Other Seoul Favourites

More food. Really??! After so many posts over the last few months, I’m not done yet. Yep, you’re gonna get fat with me haha. But I promise this is the last one on food, till my next trip at least. I actually saved the best for last though. Some of these are actually my top picks that did not fit into any of the other food lists I came up with, but they are just soooo incredibly GOOD.

1. Alchon

Rave reviews led me to this place and I FELL IN LOVE. My only regret was that I only had it once during this trip. Definitely heading back for more on my next trip to Seoul. Oh gosh, that Albap (mixed rice with fish roe) with shredded mozzarella and garlic sauce (4,800 KRW) was THE BOMB. It was so good, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Haha, I kid. But it was really unimaginably, and indescribably good. You have to try it to know it. It’s the most addictive thing ever. And I don’t usually eat much rice but I devoured the entire bowl.

Address: 56-57 Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu
Nearest Metro station: Ewha Station (exit 3)
Open 9am-9pm

2. Gosame

This was a rather hole-in-the-wall place recommended by a friend that was rather off-the-beaten-path, but it was definitely a worthy try! We were urged to try the Grilled Mackerel (7,500 KRW), and though we aren’t really fans of fish with bones (lazy us), we gave it a shot and had no regrets! The way the fish is grilled gives it a lovely smokey flavour and crisp skin, while its freshness is retained and shines though in the juiciness of the flesh. Paired with a bubbling bowl of hot Soft Tofu Stew (5,000 KRW), it was perfect to counter the cold temperatures in Seoul.

Address: 53-8 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu
Nearest Metro station: Sinchon Station (exit 2)
Open 11am-10pm

3. Myth Jokbal

All diet plans come to a standstill when I go on holiday. I honestly couldn’t imagine how Sam and I would be able to finish an entire pig’s trotter between the two of us and I was all prepared to leave a third of the dish behind. Surprise, surprise! We managed to finish the entire thing. Or maybe it was just me…Sam said he was full halfway through. Oops. Being a lover of garlic, I opted for the Real Garlic Jokbal (33,000 KRW for 2-3pax). The massive trotter came with a mountain of garlic on top. And I was just really astonished at how much meat there was! I usually feel that pig’s trotters are just bone and cartilage and fat, with not much meat, but there was a surprising amount of rather lean meat in this jokbal! It was stewed till a wonderfully tender texture, and when paired with the garlic, was simply amazing. There was also a huge plate of fresh salad on the side and hot soup to wash everything down. I didn’t feel like I had indigestion at all after the meal, which I was really pleased to note! Though it was a huge portion, and it was pig’s trotters, it somehow didn’t feel as sinful as I’d imagined it to be. Can’t wait to go back already!!

Address: 123-1, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu
Nearest Metro station: Hongik University Station

4. 9 levels seafood

Attention all seafood lovers! This is the kind of place for you. Dishing up the freshest catch in a steaming tower, we jostled elbow-to-elbow, slurping up the delicious umami juices from the variety of seafood in front of us. There is a minimum requirement of the number of levels you should order, depending on the number of diners at your table. For 5 pax, we had to order 8 levels, which was 75,000 KRW. There is also a premium version, which I think comes with prawns, which is more expensive. Ours was good enough though. We were filled with mussels, clams, scallop, fish, crab legs and all sorts of other delights! The best part? All the juices from steaming the seafood flow down into a bubbling broth which you can slurp down at the end, and simply revel in the sweetness of the fresh seafood.

5. SkyFarm

A hidden find that most tourists wouldn’t venture to, and kudos to Sam for discovering this place! :)) perhaps it’s also because this place serves western food that there isn’t much reason for tourists to visit, but if you’re looking for a romantic spot with a great dinner view of Seoul’s skyline from the 50th floor, this is definitely a place to consider! A beautiful nature-filled spot in an urban setting – you can probably tell just from its name. The food is pretty good, though slightly pricier (upwards of 20,000 KRW) than typical Korean food options you’ll find. It’s worth it though (: And I’ll highly recommend this place! Do note that they don’t take reservations on weekends, so it’ll be good to head there early because it is pretty popular!

