It’s hard to describe Seoul to someone that hasn’t been there. From the outside the country is conservative, shy and quiet. Korean people are always polite and respect their elders. But the country has a long and hard history that you’d never guess if you saw modern day Seoul. The technological metropolis is a shiny contrast to the tough history its endured to get here.
One part of Korea’s culture that has been shaped, well, I’m unsure if shaped is the right word, more like hammered or carved by its war torn past is it’s food. To understand Korea you have to understand its food. So here is our list of the must try food in Seoul.
Budae Jjigae is a stew with pretty much everything in it. From spam, ramen noodles, kimchi, sausages and everything in between its called army stew. And for good reason.
As the story goes, and it varies depending on the person telling it, American President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Uijeongbu (의정부), and army base town north of Seoul. He visited a restaurant and the chef had no idea what to serve him. Due to the scarcity of food during war time the solution was to put everything into one stew.
Turns out, its delicious.
You couldn’t have a list of the must try food in Seoul without Samgyeopsal. The BBQ pork is, well, ask my waistline after living in Korea.
With the rise of Korea as an economic powerhouse post Korean war came a rise in the availability of meat as a cheap food for many Koreans. And what else would you do but find the most delicious way to cook it?
BBQ restaurants sprung up so quickly that people had to be creative about cooking their BBQ’s. These day’s you’ll find shadows of the hard times of growing Korea into the mammoth it is today with the grills built into the tops of round drums. The story goes that as the war ended the Korean people re-purposed everything around them including the drums left behind by American soldiers.
Samgyeopsal is most definitely one of the must eat things when you visit Seoul. If you want to try more of Seoul’s great food check out our guide to the best street food in Seoul.
Kimchi is a staple of any meal in Korea. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner you’ll find kimchi. To go to a restaurant and not have kimchi on the side in some form or another just wouldn’t be acceptable.
The preparation of kimchi and its fermentation meant that it could be prepared and stored underground for a very very long time. Due to this kimchi dates back hundreds of years and has been developed to be an amazing medicinal food.
Its probiotic properties and just plain deliciousness put it on our list of must try food in Seoul.
Want to see more of this massive city?
Meet a local and take a locals tour of Seoul’s markets.