Eat your way through Seoul

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Stepping onto the streets of Seoul, you’ll find yourself quickly surrounded by the competing aromas of the local street food and restaurant fare. Here are a few ways to eat like a local in Seoul.

If there’s anything one can’t miss on a trip to Seoul, it’s the inviting smell of city’s local street food and must-try restaurants competing for your taste buds. In fact, 2016 saw the release of the first-ever Michelin guide to Seoul, with 24 restaurants bestowed with stars. So, if you’re thinking about a trip to the South Korean capital, search for flights on and keep reading for some of the local eats you shouldn’t miss.


samgyeopsal - Korean fried pork belly
Kim Ahlström, Samgyeopsal, via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Philippines sure love their lechon kawali (fried pork belly), which is why it’s a must that Filipinos try its Korean counterpart, samgyeopsal. A favorite evening dish, it’s not hard to find in Seoul, but if you want to try one of the city’s best, head to Palsaik. The restaurant’s name translates to “eight colors,” which represents the eight flavors in which the dish is available: ginger, wine, ginseng, pine leaves, herbs, curry, miso paste and spicy pepper. Once you try it, chances are you’ll crave it again (or want to try a different flavor. It’s a good thing that Palsaik has opened additional locations in neighboring Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.

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A popular snack among locals, Tteokbokki is a dish made up of a thick rice noodles, fish cake and chili paste (or spicy broth). Also called ddeokbokki, you can find it in street food tents called Pojangmachaall throughout the city, with the most popular ones located around Hongdae, Shinchon and Jongno. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, head to Dongdaemun Sassy Tteokbokki for an extra spicy version that really packs the heat.


Korean gimbaps sushi rolls
manda_wong, Kimbap, via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Also called “Korean sushi,” Gimbaps are made from rice mixed with various ingredients and wrapped in dried seaweed sheets. While sharing similarities to Japanese sushi, what makes this dish a bit different is the stickier rice seasoned with sesame oil and seeds. It also tends to taste a bit sweeter than its Japanese counterpart. Two popular chains to find these delicious snacks are Kimbap Nara and Kimbap Cheonguk.

Gogigui or Korean barbecue

Probably the most famous of Korean cuisine styles, barbecue restaurants abound in Seoul. College students (and budget-conscious travelers) gravitate toward the all-you-can-eat joints, where you pick your cuts of meat and grill to your heart’s content. Short ribs (galbi) and marinated beef (bulgogi) are some of the most popular cuts, and they’re typically served with some sort of stew. Also, don’t be alarmed by the endless plates of side dishes, or banchan, that overtake your table; Korean meals are almost always accompanied by at least a half-dozen side dishes. Also keep in mind that Korean barbecue goes hand in hand with drinking, so don’t be shy about ordering a round of beer (maekju) or soju, a rice wine similar to sake.


Korean bimbimbap
Michelle Tribe, Bibimbap, via Flickr CC BY 2.0

No trip to South Korea is ever complete without trying the Korean version of mixed rice called bibimbap. Served with vegetables, egg and meat slices, there are several variations of bibimbap. Among the most popular ones is the dolsot bibimbap or hot stone pot bibimbap, wherein the dish, complete with raw egg, is prepared in a hot stone bowl. For the best bibimbap, we suggest visiting Gogung in Jung-gu or Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan or the stall in Gwangjang Market.


samgyetang - Korean ginseng chicken soup
pelican, Samgyetang, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Looking for something a little more healthy? Try the samgyetang, a ginseng chicken soup. It’s a popular summer dish in South Korea, but is available year-round at most restaurants. A popular spot to get the best samgyetang in Seoul is Tosokchon. Located on Jongno-gu, its chicken soup is a must-try (and comes with onion pancakes, too) and is some of the best in the city, so be prepared to come very early and brave the seemingly endless queue during lunch or dinner hours. Don’t miss the version with “black chicken,” which is a little pricier, but worth it.

Where’s your favorite place to eat in Seoul? Share your recommendations in the comments and start your flight search on

Eat your way through Seoul was last modified: June 27th, 2019 by L. Bautista
Author: L. Bautista (46 posts)

A self-confessed breakfast-skipper, who likes to spend her time exploring new places and cultures.