Maybe Alex’s request wasn’t quite specific enough. Where should I (we) eat in Seoul, and what should we order? What are the general principles for finding good food in Korea, Busan included? Your assistance is much appreciated.
Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.
I just got back from spending 3 years teaching and eating, but mostly eating, in Korea, so I hope I can give a somewhat informed opinion on this.
If you have a spare weekend, I’d highly recommend going down to Gwangju. Best food in Korea, everyone there agrees. If you go down there, I can make great recs for places to eat.
There’s a killer sujebi restaraunt in Samcheong-dong in North-eastern Seoul – like best in Seoul hands down good. http://www.sujaebi.kr/ for the link/directions. They have a limited menu – sujebi (dough torn and thrown into a bubbling bowl of broth), but the soup is phenomenal.
There’s a dumpling/noodle place in Myeongdong that always has a line out the door and down the block. The name escapes me at the moment, but its across from the Forever 21.
Duck (ori) is a treat, particularly since it’s so much cheaper than in the States. You can get it grilled, and if you go to a good place, they’ll throw in stew (ori-tang) for free.
I read somewhere that as a general rule, Koreans are a bit superstitious about changing the decor of a successful restaurant. Which means that all the good ones look like they’re stuck in the 1960s or look a bit shabby. I generally found this to be true (though that’s not to say that new-looking ones are no good).
It can be tough finding a place to serve only one person, but there are a ton of little fast-foodey type joints that will serve one person, especially a foreigner. Kimbap Nara, Kimbap Cheonguk, Kimga-nae, are the big chains, plus there are a bunch of family-run places that serve most of the main soup and rice dishes. I went to one near Yeongsan station that was pretty good…
My favorites include: Kimchi jjigae, soon dubu jjigae, haejang guk, jjeol myeon, guk su, yuk-gae jang, galbi tang, jae yuk bokkeum. Most of the little fast-food places will have all of these, and more. They’re definitely worth checking out, especially since they’re way cheap (<$6 for most meals, $3 for a bottle of beer/soju). Look here for a decoded menu if you can't read Korean http://maryeats.com/2006/11/16/kimbap-nara-menu/
If you're going with a friend, my favorite big dishes are: Shabu-Shabu, Gamja-tang, Dalk bokkeum-tang (also known as Dalk-dori tang), dalk-galbi, bbudae jjigae and bo-ssam.
The BBQ is always good, but to be honest, I preferred a lot of the other dishes.
Anyways, I'm sure its evident by now that I can talk for ages about Korean food. Sorry. Good luck and happy eating!