I have a confession to make. In the past few months, I’ve had Korean food maybe twice. I’ve completely abandoned the most popular food in this country!
My first few months here, Jared and I tried a lot of different Korean restaurants. We had Korean barbeque, bibimbap, dak galbi, or bulgogi at least once a week. I really liked it! I enjoyed trying all the side dishes; I liked cooking my meat at the table. Then I started to get a little tired of it. Soon after, we went to Jeju and I had hweh (raw fish) and some less than satisfying black pork barbecue. I think those two experiences left me with too many bad memories of wrapping meat in lettuce, and I was over it. I was burnt out on Korean food, and I wanted a burger. I have still had some Korean fried chicken (a wonderful food group that I consider separate from traditional Korean food), street food, and some yaki mandu, but overall I’ve been sticking to very non-Korean cuisine. It’s not that I no longer like Korean food, just that I am not feeling the need to seek it out at this time.
Luckily, I live in (or close enough) to Seoul, a city of over 10 million people. Like most large cities, Seoul has attracted quite a number of foreign residents; these wonderful people have have brought just about every world cuisine to my doorstep. So, while I haven’t been going to many Korean restaurants lately, I can happily say that I’m not sticking to only traditional American food. Living in Seoul has allowed our taste buds to travel the world, and I’m happy to share some of our favorite destinations!
For three years, I had the privilege of working with some wonderful Turks. Through opportunities with my job, Jared and I were able to travel to our first foreign country- Turkey! It was a wonderful experience, partly because of the amazing food! Kervan, which is located in Itaewon, isn’t quite as good as the many homemade meals my Turkish friends have made for me; but it’s pretty close! We usually order our favorites: iskander (somewhat similar to barbecue) and lahmacun (Turkish pizza). To keep with Turkish tradition, we always end our meal with tea! It’s a little difficult to give directions for Itaewon because things change so quickly! Itaewon now looks completely different from Google Maps Street View. Kervan is located directly across the street from La Tavola. It is on the opposite side of the street as the Hamilton Hotel and has a bright blue awning. It’s on the second floor and you get to the stairs by going through what looks like a garage. (I’m pretty sure those are the worst directions ever. Sorry!)
Located in Gangnam, this restaurant has quickly become our favorite spot to get our Mexican food fix. The food is just the right amount of spicy and greasy. However, like most places in Korea, the portion sizes are significantly smaller than what you would find at a Mexican restaurant in the US. It’s enough to fill you up, but doesn’t leave you stuffed. My favorite dish is the quesadillas. Each wedge comes wrapped in an individual holder and the only thing that holds all the ingredients together is an obscene amount of melted cheese. We usually get there by going to Gangnam Station, taking Exit 10 and walking the few blocks to the restaurant, because it’s easier for us to use Line 2. It’s actually located closer to Sinnonhyeon Station, Exit 6. The first time we went, we had a really difficult time finding the restaurant; look for the alley between Baskin Robins and the Frisbee (Apple Computers) Store.
Oh, Yeti; how I love you. For several months our friend told us that we had to try her favorite Indian restaurant. We never made it there until one day a different friend spontaneously took me there for lunch, claiming that it was her favorite place too! Now I must follow in their footsteps and say that it is my favorite Indian restaurant in Seoul! We prefer to get the 2 person set, which includes salad, tandoori chicken, curry (we love our chicken tikka masala), naan, rice, and a drink (try the chai tea!). The atmosphere at Yeti is just a good as the food- flickering candles, colorful banners, bold patterned floor pillows, and more than a few hookahs quickly transport you away from Seoul’s busy pace. To get your Yeti fix, head to Hongik Station (subway Line 2 will get you there, but I hate that circle line), and take exit 5. Walk to the first major intersection and take a left. Walk until you see Hongik University in front of you and cross to the right. Start walking up the hill and Yeti is on your right, on the basement level next to Smoothie King.
The name pretty much says it all. It’s Thai food, and it’s yummy. We usually try the different curries; the duck curry is Jared’s favorite. You don’t notice it for the first few bites, but their curries pack quite the punch, and we always leave sniffling from the spiciness! We feel that one curry is a bit much for one person and usually split a curry and a side of fried spring rolls. The spring rolls are always sizzling when they are brought to the table, and I still haven’t learned to let them cool before eating! To get there take Line 3 to Sinsa station, exit # 1, and walk 3-4 blocks until you see their happy yellow sign on your right!
This restaurant is PHOnomenal. Ok, maybe not phenomenal, but still good enough and close enough to our home when we want some pho (Vietnamese soup). I knew I had arrived at a new level of awesomeness when I was able to grab and twirl all my slippery noodles with just my chopsticks. By the way, if you can handle the heat, slurping your noodles is completely accepted here. Koason is located at Suseo Station, just two doors down from Burger King.
I have been to all of these restaurants at least twice, which is pretty impressive considering I’ve been in Korea for less than six months. I’m pretty sure I will work my way back to craving some Korean food, but for now Seoul has plenty of flavor to keep me satisfied!