I’ve been feeling a little poorly as of late and but my aunt made the best kimchi jjigae last night for dinner and not only did it make me feel much better, but it transported me right back to my summer holiday in Seoul. I know I haven’t blogged in a while but what better way to ease back into the blogging lifestyle than with a post about one of the coolest cities in the world?
First off, Myeong-dong (명동): the infamous shopping district right at the heart of Seoul. Tonnes of street food and make-up and skincare shops galore. Thinking of buying a face mask? Well, there are people literally waving free samples in your face in an attempt to lure you into their store. And don’t worry if you don’t speak Korean! If you’re a Mandarin speaker, pretty much everyone speaks Mandarin too. Aside from buying lots of skincare and makeup products (I’m looking at you Tony Moly, Banila Co and Innisfree), I also tried a couple of street food items.
Here is me with a tornado potato! Potatoes are spiralised on the spot and deep fried before being sprinkled with cheese powder, garlic powder or sea salt. If I didn’t feel guilty about eating MSG I would probably have gone with cheese…but… well…#health..?
And here are the cutest little cheese/egg bread things. I didn’t try them this time but my mum did and she said they were delicious!
Other recommended items by my Korean friend are the chicken sticks and the tteokbokki. You can never go wrong with chicken sticks or tteokbookki can you?
Also in Myeong-dong is Gogung (고궁 – 명동점) , a place infamous for their bibimbap (비빔밥) or hot stone rice bowl. Personally? I thought their hot stone rice bowl or bibimbap was a little lacklustre and was not as flavourful as I had expected it to be.
Their spicy naengmyeon (물냉면) spicy cold noodle dish was really good though. However, if you’re not used to eating spicy food like I am – beware! This is spicy. So good…but so spicy…
And what about dessert in Myeong-dong?
My friend took me to a cute bingsu cafe called Poem. We ordered a Berry Bingsu and a Cotton Candy Affogato. Both were refreshing and very tasty.
Continuing on with the dessert theme, my mum’s favourite cafe in Myeong-dong (though there are many other branches dotted around Seoul) is undoubtedly O’Sulloc. We went there three times in the span of a week and I’ve got to say…it really is amazing. The shop specialises in all things tea flavoured, from teas, to cakes, to bingsus, matcha toast spreads (think nutella but matcha) and ice creams. You can sample most of their teas in the shop itself, where they steep the leaves in cold water for all shop visitors to try.
Below are my favourite orders at O’Sulloc: The black matcha roll cake (tastes just like a matcha oreo) and their classic matcha latte.
And here is their O’fredo. It’s a matcha ice cream sundae. The base is a matcha frappuccino, topped with cream, red beans, matcha brownies and a butter wafer. Delicious!
Moving away from Myeong-dong, another highlight of my trip was my meal at Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌삼계탕) an infamous traditional Ginseng Chicken Soup restaurant (Samgyetang 삼계탕). And I know, the star of the show should be the actual chicken soup but I gotta tell you – their kimchi is the best. And I’ve eaten a lot of kimchi in my time. It’s just the right amount of spicy, salty, fragrant and even a little floral. Fantastic.
But yes, here is the Ginseng chicken soup. Ginseng chicken soup is an authentic traditional South Korean dish. There are two types you can order a black chicken ginseng chicken soup (more expensive and supposedly more tender) and the original normal one. I got the normal. Inside the stone casserole pot is a whole young chicken simmered in a broth for hours, adding depth to the whole dish’s rich flavour.
The chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, a red date and a ginseng. Half the fun is digging through the chicken to find the ginseng!
And here it is! It’s massive, very bitter but I mean, it’s good for you and very expensive so you just have to eat it.
Next, I’m going to talk about Michelin starred Jungsik (정식당 서울), a Korean fusion restaurant with branches in Seoul (1 Michelin star) and New York (2 Michelin stars). It may seem to come in a little pricey for a lunch at 80,000 KRW (approx. 71 USD) for 5 courses but considering the standard of food served, I think it’s worth it.
A twist on a sushi roll. Kimchi and brown rice wrapped in hand-made nori sheets.
One of my personal favourites is this platter of nine delicacies called Gujeolpan (구절판). Spoon what you want on a thick, crispy nori sheet and enjoy! The platter contains fresh, raw, marinated tuna, fresh wasabi, white kimchi, kelp gelee, smoke sour cream, seaweed, microgreens and tomatoes.
