[KOREA] FOOD GUIDE – WHAT TO EAT IN SEOUL

There are a lot of amazing things about Seoul, but for food lovers, it’s the never-ending amount of delicious food that makes Seoul such an exciting city. With an abundance of food options, Seoul offers everything from small traditional street food stands serving basic rice and vegetable dishes to up-market restaurants with comprehensive menus.

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Our #FoodInLoveKOREA trip in November 2016 at the peak season of Autumn, is one of the most memorable trips for us. The scenery was awesome, but the food was even more awesome! In this post, we’re gonna to share our top 30 dishes and where to try them. Hopefully, it could be a complete guide to help you plan your trip to Korea.

Guide to the best destinations to enjoy Autumn in Seoul, please read [KOREA] AUTUMN IN SEOUL – Fall Foliage Destinations and Places to Visit

Need more info to plan your daily itinerary in Seoul? Check our itinerary guide [KOREA] ITINERARY TRAVEL GUIDE – Top Places to Visit in Seoul

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We’ve listed a few of our favorite Korean foods we’ve tried so far and dishes that you can find across Seoul and South Korea. Firstly, we’ll share with you two facts about Korean restaurant. Any Korean restaurant will give you complimentary free drink and banchan (side dishes). Banchan are an essential part of any Korean meal. They are not just decoration or appetizers, they are the meal, along with soup and rice. The Korean side dish consists of Kimchi, Pajeon (vegetable pancake), braised soybeans, salad, vegetables, etc. You also can refill the side dishes for free, you could fill them up as many times as you like.

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Banchan

The other fact is, some Korean restaurant has a rule of minimum order for each person. We are frequently found the rules that one person must order at least 1 item and you are not allowed to order for less than the number of people. It means that you can’t share 1 meal for 2-3 persons. This will sometimes be difficult, especially for a solo traveler. If you not sure that you’ll order at least 1 item/person, you can ask the restaurant staff first before ordering.

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And now, let’s start the tour and here’s what to eat in Seoul!

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1. KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN & BEER or CHIMAEK

Fried Chicken and Beer is a match made in heaven indeed! This also explains why you can find so many Fried Chicken chains at every corner in Seoul. Fried on the spot and served hot, this local favorite is a great go-to if you’re looking for a snack during the night. Most Korean fried chicken restaurants open from the evening, around 5 PM till late night.

Where to try Chimaek / Korean Fried Chicken & Beer:
Hanchu (Fried Chicken & Deep Fried Chili Pepper)
BHC Chicken (Soy Sauce Chicken, Spicy Chicken, Boneless Sweet Garlic Soy Sauce Chicken, Boneless Sprinkle Chicken)
Two Two Chicken
Mirak Chicken (Seasoned Spicy Chicken & Garlic Chicken)
Chicken & Curry Goon 치킨앤 카레군 (Rose Chicken)

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Fried Chicken at Hanchu (KRW 17,000)
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Deep Fried Chili Pepper at Hanchu (KRW 15,000)
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Half-Half Spicy and Soy Sauce Chicken at BHC (KRW 20,000)
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Boneless Sprinkle Chicken (KRW 19,000) & Boneless Sweet Garlic Soy Sauce (KRW 19,000) at BHC
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Garlic Chicken at Mirak Chicken (KRW 17,000 for Half-Half with Seasoned Spicy Chicken)
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Seasoned Spicy Chicken at Mirak Chicken (KRW 17,000 for Half-Half with Garlic Chicken)
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Rose Chicken at Chicken & Curry Goon (KRW 22,800)

2. KOREAN BBQ

If you’re traveling to Korea, there’s no way you can leave the country without trying some authentic Korean BBQ especially if it’s from the country of origin! That’s why everyone who goes to Seoul ought to have at least one Korean BBQ meal. The fresh, juicy and tender premium samgyupsal (pork belly) or beef slices that are cooked over the charcoal BBQ really does bring out the smoky flavor of the meat and make it even more flavourful and delicious.

