRY foods when you visit the heart of Korea.....Seoul. I've also listed restaurants where you can try each of these dishes.
What are you waiting for? Let's Go! Here's what to eat in Seoul!
Shot by Guilhem Vellut
1. BibimbapNot only is bibimbap delicious and healthy, it's a beautiful bowl of food. There is a delectable array of colors, often presented in a sizzling hot stone pot (dolsot). The purpose of the pot is so that the rice at the bottom gets a crunchy bite to it to add even more texture to the dish. The translation of bibimbap means mixed rice. It's served with the popular Korean ingredient gochujang. Once you are ready to eat, you just mixed everything up in the bowl and enjoy each distinctly flavored bite. Bonus points if it's served with a raw egg on top! It's super exciting to see Bibimbap becoming more and more popular in the United States but the best bibimbap I've tasted is still from Korea. Make sure to get a taste of it on your trip Recommended RestaurantJeonju Jungang Hoekwan RestaurantAddress: 24-11 Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
2. KalbiWhen I'm in Korea, I always have Korean BBQ food on my mind. It's definitely one of my favorite foods. There are so many cuts of meat and variations on methods of serving the bbq, which makes each experience unique and fun. Kalbi or Galbi is definitely one of the most popular cuts of Korean bbq! It's made from the short ribs cut of beef and is marinated in sweet sauce with a soy sauce base Each Korean mommy I know has her very own secret Kalbi recipe and it's the same with every restaurant. You can find various yummy additions to the sauce, such as pears, honey or even lemon-lime soda. Kalbi is commonly eaten as a wrap made of a leafy vegetable. Lettuce and steamed cabbage are a few of the popular options. You can wrap the meat inside the lettuce, add some kimchi and rice if you like, and top it off with one of the dipping sauces. My personal favorite is ssamjang, a bean paste, and red pepper sauce. Other popular side sauces are sesame oil and salt and a spicy sauce. Although many restaurants serve a plethora of cuts of meats, kalbi is so special that there are many restaurants specializing in only serving the short rib cut of meat. Recommended RestaurantMapo Sutbul KalbiAddress: 107-97 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Photo shot by Korea Travel Notes
3. SamgyeopsalPork Belly! How amazing is it that Korean women in Korea believe that pork belly makes your skin nice and beautiful. Not that I needed another reason to enjoy pork belly....but an extra incentive never hurts. Pork belly is very popular in Asian cuisine and it is a form of bacon. It's pre-bacon, before the bacon gets cured, smoked and sliced. What's up with Americans not enjoying fatty meat. NEWSFLASH, the fat is where the flavors at! You'll see what I mean when you bite into a juicy piece of fatty, rich pork belly. It was surveyed that most households in Korea eat pork belly at least once a week. It's also eaten popular as ssam. The definition of ssam is wrapped, and Korean bbq meat is usually wrapped in a leafy vegetable and eaten by hand. Like a super healthy taco! If you haven't enjoyed Korean bbq before, you are missing out! Korean bbq is usually cooked at your table, with the grill in the middle of the table. At many Korean bbq restaurants, the wait staff grills the meat for you and then cuts the meat up into bite-sized pieces. The best BBQ meat in the world is taken directly off the grill and popped sizzling hot into my eager mouth. Come to me now! Recommended RestaurantJongno BarbequeAddress: 233-2, Hyoje-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
4. Dak GalbiYet another form of delicious Korean bbq is Dak Galbi, which consists of stir-fried chicken and vegetables, usually on a hot stone grill. It's a popular drinking food and usually super spicy. It's also popular to top it with melted cheese. Some restaurants allow you to mix and match ingredients, some include noodles, cabbage, rice cakes, sweet potato and much more. When you are done with your chicken, you can usually opt to finish the meal up with fried rice. Usually the leftovers of your chicken mixture, the server adds white rice and some extra goodies and mixes it all up on the grill. Koreans love that crunchy rice texture and the stone grill is perfect for creating the perfect rice crust! Recommended RestaurantHongdae DakgalbiAddress: 32, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul 04039, South KoreaPhone: 02-2245-5222
Shot by Mabel Lu
5. Kimchi JjigaeKoreans love their kimchi and it is usually seen at every meal. It's popular to include kimchi in all kind of preparations: stews, pancakes, fried rice - the list is endless Stews are ubiquitous in Korean cuisine and kimchi jjigae is definitely a comfort food. It's tangy, spicy and served boiling hot. Kimchi is the main ingredient in kimchi jjigae and it's commonly used with older kimchi which has been fermented longer This stew is enjoyed with rice and banchan, an assortment of small Korean side dishes. It is commonly made with bits of pork belly and tofu, seafood, various veggies and onions are often added als0. Kimchi is a fermented cabbage with a strong odor which I find delicious. You might find it off-putting if you have never encountered it before but once you get used to it, its the best thing ever! Recommended RestaurantHanokjib 한옥집Address: 178 Naengcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-362-8653Website: http://www.hanokjib.co.kr