Address: 28-1 Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu
Nearest MTR: Yeouido (exit 2)

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Nami Island

If you saw one of my previous posts on the Best Autumn Views in Seoul, you would know that Nami Island was one of my favourites for the variety of autumn foliage there. It’s not an easy journey getting to this island because it’s located quite far out from the city, but I daresay it’s worth your effort.

img_1992_zpsts97buubJust look at how incredibly gorgeous this is!! This is pretty much right at the entrance that greets you when you arrive at the island by boat.

img_2149_zpsvsdrtkmmThese are some of the other views you could enjoy, and this is just 1/4 of the whole island perhaps? There was also a whole bunch of trees with the most beautiful bright yellow leaves on the ground that everyone was just rolling around in and taking photos. It was a spectacular experience (and quite a sight to behold, I must say).

So, how do you make your way here to explore this beautiful place? It’s pretty complicated, I have to say. But just follow the instructions and you will get there! The key is really to set off early in the morning, and plan your journey. Besides Nami Island, there are also two other places in the same area that you can visit – Petite France (which is about half an hour’s drive from Nami) and Garden of Morning Calm (1hr 15mins from Nami), and they seem quite nice too! But you really have to plan your time carefully as you will be restricted to the transport timings, assuming that you don’t self-drive. We wanted to visit the other two places, but ended up having to give them a miss because it was past 2pm by the time we reached Nami!

Follow these steps and take note of the time tables, and I do hope that you’ll have better luck than me in checking out more of the places and having enough time to explore! (:

1. Take the metro to Yongsan Station.

2. From Yongsan Station, take the ITX-Cheongchun train to Gapyeong Station. The journey takes about 1 hour and there are specific timings for the ITX. Hence, it’s better to check online to plan your journey and ensure that you do not waste too much time waiting.

3. Upon reaching Gapyeong, you can take the Circle Tour Bus to the Nami Island Station (15mins journey time). The bus fare costs 1,250 KRW per person and you can refer to the next two photos for more information and the schedule. If you see in the 2nd picture, you will notice that this same bus also takes you to Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm, and it is a round-trip that goes back to Gapyeong station. So do remember not to lose your bus ticket!

4. Upon reaching the Nami Island station, nope you’re not at the island yet. At this point, you are actually at the Gapeyong Wharf and there are two methods to get to Nami Island – 1) squeeze with the crowds on a ferry, or 2) get the wind in your hair and zoom over to the island via a thrilling zipline ride. The ferry ride costs 8,000 KRW, while the zipline costs 38,000 KRW and both include admission to the island and a ferry ride back.

Yes, the zipline does sound a lot more expensive, but we felt that the experience was worth a try! You should note also that while the zipline journey only take 2mins (or less!) there are very specific timings which are at half an hour intervals, so it’s better to go early to check. The ferry takes about 5mins, and there are quite regular timings for this.

Also, if you are feeling peckish, it’s a good idea to grab a bite at the wharf before heading over to Nami Island as there is quite a good selection of restaurants on this side, while there are pretty limited options on the island.

That’s how high the zipline is! I felt that it wasn’t that scary though! It was wayyyyy more FUN than anything else, and it was over in a jiffy.

There is a gentler, Family route, which brings you directly to Nami Island. Whereas the Adventure route is slightly faster and more exciting (but also shorter), which brings you to a smaller island and you have to wait for another ferry to bring you to Nami. I have to say that it’s quite an indirect journey to get there, but we made the most of it by spending hours there ^^

5. To get back from Nami Island, you can take the ferry back to Gapyeong Wharf, and check out the bus timings below to get a sense of what time you’ll reach back. Also, the next photo shows the ITX timings back to Yongsan, which is a good idea to take note of as well!

Hope this guide was helpful to you! Enjoy your time and Nami Island, and let me know whether Petit France and Garden of Morning Calm are worth a visit as well!

Seoul’s Street Food

While taking a stroll along the streets of Seoul, it is impossible to make a beeline for your intended destination without being distracted by the tantalising aromas from the street food along the roadside. From Myeongdong to Ewha/Hongdae, Samcheongdong and even all the way to Nami Island, there are just so many choices when it comes to street food, that there’s no excuse to go hungry while you’re in Seoul.

Here are the 8 types of street food I tried while I was in Seoul! They are pretty common and can be found in most of the areas I mentioned above.