Where to try Korean BBQ:
Saemul Sikdang / New Village Korean BBQ Restaurant 새마을식당 (Messy Pork Belly & Bulgogi Grilled on Briquette)
Seomhyanggi in Nami Island (Pork Belly BBQ & Chicken BBQ)

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Messy Pork Belly / Man Shin Chang Sam Gyup Sal (KRW 9,000)
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Bulgogi Grilled on Briquette (KRW 8,000)
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Pork Belly BBQ at Seomhyanggi
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Chicken BBQ at Seomhyanggi

3. TTEOKBOKKI

Also known as Spicy Rice Cake, Tteokbokki is a national favorite in Korea and can be easily found on the streets of Seoul. This dish goes well with Ramyun and comes in many forms. It is made from tteok or rice cake and usually seasoned in red chili gochujang sauce and mixes well with lots of flavors.

Where to try Tteokbokki:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, & Gwanjang Market

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4. GIMBAP

If you like eating sushi roll, you got to try this too! Gimbap stands for kim/gim (sheets of dried seaweed) and bap (rice). It’s a Korean dish made from cooked rice and various other ingredients, mostly meat and vegetables like cucumber, carrot, and radish in gim and served in bite-size or mini bite slices. It’s more like the Korean version of Sushi. the common use of sesame seeds and sesame oil to give them a wonderful taste and aroma.

Where to try Gimbap:
Gimgane (Cheese Gimbap)
Street food vendor in Myeongdong & Gwanjang Market

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Cheese Gimbap (KRW 3,500)
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Mayak Gimbap (KRW 1,000 each)
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Gimbap in Gwangjang Market
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Fresh-made Gimbap vendor at Myeongdong

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5. DAKGALBI

Dak-galbi is a popular Korean dish generally made by stir-frying marinated chicken in a gochujang (chili pepper paste) based sauce with various vegetables such as cabbage, sweet potato, scallions, onions, and tteok (rice cake) in a large cast iron pan. These tender chicken slices are very well marinated and are cooked right before your eyes. Also, try dipping it in the melted cheese for some cheesy goodness because it always tastes better with cheese! Yummy!

Where to try Dakgalbi:
Yoogane (Fresh Cheese Chicken Galbi; suit for 2-3 person)

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Yoogane branch in Myeongdong
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Fresh Cheese Chicken Galbi (KRW 23,000)

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6. SAMGYETANG

Samgyetang is a ginseng chicken soup, consists of a whole chicken that’s filled with glutinous rice, ginseng, spring onion, jujube, garlic, herbs, and then boiled in a stone bowl that brings out rich and herbal flavors to the dish. Known to be a healthy dish, it’s a perfect choice if you’re feeling sick or exhausted to recharge your body from a whole day’s worth of shopping around Seoul!

Where to try Samgyetang:
Tosokchon Samgyetang (Ginseng chicken soup & black chicken ginseng soup)

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Tosokchon Samgyetang / Ginseng Chicken Soup (KRW 16,000)
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Tosokchon Ogolgye Samgyetang / Black Chicken Ginseng Soup (KRW 23,000)

7. BIBIMBAP

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. Not only delicious and healthy, it’s also 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.

Where to try Bibimbap:
Gogung (Jeonju Dolsot Bibimbap & Naemul Bibimbap)
Street food vendor at Gwangjang Market

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Jeonju Dolsot Bibimbap (KRW 11,000)
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Namul Bibimbap (KRW 8,000)

8. JJAJANGMYEON

Jjajangmyeon originated from the Chinese Zha Jiang Mian. It’s actually a Korean Chinese cuisine, a simple yet tasty noodle dish seasoned with thick rich black bean sauce.

Where to try Jjajangmyen:
Gaehwa (개화) (Jjajangmyeon)

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Jjajangmyeon (KRW 5,000)

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9. SUNDUBU

It’s a boiling pot of meltingly soft silk tofu. Mainly made with uncurdled tofu and lots of red chili flakes, sundubu jjiggae is both spicy and richly flavorful. You can usually specify your featured ingredients, adding various meats, seafood, and veggies to the pot. The tofu is so good it almost tastes likes scrambled eggs.

