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Travel Photos: Weekend in Seoul

May 21, 2015


Paula and I spent a whirlwind less-than-72 hours in Seoul last month, hanging out with friends, recovering from jet lag, and doing all of the eating that we possibly could.

So instead of a recipe today, I’m sharing some of the food photos from our trip (Japan photos coming soon!).


I thought the coolest edible experience of this trip was our visit to a toshirak (lunch box) market. In the photo above, you can see kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes), lots of steamed mandu (dumplings), and a jar of coins, which are not actual South Korean currency — instead they’re just little tokens that you pay for, along with an empty bento-style container; then you use them to “buy” items to put in your lunch box along the market street.

Here are some shots of the alley with the market:


IMG_3202-5Cabbage kimchi, and soooo many other dishes to choose from, too.

IMG_3212-5So many options, including nokdujeon (mung bean pancakes) up top,
and jap chae noodles (lower left).


The alley was lined with food vendors, though not all of them were participating in the lunch box market.


Dried blocks of doenjang (fermented soy bean paste,
similar to miso, which can be used to make doenjang jjigae).




IMG_3239-5Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Sobagi)

Besides all of the deep-fried goodness, there was also plenty of tteokbokki (cylindrical rice cakes, often coated in spicy sauce) — a very popular street food in Korea. You can see it in the first photo of this blog post above, and in the top/background of this photo:


And in the foreground of this photo, tteokbokki mixed with fried chicken:


I was excited to discover they were selling grilled octopus skewers:


After grilling the octopus, they topped it with a drizzle of a sweet brown sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise, and a generous sprinkle of katsuobushi shavings — in other words, it was served in a very similar way to Japanese takoyaki, just without the fried balls of dough around each bite of octopus!


After making some nearly impossible decisions, we used our last few toshirak tokens to buy rice and soup to accompany our lunchbox fare, and we sat down in their cafeteria/dining room area to enjoy our lunch.


Just some of the many things we ate…
I was too excited about eating to get better photos!


My lunch box with some goodies to share (although
I didn’t share the dumpling): spicy bean sprout banchan,
kimchijeon (kimchi pancake), and spicy mini soft shell crabs! So good.

And that was all just one day’s lunch!

We had some memorable dinners, too. Here’s a photo from a grill-your-own-pork restaurant, right after the hot coals got delivered to our table, but before they’d set down the grill screen on top of the coals:


In this case I was feeling too jet-lagged to take better photos…

And this dinner, of Icheon salbap (Icheon’s a city outside of Seoul where they are known for serving a LOT of banchan (side dishes); the salbap is the rice… which you can’t see in this photo because it’s in the ceramic pot with the lid):


In fact, at the only two Icheon salbap restaurants I’ve ever been to, they bring you so many side dishes that rather than setting each one down on the table, they bring over a whole new tabletop already stocked full of dishes, and just slide it on top of your current table and lock it into place. Here’s the view from above:


And a close up of the fanciest dish on the table — gejang (soy sauce-marinated and fermented “raw” crab):


For lunch another day, I got to eat one of my favorite summer Korean dishes, naengmyon (cold noodles) — although it was unusually cold for April, and decidedly not summery weather when we were there!


Naengmyon garnished with cucumbers and daikon radish.

The weather was actually so chilly and fall-like, that we found someone selling hot roasted chestnuts on the street! (So delicious, and so hot they burned our fingers warmed our hands up.)


Our friends kept us so busy restaurant-hopping (and kept us so full) that it was tricky to time our appetites so that we’d have room for much street food…

So mostly I just longingly snapped some photos of it as we walked past.


Fresh pomegranate juice in Myeongdong

But Paula did at least get to try one of these potato spirals:


That’s Paula’s hand, twirling that crispy-edged-yet-soft-middled
potato spiral in cheese powder.

And my friend brought us to a shop that sold kimbap made with black rice — pretty unusual in Korea.


Kimbap is so simple, and might seem like it would be mild or boring in flavor compared to other spicier Korean dishes, but every single time I’ve had it at a little lunch counter like this one, it’s reminded me that freshly rolled kimbap is one of the more satisfying meals in existence.