1. Gimbap

img_0166_zps6ts83uhjThe Korean version of our favourite Japanese sushi rolls, the former is much simpler in terms of the ingredients and varieties available, but no less delicious! It seems to be quite a typical breakfast, or on-the-go option. One thing about Seoul is the lack of breakfast options imo, because they usually have breakfast at home before heading out. But we were lucky to have chanced upon this quaint, traditional Korean grocery store/food stall on our way from Anguk station to Changdeokgung and we really enjoyed the authentic Korean breakfast experience!

img_0167_zpsfngawzx8You can find gimbap at many places, but just in case you’re curious, this is the shop that we ate at.

2. Toast

img_1877_zpszsjr9ppoWhat, toast??! I know right, what kind of recommendation is that. We can find it everywhere in Singapore, and you can easily make a sandwich at home, but……let me introduce you to Isaac Toast. You might’ve heard rave reviews about this place and are wondering, what’s the big deal? Well, for one, it’s not easy to make your sandwich this orgassmic-looking, dripping with sauce and oozing with cheese. Plus, they do have some rather interesting ingredients!

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img_0312_zpsqwxpgjogAn alternative for toast, with a pretty long queue as well, is Hobong Toast. It can be easily spotted, just across the small street from Hadongkwan. Right after our breakfast #1, the Good Morning Toast called out to us like a temptress. With a thick slice of ham (just the way I like it), an omelette and melty cheese, it made for a satisfying snack. If you don’t like sweetish sauces which was a main feature of a number of Isaac toast’s flavours, you might prefer this one!

3. Potato chips on stick

img_1780_zpsx4zxzpbdSo these look just like regular potato chips…on a stick. BUT they were so good!!! Slightly thicker than potato chips, yet just as crispy, and even more satisfying! Wolf them down while they’re fresh out of the fryer, and you won’t be able to stop at one.

4. Giant Meatball

These meatballs that we spotted along the streets of Myeongdong sure had a fiery kick! Out in the chilly streets, this piping hot snack set fire to our mouth and tongues (we already chose the less spicy version) and warmed our bellies.

5. Chicken Skewers

So chicken and beer are just the best combination ever, whether it’s Korean fried chicken or these chicken skewers that were coated with a delicious saucy glaze.

6. Egg bread

A street snack that is pretty unique to Korea, I heard some rave reviews about this egg bread and I was quite excited to try it for myself! Unfortunately….it was rather overrated to me, because it just seemed too floury, and rather bland. That sausage on the side though, was yumms!

7. Hotteok

In contrast to the egg bread, I couldn’t quite grasp the excitement that surrounded hotteok, which is a sweet crispy pancake that comes with different fillings such as red bean. For one, it’s deep fried, and I kinda have a selective preference for such food (haha like how I love fries, but I try to avoid katsu at all costs. One of my new year resolutions is really to eliminate as much of such deep fried things though, so I shall tryyyy to stick to it). Secondly, it’s floury. But oh gosh, perhaps it was because we were freezing our fingers off in Nami Island and I was in need of something hot while sitting in front of a huge fire, but I just fell in love with this sweet Korean pancake!! It was so hot, fresh out of the oven, yet I couldn’t stop myself from devouring it!

8. Banana milk

Okie, this is a cheat point heh :P Banana milk isn’t really street food, but it’s a must-try in Seoul and I didn’t know where else to slot this in, so. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this. I don’t really like bananas, so I can’t quite appreciate it. (Yet I like goreng pisang, which is a deep-fried banana snack in Singapore. See the conflict here and what I said previously?) Nonetheless, this seems like a drink that many people enjoy drinking DAILY while they’re in Seoul.

There are so many other options for street food, and one thing that I really wanted to try, yet couldn’t find anywhere was fried cheese! Does anyone know where to find it?? Please let me know! And if there are any other street food must-tries, I would love to hear about them (:

Food for the S(e)oul

There is such a wide variety of food that you can try in Seoul that every day is a different gastronomic experience! I thought that I would get bored of the food after more than a week there and would start craving Chinese food, but I was pretty surprised that it didn’t happen! It can get a little tiring on the tastebuds to have such flavourful food every single day though. But the good thing was that we found options to balance out all the delicious food and desserts with these lighter options.

