As this trip was for work, I didn’t have time to really explore Seoul like my multiple previous trips, but because my hotel was so fantastically located right smack in the middle of Myeong Dong, there was no shortage of things to do (and food to eat !) I’ve always kind of scorned Myeong Dong as the cheaper cousin of Gangnam, where I almost always stay when I am in Seoul, and I’m ashamed to admit that I was quite wrong. It’s really vibrant and has a great, young vibe at night – sure every turn is still a tourist trap but it’s fun, too !
One of those rushed lunches was had at a MD institution called “Myeong Dong Gyoza” – there’s always a crazily long queue outside and I was wondering what the big deal was so my room-mate and I went to check it out ^^
Inside, it was a no-frills eatery with dozens of wooden tables crammed into a tiny area – we had to share a table with a Korean couple. There are only 4 items on the menu – steamed gyoza, kal guksu (knife-cut noodles) , kong guk su (cold noodles in soybean milk), and bibim guk su (cold noodles in spicy pepper paste)
I had the steamed gyozas, of course. I have no idea why they call them gyoza – it looked and tasted exactly like a pork and chive mandu to me -_-
I’m not sure what the hype is all about. The mandus came fast and hot in a plastic (??) steamer. They were tasty, warm, with nice soft skins and generous fillings but maybe our expectations were too high ? I found them good but not fantastic and definitely not worth the crazy one-hour wait (we popped in early and got seats straightaway, but by the time we left the queue was snaking out the door).
A also found her noodles passable but nothing amazing. Maybe we ordered the wrong dishes. The bibim guksu looked quite delicious but we were too stuffed !
Anyway, in case you guys are ever in MD and want to try it out (or have an intense craving for mandu), you can check it out !
29, Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 중구 명동10길 29 (명동2가)
I personally prefer to “eat off the streets” at 포장마차 (pokjangmacha), or covered Korean roadside snack tents, because Korean street food is my favourite, especially in the winter when you can stand around the carts gulping down refillable cups of peppery odeng soup and slurping down hot spicy ddeokbokki whilst jostling for space with the other freezing “diners”
Some of my friends who have been to Seoul tell me that they don’t dare to eat at these snack carts cos of the intimidating Ajumma’s and the language barrier ^^
Don’t be shy! Body language is universal 🙂 Just be opportunistic and when a space opens, wedge your way in front, point to the item you want, and smile. You’ll get it 🙂
Here are some of my street food top picks !
- Kim bap : I know, it’s cold, but it’s so yummy and full of texture. I love the seasoned sesame rice and kim (seaweed) as well as the mix of sour and salty in the fresh pickles inside. I could have this for breakfast every day and it’s only about 2,000 W a serving
- Odeng : On cold days, there’s nothing better ! The fish cake is soft and very moresome – delicious with the peppery soup and oh-so comforting.
- Ddeokbokki: Be warned, many of these street stalls sell a version far spicier than the ones you’re used to in the restaurant. But don’t worry, look up – there are dangling tissue dispensers for you to wipe your weeping nose which will be running after all that spiciness. But it’s a masochistic affair – you will find yourself sticking your skewer back into that orange mass to fish out yet another super chewy, spicy slice of ddeok. ^^
- Sun Dae: Not for the faint-hearted. This is blood sausage, Korean style, cooked in the same red bean paste as the ddeokbokki. I love it ! The sausage is really tasty from the rice and the cooked blood.
There are so many other kinds of street food I also love (gaeran bang (egg bread), ho ddeok (cinnamon mochi pancake)) and so on, but these five savouries are at the top of my list – Tornado potato is pretty but blah and not unique.
On this trip, I discovered a new street food that will make it to my list. It’s “fusion” though! It’s the Pizza Chalbi !
Sorry! I had pizza sauce all over my face ! It’s really awesome junk food – crispy dough wrapped around melty, cheesy “pizza” filling. I had this thrice !
That’s it for my street food adventures this trip ! Hope you guys enjoyed them !