IMG_3237-5A cartoon kimbap advertisement, saying “hey, over here!”

Last, but certainly not least, check out the size of what my friend thought would be a good afternoon “snack” (around 4pm… in between a restaurant lunch and a restaurant dinner):


This is one of my all-time favorite Korean dishes (though some Koreans might think of it as junk food or non-fancy comfort food): Rabokki, or ramyeon (ramen noodles) + tteokbokki rice cakes. (I love it so much, I’ve posted a recipe for rabokki here.)

The restaurant was actually a cook-your-own-tteokbokki place, where you choose your own add-ins to accompany the rice cakes, so OF COURSE we chose ramen noodles (I didn’t want Paula to leave Seoul without eating rabokki), but ours also came with: cheese (!), deep-fried mandu dumplings, eggs, fishcakes, and twigim (literally, “fried things,” but in this case: sushi-like rolls of seaweed wrapped around cooked dangmyeon — sweet potato glass noodles — instead of rice, and then deep fried).

We couldn’t even manage to eat it all, but we did make quite a dent in it:


…and after that, we were off to dinner!

Stay tuned for more recipes, and for the Japan food photos — I’ve only been posting every other Thursday, but I might squeeze in some of the other travel photos on an off-week, so that I can keep sharing new recipes with you guys, too.

(You might also want to check out some of the Korean recipes I’ve posted in the meantime.)

Related travel photo posts:

Bibimbap and Banchan in Korea Markets and Street Food in Seoul Seafood and Sushi in Japan Bento Boxes and Rice Dishes in Japan
Bibimbap and Banchan in Korea Markets and Street Food in Seoul Seafood and Sushi in Japan Bento Boxes and Rice Dishes in Japan
31 Comments leave one →
  1. valentina smoothie permalink
    May 21, 2015 9:36 am

    woah amazingggg!

  2. May 21, 2015 9:50 am

    So, so, so amazing. You travel right, Allison! I want every single thing on this page — that rabokki is making me swoon. Thank you for sharing this glory with us!

    • May 21, 2015 9:59 am

      Ha, thanks :) Yep, the way I prefer to travel = constantly either eating or walking walking walking just to get re-hungry in between eating events.

      That rabokki was the BEST. I didn’t mention that it was at a new trendy-ish tteokbokki restaurant with a line out the door and a (painful-on-tired-feet) 40-minute wait… definitely worth it, though!

  3. May 21, 2015 11:16 am

    Allison, this looks and sounds like a wonderful culinary adventure. Many years ago I would probably have turned my nose up. Not anymore. Wow!

  4. May 21, 2015 12:23 pm

    Amazing amazing-looking food! (I really meant that double amazing!!) I want to eat everything. Great stuff!

  5. May 21, 2015 1:12 pm

    Get a load of those side dishes and I love how they just bring you a new tabletop. That is so cool! Love these photographs.

    • June 4, 2015 8:46 am

      Yes! The new tabletop full of side dishes is the ultimate in food suspense + drama. And the best part of Korean side dishes is that there are usually free refills! (If you can leave room for them in your stomach…)

  6. May 21, 2015 3:42 pm

    What a great post. I know much more about Korean food than I did 15 minutes ago! And how I wish I lived next to that market …

    • June 4, 2015 8:47 am

      Thanks, what a great comment to get! :) I’m no Korean food expert by any stretch of the imagination, but besides eating foods, I also like learning about them and sharing what I know. And yeah, I wish I lived next to that market, too…

  7. May 21, 2015 6:54 pm

    Omg i cannot wait to see how this inspires you. Thanks for sharing this amazing experience and these stunning photos!

    • June 4, 2015 8:49 am

      Haha, thanks Amanda! Now the pressure is on for me to come up with some good Korean recipes to share :) Believe me, I’m (gradually) working on it! One problem is that I already love the Korean recipes that are in my repertoire so much that I just keep re-making them rather than taking the time very often to try making new things… but it’s not like I can get good Korean food in Santa Barbara, so I really should put in the effort just so I can eat more of these things on a more regular basis!

