Seoul, South Korea is an extremely large and beautiful city. Like most capital cities it has an amazing food scene. Through our travels previously we have always put a major focus on food and Seoul was no different. We had a number of dishes we wanted to try, so to cover them all decided to go on an organised food tour.
We found a great option through AirBnB Experiences for a tour of the Gwangjang Market. This is a large market in Seoul and was recently made famous by a Netflix documentary. This was a group tour so we were also looking forward to meeting some other travellers.
The tour was run by a guy named Jay. He was an excellent guide, he had travelled the world extensively and had a passion for meeting new people. There were four other people on the tour, a couple from Canada, a Scottish lady and a woman from the Philippines. We met at the Jongno 5ga station in the early evening and after some brief getting to know each other we headed into the market.
Jay had organised a number of stops and dishes for us so that we could try as many Korean dishes as possible. I cannot speak highly enough of Jay, he made a real effort to connect with each person on the tour. His English was perfect and you could tell he had put some real thought into this tour. Every vendor or restaurant we stopped at he gave us great backstory about not only the dishes and the people too.
The tour started at 8.00pm and ended at 10.00pm. It included around 7-8 dishes and some alcohol or soft drinks. Instead of going through every dish we had I am just going to highlight a few of our favourites so as to not ruin the fun if you ever go on this tour.
Our first stop was with the woman made famous by the Netflix documentary and her delicious food. Yoonsun Cho’s stall offers up knife cut noodles, family recipe kimchi and superb dumplings. First we got hand made noodles served in a light broth with pumpkin and seaweed. So delicious, it came with a side of kimchi. This fermented cabbage side dish that is served with so many Korean dishes.
Our second dish from the Gohyang Kalguksu Stall were two types of handmade dumplings. The first was a pork dumpling similar to what you would see on most street stalls, great but nothing out of the ordinary. The second dumpling was our favourite. Kimchi dumplings with excellent flavour and just the right amount of heat. After 20 mins of tasty noodles and dumpling we finished up Mrs Cho and moved on.
The second dish I am going to highlight in the Food Market tour was Bindaetteok or fried mung bean pancake. When you first see these circle of joy you expect it to be some sort of fried potato dish. They are golden fried and solid, think hash browns.
We had two types, one vegetarian and one pork. The first was mixed with bean sprouts and onions the second had the same base but with pork running through it.
Both were extremely good, they are very filling but you find yourself continuing to eat. We also had some traditional Korean rice wine to accompany the Bindaetteok. This was served in bowls and helped to cleanse your pallet, as well as being delicious.
The last dish I am going to talk about may not be to everyone’s liking but I think it is something you have to try if you are in Seoul. That’s right, raw octopus. Don’t get me wrong I was a bit apprehensive at first and Jay makes it clear that there is no need to try if you don’t want to. But the restaurant he brings you too is famous for this dish and its walls are lined with signed photos of celebrities, which apparently is a big deal in Korea, so I decided to give it a try.
The tentacles are bought out out on a small metal dish still wriggling but cut up into bite size chunks. I had heard before coming that this dish was kind of dangerous to eat but Jay didn’t seem to have an issue as he showed us how it’s eaten.
He dipped his piece in a little bit of salt and oil and enjoyed. He mentioned it was actually one of his favourite things to eat so he made it look easy.
Then it was my turn, the hardest part for me was actually getting hold of the wriggling food. Once you have it dipped in the oil it is actually quite delicious, no different to regular cooked octopus really. That being said I was only one of two people on the tour to eat it but I am glad I did.
These were some of the highlights for me but there were around eight other foods we tried on the tour. I cannot speak highly enough of Jay and would really recommend him and his food tour to anyone travelling to Seoul. He even took some great pictures all the way along and sent them to us the next day, along with some great recommendations for other things to do in the city.
Until next time
To the Airport and Beyond.