1. Ox Bone Soup

img_2005_zpsela6epphNumber #1 on the list for a lighter food option would be the beef soup from Sinseon Seolnongtang. It’s really popular, with long queues in front of the restaurant during mealtimes, but thankfully the wait isn’t too long. Seolnongtang (7,000 KRW) is an ox-bone stew, and though its first appearance looks bland, it literally grew on me the more I drank it! There’s salt on the side which you can add to taste, but I barely added any in because once I got used to the natural flavour of the soup, it was addictively good with minimal seasoning required. It has been boiled with ox bones for hours, giving it a milky appearance, and a deliciously comforting flavour that is very mild yet remarkably satisfying. I couldn’t quite believe how much I enjoyed it! We also ordered the Sinseon Jjinmandu (6,000 KRW for 5pcs), and they were MASSIVE. The filling was pretty tasty, but we felt there was a tad too much skin, which we ended up abandoning.

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Sinseon Seolnongtang
Address: 3-1, Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest Metro Station: Myeongdong

2. Beef Soup

img_2203_zpsoawsftufHadongkwan is pretty similar in concept to Seolnongtang, but known for its long history, and perhaps that’s the reason why they can charge a premium for their food as well. The Gomtang cost 12,000 KRW, and a clear soup with rice in it and topped with Korean beef. Like the former, the Gomtang is very light as well, and you can add salt and green onions for additional flavour. I liked how the kimchi served on the side went well with the soup too, so I dumped a serving of it into my bowl as well. The restaurant prides itself on its soup which is made from 100% natural ingredients and being free of artificial additives. Complete your meal with the Hadongkwan barley tea after you’ve finished your soup.

If I had to choose between #1 and #2, I’d pick Seolnongtang for the bigger portion of meat and I liked the soup better! Paying a premium for history’s sake is just not quite my thing, but this is still worth trying if you’ve never had it before!

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Hadongkwan
Address: 12, Myeongdong 9-gil, Jung-gu, Seou
Nearest Metro Station: Myeongdong
Open Mon-Sat 7am-4pm (closes early when ingredients are sold out)

3. Ginseng Chicken Soup (Samgyetang)

img_0202_zpswembgm6iA Korean traditional dish, and one that is nutritious yet heartwarming, you can’t miss out on trying Ginseng Chicken Soup when you’re in Seoul! And Tosokchon Samgyetang is the place to go if it’s your first time trying this dish. The portion is huge, with chicken that has been boiled till it falls off the bone. I liked how the ginseng taste wasn’t too overpowering, yet it was sufficient to make the soup flavourful.

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Tosokchon Samgyetang
Address: 5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Sajik-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Nearest Metro Station: Geongbokgung
Open daily 10am-10pm

4. Kalguksu noodles

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img_2311_zpsssee1cupProbably the closest we could get to Chinese cuisine, we popped by Myeongdong Kyoja thanks to a friend’s recommendation. It was crowded, and pretty busy, but in a typical Chinese fashion, turnover was quick and service was prompt. We got a seat rather quickly, though to optimise the space, we had to share a table with another couple and were pretty much elbow-to-elbow with them and the table perpendicular to ours. Ordering was a straightforward affair as there are only four items on the menu, and you make payment upon ordering for maximum efficiency. In less than 5 minutes, piping hot bowls of soupy noodles were served up, and we slurped it up greedily. We went for the signature Chopped Noodles (8,000 KRW) which I believe is named after the handmade noodles which are sliced off a huge chunk of dough. It came in a simple chicken broth that has been boiled down for hours, which gave it a lovely, homely flavour. It’s chicken soup for the s(e)oul! Do not leave without trying the Dumplings (10,000 KRW) which is also a popular item, and was stuffed with a generous portion of minced pork.

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Myeongdong Kyoja
Address: 29, Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (Myeong-dong 2-ga) or
33-4 2-ga, Myeong-dong Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest Metro Station: Myeongdong

5. Army Stew (Budae-jjigae)

img_1996_zps2uituluq

img_9784_zpszuoppdwlNolboo is a chain in Seoul that has outlets all over the city, and specialises in Budae Jjigae. We ordered the original Nolboo Budae Jjigae (20,000KRW for 2pax) which actually comes in a set meal option (for the same price) that includes noodles and a drink. It came packed with ingredients including luncheon meat, sausages, minced meat, mushrooms, lots of veggies, kimchi, korean ramen noodles, rice cakes (ddeokbokki), macaroni and some additional type of noodles. Though the ingredients are simple, this piping hot stew with a fiery kick thanks to the addition of hot pepper paste (gochujang) is such a heart and tummy-warming dish that is best enjoyed in cold weather! For fail-safe budae-jjigae, this a great place to try out!