6. Ganjang-gejangGanjang-gejang means soy sauce crab. The dish is often served cold and the crab is salted and fermented. This was originally a preservation technique. Ganjang-gejang is eaten enjoyed with rice and is topped off with beautifully orange roe. The fermented crab has a deliciously silky and jelly-like consistency. It's both spicy and salty with a richly flavored umami undertone. Koreans believe that because a crab lives in cold water, it has cooling properties. It is a super popular spring and summer dish! Recommended RestaurantPro Ganjang Gejang RestaurantAddress: 27-1 Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-543-4126Website: http://www.prosoycrab.co.kr/#_=_
Shot by Debbie Tingzon
7. Fried ChickenKorean fried chicken aka Yangnyeom Dak is a popular fast food in Korea and its fried twice. In the United States, fried chicken is usually only fried once. The result of the second fry is a much crunchier and less oily chicken. Also different is that Korean fried chicken is usually juicier, and has a much thinner layer of fried coating. After the chicken is taken out of the fryer, it's usually painted with a sweet sauce. Korean Fried Chicken = KFC for the win! You might have already heard of our recommended restaurant, it already has outposts in Los Angeles. Recommended RestaurantKyochonAddress: Dongdaemun | 217-105, Sindang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea Phone: +82-02-2231-9337Website: https://www.kyochon.com.my/
Shot by Kyle Nishioka
8. SoondubuAnother comfort dish soondubu is a boiling pot of meltingly soft silk tofu. You can usually specify your featured ingredients, adding various meats, seafood and veggies to the pot. Add the raw egg just before eating to add some extra umami to the stew! Eat Soondubu with rice, scoop the rice out from the stone pot. The server often scoops the rice out from the stone pot into a bowl for you to eat with the tofu. While you are eating, he fills the stone pot with boiling water. After you are done with your meal, you enjoy the steamed porridge-y rice at the end! Recommended RestaurantMyongdongAddress: 199-50 Euljiro 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: 82-02-755-1878
Shot by: ChanIck Jeong
9. JajangmyeonKoreans have their own take on Chinese cuisine, kind of like how Panda Express tastes quite different from most authentic Chinese food. It's definitely delicious, though! Myeon means noodles and jjajangmyeon is a noodle dish slathered in a thick deep fried sauce. The sauce is made of a soybean paste and has a deep umami flavor. Jajangmyeon originated from the Chinese Zhajiangmien but is now it's own distinct dish. It's a very common dish and usually very inexpensive, it's definitely a convenient dish for a busy tourist. So many dishes to try, so little time! Our recommended restaurant pick is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Seoul! Recommended RestaurantAndongjangAddress: 315-18, Euljiro3-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-2266-3814
10. Mul-naengmyeonNaengmyeon means "cold noodles" in Korean. It's served cold and is usually iced and is the perfect summer dish. The noodles are made from buckwheat and are long and best handmade. You must try this dish when visiting Seoul! The noodles are endlessly long so it's usually cut with scissors before eating. I personally love eating a small bowl of naengmyeon along with my Korean bbq meal but it is definitely a popular stand-alone meal as well. Naengmyeon broth is tangy and sweet and is served in a big metal bowl. It's topped off with cucumbers, pickled radish, and a boiled egg. Hot mustard and vinegar are usually served on the side for you to flavor your noodles with. Naengmyeon is so popular in Korea that one of the members of the KPOP super group Girls Generation made a hit song called Naengmyeon. Recommended RestaurantOjangdong Hamheung NaengmyeonAddress: 90-10, Ojang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-2267-9500
11. Bibim-naengmyeonBibim-naengmyeon is a sister to the Mul-naengmyeon that we just described. It's usually served with less soup and is spicy red. It's also served cold. You might remember the Bibim word from Bibimbap which means "mixed up". Similarly to bibimbap, you mix up the bowl of noodles before eating. The noodles are super chewy and pair perfectly with the crisp cucumber slices that top the dish. The Bibim-naengmyeon is also delicious at Ojangdong, the restaurant that we just recommended as our top pick to sample Mul-naengmyeon Recommended RestaurantOjangdong Hamheung NaengmyeonAddress: 90-10, Ojang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea Phone: +82-02-2267-9500