This is a truffle gimbap. Yes. It was just as amazing as it sounds – if not better.
Duck breast in chargrilled barley risotto.
More duck – cooked to perfection.
And grilled fish with house perilla oil.
We had two desserts – the Rose Versailles which was a beautiful raspberry lychee sorbet dessert but unfortunately I don’t have a photo. But below is my little kroean statue dessert. The statute was made of white chocolate mousse and it was delicious.
Of course, petit four. I ate the other choux before snapping this photo..sorry.
Ahhh, Maple Tree House (단풍나무집). Only the best korean barbeque place. I can’t tell you how much I love this place. Best marinated shortribs, best kimchi tofu stew, best souffle egg. Everything. Just go. Don’t hesitate. Just do it.
The following cafe is perhaps one of the most amazing cafes I’ve ever stepped into. I mean, taste-wise, I’ve had better but visually, the treats on offer here are amazing. It’s called Passion 5 and when you walk in, you are greeted by display after display or pastries, cakes, ice cream macarons…you name it, they’ve got it. The inside was like a food wonderland, they have apple cakes in the shape of apples, peach cakes in the shape of peaches, strawberry tarts, fig pastries, everything. This below picture is just one of 10+ displays of food.
Choosing what I wanted to eat was the toughest job of all. In the end, I settled for a strawberry shortcake. I’d never had one before but after this, I think if I were to eat it again, more cake less cream would be the way forward.
Though my shortcake was pretty though a little disapponting in terms of taste, the next cafe I’m going to recommend definitely exceed my expectations in terms of taste and aesthetic.
Cue Mr Holmes Bakehouse , what once was a small bakery in San Francisco, now an international phenomenon of a pastry shop (or should I say watering hole for millenials with Instagram…).
Anyhoo, behold, this is a white chocolate caramel cruffin. Yeah that’s right. Forget Dominique Ansel’s cronut. This is a cross between a croissant and a muffin. A flaky, crisp, buttery, sugary pastry filled extremely generously with white chocolate caramel custard. Boy oh boy was this a treat. Probably two days worth of calories in this bad boy so do as we did, share. Or not. Who cares right? Death by obesity from cruffins sounds like a great way to go.
See what I mean with the whole Instagram thing?
This post is drawing to a close but I couldn’t leave you guys without letting you know about possibly the best churro place in the world. This is Churro 101 (츄러스). It’s a chain shop with branches in Seoul and in Singapore but wow this is no ordinary chain store. This is churro perfection multiplied.
These churros are served hot and fresh from out the fryer. They are crispy on the outside and fluffy and doughey on the inside. Below are two of my favourite flavours: dark chocolate and almond and cinnamon sugar. Normal dark chocolate also deserves a shout out. Oh and I think I should mentioned these churros are about 30cm long. They are monstrously big. But guess what? My mum and I went twice. The first time we ate 2 churros and the second time…3. Yup…no regrets.
And last but certainly not least, Korean Fried Chicken. Of course I couldn’t finish this post without leaving you with a recommendation for KFC! This place is a gem. It’s called Han Chu (한추) and you know a place is good when it’s packed with Koreans. We didn’t see any tourists. It seemed to be the place to be for casual dates or post-work hangouts.
Their original fried chicken is SO GOOD. It’s spicy from the green chili peppers mixed into their batter which is so, so delicious. I’m usually quite conscious about eating too much deep fried food but this definitely had to fall within the exception. I had no qualms with eating as much of this chicken as possible. Order a plate per person. Why bother sharing?
Seoul is a hub for traditional and international cuisine, fashion, music, television, infrastructure and culture. This post just featured a few of my food highlights but it doesnt even cover 2/3 of all that I actually ate, and all that I saw and all that I shopped. What struck me as so amazing was the marriage of the old and new co-existing in harmony in this modern metropolis with ancient palaces and secret gardens juxtaposed against glass and steel skyscrapers office buildings. The city of Seoul flourishes and yet so much unrest surrounds its borders. Let us hope Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un learn to exercise restraint because South Korea has come so far from the days of the Korean War and I could not bear to see it all fall to pieces. I’d also really like to visit again without fear of winding up dead in the middle of a nuclear wasteland. So here’s to you Seoul, until the next time we meet – which I hope will be soon.