Where to try Sundubu:
Jaedong Sundubu 재동순두부 (Seafood and Soft Tofu Stew)
Namdaemun Grilled Fish Street

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Seafood and Soft Tofu Stew (KRW 8,000)

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Sundubu at Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street (KRW 6,000)

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10. JAPCHAE

Japchae or stir-fried glass noodle is a common fried noodle dish in Korea. It’s made from sweet potato noodle that has an elastic chewy texture a bit similar with Indonesian Sohun or tapioca vermicelli. They usually stir fry the noodle with sesame oil, soy sauce, and vegetables. You can find it easily in most restaurants or street food market in Korea.

Where to try Japchae:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong
Any Korean restaurant

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Japchae vendor at Myeongdong
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Bulgogi Japchae (KRW 5,000)

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11. KALGUKSU

Literally translating to “knife noodles”, kalguksu is a noodle dish consisting of handmade, knife-cut wheat flour noodles served in a large bowl with broth and other ingredients. Its name comes from the fact that the noodles are not extruded or spun, but cut. Myeongdong Kyoja is said to serve some of the city’s best for just 8,000 KRW per bowl. Really, really good.

Where to try Sundubu:
Myeongdong Kyoja 명동교자 (Kalguksu)

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Kalguksu (KRW 8,000)

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12. JUK (Korean Traditional Porridge)

As the year-end draws closer and temperatures in Seoul start to fall, there’s nothing like a good bowl of porridge to keep your body warm in the cold. Served in a relatively big portion, this bowl of porridge will keep your tummy filled for a meal or two, proving the meal to be well worth the buck. A good place would be Bonjuk which has many franchises all over Seoul.

Where to try Sundubu:
Bon Juk (Samgye Porridge, Beef Vegetable Porridge, & Octopus Kimchi Porridge)

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Octopus Kimchi Porridge (KRW 8,000)
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Beef Vegetable Porridge (KRW 8,500)

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13. GRILLED MACKEREL

Locals and tourists alike frequent this place often for its ever-so-popular dish, the Grilled Mackerel. This simple dish has won the hearts of many for its crispy texture that tastes great when eaten with the sauces provided or just by itself! The best place to try grilled mackerel is Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street. If you walk down this walking alley you’ll start to notice lots and lots of grilled fish restaurants and there are also a few very popular chicken restaurants as well. This grilled fish street is within the Pyeonghwa Market, and according to Visit Seoul, there are about 14 grilled fish restaurants that serve grilled fish along this alley. To be honest, all the grilled fish restaurants looked the same, most of the restaurants and vendor was nice and called us to come and eat there

Where to try Grilled Mackerel:
Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street (Grilled Mackerel)

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Grilled Mackerel (KRW 7,000)

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14. RAMYUN / RAMYEON

If you are a fan of instant noodles, Korea has its very own varieties, known as Ramyeon. You can easily found this at any restaurant or convenience store. There are also available with many topping like cheese, seafood, dumplings, etc.

Where to try Ramyun:
Food Cafe Myeongdong (Cheese Ramyeon)
Gimgane (Ramyun with Spicy Rice Cake)

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Cheese Ramyeon (KRW 4,000)

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Ramyun with Spicy Rice Cake at Gimgane (KRW 4,500)

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15. MANDU / MANDOO (Korean Dumplings)

Whether grilled, fried, steamed, or boiled, Mandu is the general term for Korean dumplings. Similar to Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi, mandu are usually served with kimchi and a soy-vinegar-chili dipping sauce. They were crispy on the outside while moist and flavorful on the inside. A bigger type of mandu called wang mandu. Filled with pork and vegetables, think of it as a cross between a siopao and a dumpling. We had two of these for 2,000 KRW at Namdaemun Market.