12. Doenjang jjigaeAnother popular Korean stew dish, Doenjang jjigae is often served as a side dish alongside Korean BBQ. It is also commonly eaten as a standalone meal alongside rice. Doenjang is a Korean soybean paste and is the main flavor of the stew. The stew usually consists of tofu, squash, various meats, onion and more. Each restaurant will have their own unique spin on the dish. As is with all Korean stews, it's served boiling hot and eaten with rice and an assortment of banchan. Many Koreans have a particular nostalgia for this dish as many Korean moms serve this dish to their new babies. Sure beats American baby food mush! Recommended Restaurant참숯골Address: 603-1 Yeoksam 1(il)-dongSeoul 135-081Phone: +82-02-565-2778
13. TteokbokkiTteokbokki are Spicy Rice Cakes! They are a popular street food but also served as a main dish in restaurants. They are tossed with gochujang and a variety of ingredients such as onion, fishcakes, and assorted veggies. I love Tteokbokki, delicious tteokbokki should be soft but with a chewy bite, kind of like a super thick udon noodle. Variations of the standard tteokbokki are available, such as crazy spicy rip off your face rice cakes. Proceed with caution! The spicy rice cakes can also found served covered in cheese, on a stick or as banchan. Sinsa Market Tteokbokki is a great restaurant to indulge in the spicy rice cakes, it's a super bustling little stall - beloved by locals! Recommended RestaurantSinsa Market TteokbokkiAddress: 72-1, Apgujeong-ro 29-gil Gangnam-gu Seoul 06004Phone: +82-02-542-3516
14. AgujjimThe direct translation of Agujjim is "braised spicy angler". Jjim means "to steam" and mostly refers to braised dishes in Korean cuisine. It's a super spicy fish dish, made with monkfish, always tossed with an abundance of bean sprouts. The monkfish is an ugly fish but in Agujjim, its appearance is disguised. It's a delicious and healthy dish and it's so popular that there are two streets with restaurants all specializing in the dish. Monkfish is a firm, sturdy fish.
Monkfish in all its natural beauty. WhoaAsians love to eat bone-in meat (it preserves all the flavor) and in agujjim the monkfish is usually prepared with skin-on and bone-in. I'm of Taiwanese descent and I know that our older generation loves to suck all the little bits of meat off bones. I expect that Koreans feel the same way! Agujjim is also a popular drinking dish. Recommended RestaurantChumbeong AgujjimAddress: 12, Gangnam-daero 150-gil, Gangnam-gu, SeoulPhone: +82-02-543-8873
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15. JjambbongJjambbong is another dish from the category of Korean Chinese Food. It's a spicy noodle dish with a variety of seafood. You might see delicious squid, shrimp, mussels and more, depending on the restaurant that you visit Koreans sure love that delicious comfort food. Jjambbong is a truly soothing bowl of goodness. Recommended RestaurantRomance JjambbongAddress: 6, Supyo-ro6-Gil, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-22-2734458
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16. Haemul PajeonHaemul Pajeon is a seafood pancake featuring an abundance of green onion. The base of the pancake consists of flour and eggs. Squid, shrimps, meat and all kinds of goodness can be included in the pancake! You'll be able to easily recognize Haemul Pajeon as the onions are super featured in the dish. Haemul Pajeon is also a popular drinking food and snack food. Recommended RestaurantNakseo Pajeon RestaurantAddress: 15, Hoegi-ro28-Gil, Seoul, South Korea
17. Nakji bokkeumNakji bokkeum is a spicy stir fried octopus. Have you noticed that octopus and squid are quite popular in Korean food. I love it! The dish is stir fried with veggies such as cabbage, onions, and carrots. The delicious leftover sauce is often made from a dried rice after the meal. Eat the octopus quickly off the plate as it's soft and chewy, leave it for too long and it'll start to get tough. Recommended RestaurantHalmae NakjiAddress: 31-7, Myeongdong2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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18. SundaeSundae is Korea's version of blood sausage. It consists of pig intestines stuffed with a base of blood and rice. Sundae and blood sausage in general sounds a bit disgusting in its description but it is a dish that is beloved by many. It can be served hot or cold. The dish is so loved that there is an entire neighborhood in Seoul called Sundae Town, featuring countless sundae specializing restaurants. Sundae is chewy, soft, slightly gelatinous, earthy and delicious! You can pick up sundae at the supermarket but I definitely prefer it freshly made. It's also delicious in a stew or fried in the pan. The fried sundae will be crispy on the outside but remain soft inside. You can find sundae served on a stick from street vendors, it's a popular street food. Many restaurants specialize in the dish so it also makes for a great meal. Recommended RestaurantBaekam SundaeAddress: 525-6, Sinwol-dong, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-2604-4456
Shot by soulflower_sh
19. Dubu kimchiDubu kimchi featured sauteed kimchi and tofu. It usually features pork in the dish also. It's a popular drinking dish often seen at bars. Since the dish is usually not served with rice, the flavor of the pungent kimchi is balanced with the unseasoned tofu.