  8. May 22, 2015 5:45 am

    OMG Now I’m hungry!! Great photos. Would totally have that kimbap right now, it looks delicious. :)

    • June 4, 2015 8:50 am

      Thanks! Yes, that kimbap was great! I love the nutty flavor of black rice, and of course kimbap is usually delicious no matter what kind of rice is used. I’d eat that again right now, too, even though I just had breakfast. :)

  9. May 23, 2015 5:14 am

    Wow everything looks great especially the dumplings at the top and the kimbap. Interesting that octopus is skewer-grilled. We (the Japanese) grill squid but not octopus for some reason.

    • June 4, 2015 8:53 am

      Everything was great! :) And yes, since I am much more used to Japanese food rather than Korean, I was also surprised to see the skewer-grilled octopus. If I were making that myself at home, I’d worry that it’d be easy to overcook it and make it too tough, but it ended up being perfect, and I loved that it was served with all the typical takoyaki toppings!

      (Oh and I have a photo of an ika-yaki food stall coming up in one of my Japan travel photo posts!)

  10. May 26, 2015 1:07 am

    Wow, it really seems that you had a fantastic time in Korea. There is a dish that even I didn’t taste yet. haha

    • June 4, 2015 8:54 am

      Thanks for commenting, Jessie! And yes, I’ve had a fantastic time (and fantastic food) every time I’ve visited Korea. I’m curious — which is the dish that you haven’t tasted yet?? ^^

      • June 8, 2015 4:29 am

        I haven’t tasted some street foods such as the potato spiral in the picture. Street foods are evolving. ^^

  11. May 26, 2015 9:58 pm

    wow!!! what fantastic pictures! Seoul is on my list of places to visit after viewing your blog! i love kimchi. i tried it when i was only 10 years old randomly and thought it was so unique. if you enjoyed kimchi, you should try Pakistani mixed Achaar, which is essentially pickled and spiced raw green mangoes, carrots, lemons, chillies and much more. it is something which is eaten with food and condiment in a way.

    It would be great if you could stop by my food review blog at:

    I am a True Foodie and have detailed reviews from artisan breads to burgers to cakes and cupcakes and the list is never-ending!

    Like, share and follow on Facebook also! =]

    • June 4, 2015 8:56 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Seoul is definitely worth a visit (or many)! Especially if you love kimchi, since those flavors are used again and again for many different kinds of kimchi, not just the kind made with cabbage, which is usually the most familiar to people outside of Korea.

      I’ve loved all the Pakistani food I’ve tried, but I’m not sure whether I’ve tried mixed Achaar… I’m sure I would love that too, though!

      • June 15, 2015 1:27 am

        if you enjoy kimchi then you would most likely enjoy mixed achaar too. there are mixed pickle achaar which consist of spicy pickled carrots, small quartered mangoes, lemon halves, whole chilies, garlic cloves, and other types. but the common ones are the ones i have listed. =] definitely try it out if you ever come across any.

  12. May 31, 2015 4:32 pm

    Love this! The Kimbap looks amazing. We re a new blog reviewing Toronto’s best restaurants! Take a look, we just posted our first review of 850 Degrees Pizzeria!

  13. June 9, 2015 4:33 pm

    i’ve loved korean food for a number of years (much to the annoyance of my dad- he’s sick of it), but i’ve only started considering visiting recently. posts like these make me want to drop everything and go right now (i wish!).

    • June 28, 2015 10:43 am

      You should definitely drop everything and go, especially if you already know you love the food! :) That way you can come back with an even bigger variety of Korean recipes in your repertoire to annoy your dad with ;)

  14. June 11, 2015 3:24 pm

    This is amazing!! I spent about 10 hours in Seoul on my way to Thailand, but it was Chinese New Year so virtually everything was closed. The food looks out of this world! I definitely need a longer trip to Korea.

    • June 28, 2015 10:45 am

      Thanks, Karla! Yeah, 10 hours is barely enough time to eat three or four meals… :) And bummer that everything was closed when you were there! Korea is definitely one of my favorite places to eat — hope you get to go back soon!

  15. June 5, 2016 3:06 am

    Looks amazing!!! Considering a trip to Seoul myself and keen to eat as much korean food as possible if I do go. Great photos, I’m salivating!

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