In an era whose main focus is the spurring of globalization, ‘pervasive’ seems like a fitting word to describe the far-reaching influence of Eastern culture. As of late, Korea has undergone remarkable growth and is held in high regards by others. From fashion trends to cosmetic miracles, from the tear-jerking K-dramas to the colorful and vibrant K-pop scene, the Korean Wave or ‘Hallyu’ has found its way to almost every modern corner of the globe. Thanks to the increased popularity of Korean culture, Korean cuisine is now among the many draws for tourism and the inspiration for countless culinary trends. With that being said, it’s not so much just a pity but a great mistake should you choose to forgo the food when visiting Korea. So, if you find yourself in Myeongdong craving Korean street food, here is Myeongdong street food: a guide to swamp yourself with the finest eateries
Interesting facts Myeongdong
If you are into all things Korea, then you are probably no stranger to Myeongdong. Indeed, visiting Myeongdong is one of the top things to do in Seoul. Myeondong is one of the best places for you to enjoy a Seoul night dining tour to the fullest. Read more: 30 Amazing Things To Do In Seoul
With the aids of tourism and reality TV shows, Myeongdong, located in Jung-gu, between Chungmu-ro, Eulji-ro, and Namdaemun-ro, is one of Seoul’s primary shopping districts, housing an extensive array of department stores. A well-known shopping paradise, Myeongdong is the go-to place for young people in need of a healthy dose of retail therapy. It is also a mecca for the thriving nightlife of Seoul. The main street and the majority of alleyways are closed off so that tourists can freely roam without being obstructed by traffic. In addition to the abundance of clothing and cosmetics, Myeongdong is far from being short on street foods and restaurants. With more than a few eateries lining its street, your taste buds are sure in for a treat.
A guide to fill your tummy with the finest Korean street foods in Myeondong
Even though these delights, which are mentioned below, are now widespread and available in numerous countries outside Korea, there is just something about tasting them at their original birthplace that makes them all the more amazing. The Korean street food scene here is an ever changing one, with new creations popping up on a fairly regular basis. As such, it is best that we cover the basics first.
1. Tteokbokki – Stir-fried Rice Cakes
For the everyday K-pop fans or the K-drama lovers, this treat is not new. However, for the uninitiated, here is your introduction to Korean Street Food 101. Tteokbokki is a popular Korean dish comprises mainly ‘tteok’ or rice cakes served in thick, sweet and spicy sauce. The firmness combined with just the right level of chewiness and the addition of aromatics like scallions and toasted sesame seeds make for a delightful and hearty snack on a cold Seoul night. This dish is actually not that hard to come by. Just stroll down the street of Myeongdong and you will be sure to come across a stall or kiosk. Depending on the vendor, tteokbokki can come in a cup or plate, costing around 2000 to 4000 KRW per serving.
2. Kimbap – Korean Rice Roll
Kimbap is in some ways the Korean answer to PB&J, which is something most American children grew up eating. Requiring little preparation and simple ingredients, this dish is a staple in every Korean family. It consists of cooked rice – ‘bap’ and whatever fillings you have in mind, such as leftovers or vegetables, all rolled up inside a seaweed sheet called ‘kim’. This beloved South Korean treat is usually accompanied by Tteokbokki and a serving of 3 to 4 bite-sized rolls is about 1500 KRW. There are many vendors selling kimbap in Myeongdong so it is really easy to get your hands on a few rolls while exploring the streets.
3. Twigim – Korean Fried Food
The Korean equivalent of Japanese tempura, this deep-fried goodness is guaranteed to satiate your appetite. There is not a place in the world where fried foods lose their appeal. There is just something deeply satisfying about food coated in batter floating around a boiling oil bath. And even more satisfying is to taste and hear the crunchiness and crispiness of the freshly-fried deliciousness. Twigim is a combination of vegetable slices, dumplings or even rolls of kimbap dipped in batter and deep-fried to a golden brown. These Korean goodies make a great compliment to beer. So while you are in Korea, grab yourself a few cans of Cass and order a plate of Twigim. One thing to remember is that twigim often comes in a set, so you can order one of everything or just a set of one kind.
4. Soondae – Korean Blood Sausage
This visually off-putting but surprisingly tasty dish has its origin traced back to the Goryeo period, with recipes even recorded in 19th century cookbooks. It was initially meant to be an indulgence reserved for special occasions. After the Korean War, due to the scarcity of meat, the original components were changed, with dangmyeon – Korean glass noodles – replacing the meat filling. Modern interpretations of this dish include blood, glass noodle and vegetables. Some places also add bean sprout, perilla leaves, soybean paste and scallion to mixture. Nowadays, Soondae is an affordable street snack served in plenty of street stalls and traditional markets. Some vendors even throw in a few pieces of lung or intestines. A serving can cost about 6000 KRW.