shot by: james_denfield
20. HaejanggukHaejangguk is a popular hangover soup, the name literally means "soup to chase a hangover". There are many variations on the dish but it often includes a base of beef broth, cabbage and ox blood. Bone broths are all the rage in big cities in the states but Koreans long ago mastered the delicious long stewed bone broths. The stewed ox in haejangguk is served with the bone which has been braising in the soup base for hours. The meat falls off the bones and includes bits of cartilage yumminess also. Finally, make sure to dump your steamed rice directly into the boiling soup to delicious a porridge-like dish.
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21. BossamBossam is rich delicious pork belly goodness. It's spiced and boiled pork belly meant to be wrapped in a leafy vegetable, served with a wide array of sides. In your hand-held wrap, you might also include kimchi, fermented shrimp, garlic and more. Ssamjang is the sauce that usually finishes off this veggie, taco-like dish. Most of all, it's also a popular anju - drinking dish paired with alcohol. You must try this while in Seoul, it's much better than anything that you'll try in the States. Often Bossam is also served with oysters to include in the wrap. Yum! Recommended RestaurantWon Grandmother Bonga BossamAddress: 1685 Hwanghak-dong, Seoul, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-2232-3232 WEBSITE
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22. GopchangYay for intestines! Gopchang is made of the small intestines of pigs or cows. It's a delicious dish that originated as peasant food but is now enjoyed as a favorite from all walks of life. As with many of the dishes featured in this guide, gopchang is also a paired well with soju and nightlife. Recommended RestaurantSinchon Hwangso GopchangAddress: 31, Yonsei-ro 9-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 03788Phone: +82-02-337-2640
Shot by: han_is_vicki
23. BingsuLook! It's our first dessert dish on this guide. Bingsu is a Korean shaved ice, topped with your choice of delicacies. Some options include red bean, fruit, mochi, and more. Bingsu is so refreshing and a perfect dessert for after a rich meal of Korean BBQ. It's also a super cool and trendy food, you'll frequently see the young nightlife of Seoul frequently the popular Bingsu cafes. Recommended RestaurantCoffeestAddress: 1-335 Sinmunlo 2ga, Jongno-gu, SeoulPhone: 82-2-773-5555
Shot by: heysesame
24. JeonbokjukYou might have already noticed that in Korea, they love to make a make-shift like porridge by dumping the rice into various stews. Jeonbokjuk is a porridge featuring abalone. It's a sublimely simple dish with which is deeply comforting. Jeonbokjuk is an incredibly healthy and invigorating dish, it's frequently recommended for those getting over a cold or to senior citizens hoping to regain some extra vigor. It's also great as a stomachache and I bet it also works fantastic as another hangover cure option. (You can't have too many) Recommended RestaurantCongee House MyeongdongAddress: 31, Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul 04537Phone: 02-757-8460
25. GimbapGimbap is life Korean sushi! It's a popular potluck item or outdoor bbq treat. There are many variations to the fillings. My favorites include fishcakes, pickled radish, imitation crab and some cooked egg. Brown rice is a new healthy version of gimbap that is getting popular but I say eww gross, stick to the delicious short grain rice OG version. Fun, more updated versions of gimbap can be found including delicious spam, cheese, spicy squid, the possibilities are endless! Recommended RestaurantSeoho GimbapAddress: 141-1, Bangbaejungang-ro Seocho-gu Seoul 137-830Phone: 82-02-594-4434
Shot by: @thegrandappetit
26. SeolleongtangA classic comfort food or hangover cure (Koreans sure have a lot of options!), Seolleongtang is an ox bone soup. Trendy hipsters in the United States just discovered bone broth recently but Koreans have enjoyed bone broths forever. Seolleongtang is an extremely customizable is a highly customizable dish, it's served with a variety of spices for you to season the broth to your heart's desire. I'm personally heavy on the sodium because I have a salty tooth! As with most brothy dishes, it's common practice to pour your rice into the bowl to enjoy with the soup. Recommended RestaurantImun SeolleongtangAddress: 110-170 38-13, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul Phone: +82-2-733-6526