Autumn Views in Seoul

We were really lucky to have travelled to Seoul during autumn. I think we managed to catch the peak window for the autumn foliage, and it was GORGEOUS <3 You could literally see gradients of red, pink, orange and yellow painted across the trees, and you can enjoy the sights anywhere, even along the streets. There were some places that I felt the scenery were particularly breathtaking though!

These are my top 5 picks (in no particular order):

1. Nami Island

img_1992_zpsts97buubMany of you who visit Seoul would have probably heard of Nami Island as being the filming location for the Winter Sonata film. I’ve personally never watched it, but I was just blown away by the incredible autumn foliage there. Hands down one of my favourite places! I’ll be doing a separate post on it soon.

2. Namsan Park

img_9963_zps1n8rrateCame here for the bird’s eye view of Seoul city, but I was surprised by the vibrancy of the autumn scenery here. It helped that we had clear blue skies and beautiful weather that day, and we really had a lot of fun there!

img_1913_zpswmrkz76nWe took a one-way cable car up which cost 6,000 KRW (round-trip is 8,500 KRW) because we wanted to try walking down one of the trails to enjoy the scenery. And though it took us quite some time to get down, I really enjoyed the stroll!

img_9951_zpsqrhxzmk8We spent a really long time taking photos at the peak, and also went up the Observation deck at N Seoul Tower. We paid 21,000 KRW for 2 pax including 2 drinks and a gigantic tub of popcorn which we couldn’t finish, which was super value-for-money considering that an individual ticket already cost 10,000 KRW.

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img_1893_zpsnwuyznhjTo be honest, I felt that it wasn’t necessary to go up to the Observation Deck though. The view, though not bad, was nothing spectacular, perhaps because it was an entirely enclosed space. I enjoyed the time spent outside basking in the sun and beautiful autumn views much more!

Nearest Metro Station: Myeongdong (exit 3)

3. Secret Garden / Changdeokgung Palace

img_2204_zpsgynszc4tI never thought I’d enjoy visiting palaces while I was in Korea, but it was actually a surprisingly fun educational experience! Changdeokgung Palace is smaller compared to the sprawling grounds of Gyeongbokgung, but it was known to be possibly even more beautiful that the latter, that the kings/princes of the Joseon dynasty retreated to this sanctuary when they needed some peace and quiet in the serene gardens. It’s value is so internationally recognised, that it has even been given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Secret Garden is only accessible via a guided tour, so do remember to make a reservation it online before you visit. We actually purchased a combination ticket at 10,000 KRW each, that gave us entry into Changdeokgung (including the Secret Garden), Gyeongbokgung and three other palaces and a shrine. Our tour guide shared quite a lot about the history of the palace, which made it quite interesting!

Nearest Metro Station: Anguk (exit 3)

4. Gyeongbokgung Palace

img_2249_zpsxwrmoyhrI have to say that I don’t quite agree with the Joseon kings though…because I preferred Gyeongbokgung a lot more! The palace was majestically huge. You could tell simply by looking at the entrance that it was massive. We didn’t watch the change of guards ceremony which most people try to catch, but instead, spent our time just strolling hand-in-hand through the palace grounds and soaking in the atmosphere.

img_2172_zps1k2kzjmrOne of the reasons why I liked it a lot more than Changdeokgung was because of the spaciousness. Though there were many tourists, it was large enough that everyone was spread out and we had moments of serenity like these, where we were alone and could just enjoy each other’s company without jostling with the crowds.

img_2308_zps58ozb3cvSo peaceful (:

Nearest Metro Station: Gyeongbokgung (exit 5)

5. Seoul Forest

img_1809_zpsd6m0wdreAnd finally, a place that I would have never known of its existence, if not for Sam :) We didn’t have many photos of this place, but it’s one of the most gorgeous parks I’ve ever been to, which is actually a huge plot of land that sprawls across 5 eco-zones. It was where I said ‘Yes’ to our forever, and it will always have a special place in both our hearts (:

Nearest Metro Station: Seoul Forest (exit 3)

I’ve concluded that autumn is my favourite season to travel :)) and I would love to go back to Seoul/Korea during this season again! Please do share with me if you know of any other places that have nice autumn views! I’ll definitely check it out!