5. Mandoo – Korean Dumplings
Mandu has long been an indispensable part of the Korean royal court’s culinary art. Even further back, researches have suggested that Mandu originated either from the Mongolians in 14th-century Northern China during the Goryeo Dynasty or from the Middle East via the Silk Road. In the modern age, Mandu can be found pre-packaged in supermarkets or served in pojangmacha – street stalls. They come boiled, pan-fried, deep-fried or steamed. Some resemble Japanese gyoza or Chinese baozi while others have more unique shapes. Mandu is now extremely accessible and can be savored indoor at restaurants or outdoor in the streets. You can expect to spend about 3000 KRW for 3 pieces of Mandu.
6. Odeng – Korean Fishcake
The name odeng is, in reality, a borrowed word derived from the Japanese name oden. This dish also has a native Korean name – eomuk. All of them translate to ‘fishcake’. Odeng or Eomuk is widely sold from street carts in Myeongdong and are quite easy to find. At most vendors you can sit down at stall and enjoy the dish right on the spot or you can order a takeaway cup. Korean fish cake is skewered and boiled in a clear, spicy soup. Two great things about eating eomuk are that you will be charged according to the number of skewers and that you can have free unlimited fishcake soup. This hearty dish will, without a doubt, warm your bones on a chilly night in Seoul.
7. Dakkochi – Grilled Chicken On A Stick
Not exactly a luxurious item, this treat is just chunks of chicken skewered together with veggies in between and then brushed with a generous outer layer of sauce before hitting the charcoal grill. Simple as it may sound, this delight is more than capable of making you salivate. Imagine walking down the street of Myeongdong, listening to the sizzling of food kissing the piping hot grill while your nose are being assaulted by so many enticing scents. Come prepared as one skewer is enough to leave you craving for more. Each stall has its own sauce, so you can expect a wider range of flavors. One stick of Dakkochi can be roughly 2000 KRW.
8. Hotteok – Korean Sweet Pancakes
It is a common belief that Hotteok came into being in Korea thanks to Chinese immigrants after the late 19th century. As the name suggests, Hotteok is a type of Korean pancake whose dough is made from wheat flour, yeast, water and milk. The dough is then allowed to proof, which is a fancy chef term for letting the dough rest and rise. The maker then grabs the dough in handfuls, fills them with honey, brown sugar or other variety of fillings before flattening them out on a greased griddle. These pancakes come straight out of the oil, so you should be careful when handling them as they are incredibly hot. Modern hotteoks in many residential areas also adapt new flavors of fillings such as macha or Nutella. Hotteoks usually come in 1000 KRW a piece.
9. Patbingsoo – Korean Shaved Ice
As we are tackling the sweeter side of things, our list will not be complete without this ubiquitous dessert. Some early forms of the dish only contain shaved ice, tteok, powdered nuts and red bean paste - pat. However, modern interpretations are a great deal more elaborate with the addition of foreign ingredients such as green tea, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. In addition, the presentation is also a key factor that contributes to bingsoo overall appeal. Required a bit artistic flair, this dessert can be served in the forms of small balls inside a melon or a heaping mount of shaved ice topped with jellies, thinly-sliced macadamia nuts. All in all, a bowl of bingsoo is truly a sight to behold. You can find shops specialize in bingsoo in Myeongdong. One of the most popular places is ‘Sulbing Myeongdong 1st’ located at 22, Myeongdong-gil.
1o. Chimek – Chicken and Beer
After you have wandered the street of Myeongdong, sampling various goodies, it is time for a change of venue. Get inside a restaurant and enjoy a genuinely Korean experience. There is a saying ‘you cannot go wrong with fried chicken’. And not only have they done fried chicken justice, Koreans have also elevated it to a new height. As opposed to the American heavy-breading fried chicken, the Korean counterpart comes in bite-sized pieces, and fancies a shining glaze while retaining the compulsory crunchiness. And to many people’s disbelief, KFC – Korean Fried Chicken also comes a in Cheetos flavor. If you want a quick fix of KFC, then you can visit Noona Hol Dak Seoul. This is a chain restaurant which happens to have an outlet in Myeongdong. Noona Hol Dak offers a healthier alternative to the conventional deep-fried goodness with oven-baked chicken. Make sure not to miss out on their draft beer served icy cold.
11. Korean BBQ
Yet another astonishing addition to the world’s culinary map and many people’s bucket lists. Korean BBQ is itself an experience. In stark contrast to the usual western depiction of a barbeque, K-barbeque is conducted tableside. There is a grill in the middle of the table and is accompanied by an assortment of banchans – side dishes. The meat is grilled on the spot at your table. Definitely not heavy on marinating or smoking like barbeque in the States, the meat’s natural flavor is accentuated with salt and sesame oil. The side dishes can be anything from kimchi to bean sprouts, pickled daikon radish to perilla leaves. And in almost every Korean BBQ, alcohol is present, which involves rather complicated eating and drinking customs. Finding a BBQ joint in Myeongdong is not hard. Nevertheless, if you want to learn more about the culture while savoring delectable dishes, then a local is highly recommended. For more information on Seoul food tour, be sure to check out Local Insider.
There you have it! Your introductory course to Korean cuisine is complete. In all honesty, this guide is far from being comprehensive as Korean street food is so diverse with so many new and interesting delights. Now it is high time you took to street of Seoul and discover for yourself what else the city has installed for you.