Shot by: engela_y
27. ChueotangThe Korean name Chueotang certainly sounds more appetizing than the translation "Mudfish Soup". It's a peasant dish popularized by farmers and used to recuperate from a hard day's work. Chueotang is super high in vitamins and proteins and Koreans believe that it's great for your complexion. Maybe it's not the most beautiful Korean dish that exists, but its yummy in the tummy! Recommended RestaurantChunhyanggol Namwon ChueotangAddress: 213, Mokdongseo-ro, Yangcheon-gu | #108, Seshin VillagePhone: +82-02-2647-1500
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28. SamgyetangSamgyetang is Korean Ginseng Soup and I was super confused by it when I first tried it as a teenager in Korea. It's an entire young chicken boiled in soup, which I consider so sumptuous these days. Not only that but the chicken is filled with rice, spices, and garlic. No other chicken soup in the world can beat that! To further ramp up the healing, healthful properties of this soup, Korean ginseng and jujube are added. Jujube is used in Korean and Chinese medicine to treatment a long list of ailments. It's also popularly used in tea. If you catch a cold, order yourself a bowl of Samgyetang stat! You might be surprised to find that Koreans love to eat hot soups in the summertime, they actually believe that the heat results in cooling of the body temperature. Finally, you're lucky, your Samgyetang might be paired with some ginseng wine! Recommended RestaurantTosokchon SamgyetangAddress: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 03041Phone: +82-02-737-7444 WEBSITE
Shot by:Ville Oksanen
29. BulgogiMost people around the world are familiar with bulgogi, a popular Korean BBQ treat. It's also super popular in fusion food in the States, appearing in tacos, pizza, burgers and more Bulgogi is tender, marinated beef with a very sweet and tangy flavor. The literal translation to English is "fire meat", as it is mostly cooked on the grill originally. These days you'll also find tons of pan cooked bulgogi too. Recommended RestaurantGogung Myeongdong StoreAddress: 12-14, Chungmuro 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-012, South KoreaPhone: +82-02-776-3211 WEBSITE
shot by: tastelondon_
30. Budae jjigaeI'm ending this list with one of my favorite Korean dishes ever! Budae jjigae combines some of my favorite things ever. It's like kimchi chigae stew filled with tons of extra goodness that make no sense, such as spam, hot dogs, ramen noodles. Sometimes it'll even be topped with cheese and beans. This is definitely my personal #1 food to eat in Seoul I'll always take any excuse to add more spam into my life! Let me give some background so the dish makes a little more sense. Budae jjigae translates into "troop stew" and developed around the time of the Korean War. U.S. military surplus food somehow made it into the hands of local Koreans, who incorporated them into this lovely dish. Really you could throw anything into this pot and it would taste delicious. One question, though, I've always wondered why budae jjigae in the States is so damn expensive? I feel like I could make it at home for $2. That's it, I'm inspired to make the dish at home now. I'll let you all know how it goes. Recommended RestaurantBada SikdangAddress: 743-7, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-893Phone: +82-02-795-1317
Want to find the best flight deals to Seoul?My favorite website for finding the absolute best flight deals is Skyscanner because it scans all the flights and you can set up alerts for any price changes to tickets.
Want to find the best flight deals to Seoul?
My favorite website for finding the absolute best flight deals is Skyscanner because it scans all the flights and you can set up alerts for any price changes to tickets.