Where to try Mandu:
Bukchon Son Mandu 북촌손만두 (Steamed Dumplings Pork/KimchiFried Dumplings Pork/Japchae, & Ball Dumplings)
Gimgane (Boiled Pork Dumplings)
Gaehwa (Fried & Boiled Dumplings)
Gamegol Son Wangmandu (Wang Mandu with Minced Pork & Kimchi filling)

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Bukchon Son Mandu
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Combination Dumplings from Bukchon Son Mandu
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Boiled Pork Dumplings at Gimgane (KRW 3,500)

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Fried Dumplings at Gaehwa (KRW 5,000 / 8 pcs)

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Boiled Dumplings at Gaehwa (KRW 5,000 / 8 pcs)

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Wang Mandu with Minced Pork and Kimchi filling at Namdaemun Market (KRW 3,000 / 5 pcs)
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Wang Mandu with Minced Pork filling at Namdaemun Market (KRW 3,000 / 5 pcs)
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Wang Mandu with Kimchi filling at Namdaemun Market (KRW 3,000 / 5 pcs)

16. DAKHANMARI (Whole Chicken Soup)

Dakhanmari, literally means ‘a whole chicken’ in English. It’s a Korean food that is not commonly found. The appearance of the food doesn’t look appealing, and even to a certain extent of scary looking.  But in the end, this became one of our most interesting dining experience in Seoul

Where to try Dakhanmari:
Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari (Dakhanmari / whole chicken; suit for 2-3 person)

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Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari
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Dakhanmari / whole chicken (KRW 20,000)

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17. ODENG

Similar to Japanese oden, but called odeng in Korea, it consists of various fish cakes and vegetables on skewer boiled in dashi broth. It’s normally cooked in hot warm savory broth and one of the most common street food in Korea. The street vendors normally put it in the skewer and provide a paper cup for the customer to drink the hot warm broth.

Where to try Odeng:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, & Gwanjang Market

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Odeng (KRW 1,000 each)

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18. GRILLED CHEESE LOBSTER

New York has lobster rolls, Seoul has grilled cheese lobsters. Quite an indulgent snack and looks so tempting. The price is quite expensive though, at KRW 15,000. If cost is not a major issue for you, it was quite worth it as the seafood was so fresh and sweet.

Where to try Grilled Cheese Lobster:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong

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Grilled Cheese Lobster (KRW 15,000)

19. BEEF STEAK

When in Seoul, make sure you try this Beef Steak at one of the street vendors in Myeongdong. It’s probably the best street food we ever tried in Seoul. The meat is seasoned with sesame and scallion with the bulgogi sauce in the marinade for that characteristic sweetness. The beef was extremely tender, juicy, and well seasoned.

Where to try Beef Steak:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong

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Beef Steak (KRW 6,000)

20. PAJEON (Korean Pancake)

A pancake-like dish made with green onions as its predominant ingredient. It’s usually accompanied by beef, pork, kimchi, shellfish, and other seafood.

Where to try Pajeon:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, & Gwanjang Market

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Pajeon vendor at Gwangjang Market

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Pajeon (KRW 2,000)

21. HOTTEOK (Stuffed Pancake)

Hotteok is actually more of a donut than a pancake. It comes in an assortment of sweet and savory variants such as sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, stuffed with red bean paste, ground peanuts, sweet potato, onions, or even japchae. Hotteok is best eaten fresh off the pan but be careful of the hot, sticky filling that can burn your mouth.

Where to try Hotteok:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, & Gwanjang Market

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Hotteok vendor at Myeongdong
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Hotteok (KRW 1,000)

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22. CABBAGE OMELETTE

It’s an omelet pancake topped sunny side up egg. The omelet pancake consisted of a thicker-than-normal crepe stuffed with cabbage, thinly shaved slices of pork, loads of bean sprouts and topped with a sunny side up egg, a drizzle of bbq sauce, mayonnaise, and a handful of bonito flakes. It looks like a deconstructed Korean version of Okonomiyaki. Warning: Consumption may be messy!

Where to try Cabbage Omelette:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong

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Cabbage Omelette vendor at Myeongdong

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Cabbage Omelette (KRW 5,000)

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23. GYERANBBANG

Egg bread is known as Gyeranbbang in Korea. It is literally an egg baked into bread and served warm. It’s pretty easy to find, as you are likely to find it where.

Where to try Gyeranbbang:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, & Gwanjang Market

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Gyeranbbang (KRW 1,000 – KRW 2,000)

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24. GRILLED CHEESE STICK

Skewered sticks of rice cakes and alternating pieces of mozzarella cheese grilled. Well, it’s not bad but also not special. Even though, it’s very unique and worth a try.

Where to try Grilled Cheese Stick:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong & Dongdaemun

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Grilled Cheese Stick vendor at Myeongdong
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Grilled Cheese Stick (KRW 1,000)

25. STEAK IN A CUP

In the super rapidly changing Korea, we get to see new trends and new items every day, including their street food. One of our best findings is Steak & Beer in a cup. There is also the Single, Drink Combo, and Beer Combo package. Very unique!

Where to try Steak in a Cup:
Me? Steak! (Beef Steak / Pork Steak / Chicken Steak / Hamburg Steak Combo)

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Hamburg Steak Combo Drink (KRW 6,900)

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26. BINGSOO / BINGSU

Patbingsu is a Korean shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red bean paste. It’s so refreshing and a perfect dessert for after a rich meal of Korean BBQ and easily available in cafes, fast food joints, and even in bubble tea stores in Seoul. It’s also a super cool and trendy food, you’ll easily find the popular Bingsu cafes in any youth-culture area.

Where to try Bingsu:
Sulbing (설빙) Korean Dessert Cafe (Premium Mango Choco Snowflake Sherbet & Real Tong Tong Melon Sulbing)

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Real Tong Tong Melon Sulbing (KRW 13,000)
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Premium Mango Choco Snowflake Sherbet (KRW 11,000)

27. DRAGON’S BEARD CANDY

It’s originated from China but became so popular in Korea that it was a favorite among the Royal Family. Dragon Beard Candy can be found in street stalls of touristy areas such as Myeongdong and Insadong. Vendors usually show you how to make it and did a great show where he took a blob of fermented honey and turned it into many soft fine strings of what looks like cotton candy while chanting. It is then stuffed with hazelnut, walnut or peanuts. It was really interesting to watch and I could not leave without buying some.

Where to try Dragon’s Beard Candy:
Street food vendor in Myeongdong & Dongdaemun

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Dragon’s Beard Candy (KRW 5,000 – KRW 8,000 / 10 pcs)

28. KOREAN TEA

Korean tea usually uses various ingredients such as fruits, grains, roots or herbal plants infusion. You can find it in the modern or traditional tea house. One of the most popular tea houses in Korea is Osulloc Tea House which specializes in green tea

Where to try Korean Tea:
Osulloc Tea House (Green tea latte & green tea roll cake)

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Osulloc Green Tea Latte + Green Tea Roll Cake (KRW 9,500)

29. ICE CREAM

In Seoul, you can find lots of cute and tasty ice cream. There was a huge surge of popularity over soft serve ice cream and soft serve ice cream in Korea, especially those served with real honeycomb. So, if you are an ice cream lover, make sure you don’t miss it.

Where to try Ice Cream:
Softree 소프트리 명동점 (Soft serve ice cream with honeycomb)
Milky Bee (Flower shaped ice cream & honey ice cream)
32cm Ice Cream in Myeongdong
Capsule Ice Cream in Nami Island

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Wow Honey Chips (KRW 4,800)

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Flower Shaped Ice Cream at Milky Bee (KRW 5,500 for 2 colors & KRW 6,000 for 3 colors)

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32cm Green Tea – Vanilla Ice Cream at Myeongdong (KRW 2,000)
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Capsule Ice Cream in Nami Island (KRW 3,000)

30. BANANA MILK

This iconic banana milk in Korea is a must have for milk or banana lovers. The milk is very light and not overly sweet. We enjoyed it very much! Besides banana, they also have strawberry and melon flavors. You can easily found this banana milk at any supermarket or convenience store like 7-Eleven, Lawson, GS25, etc.

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Original Banana Milk (KRW 1,300)
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Original Banana Milk (KRW 1,300)
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Melon Flavoured Banana Milk (KRW 1,300)

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Well, that’s our recommendation for 30 foods that you must eat in Seoul. But the most important is, don’t limit yourself to just the foods or restaurants we’ve mentioned above. Do some research in the area you’re staying in and you’ll likely find similar restaurants. If you see a good looking restaurant, check it out. It probably will be really good. Thank you for joining our virtual Korean food culinary tour and you please read our Korea Travel Series for another travel guide and recommendation in Seoul.

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