One of the best things about traveling and exploring a new country is the opportunity to try the food, and there are certainly plenty of different dishes to try for those who are arriving in Seoul for the first time. Many people will only know one ingredient from South Korean cuisine, and there is no doubt that fermented vegetables that are collectively known as kimchi do play a prominent role in the traditional food enjoyed in Seoul. However, there is a whole lot more to enjoy in South Korean cuisine, and as the capital of the country it is no surprise that dishes from across the country are commonly served in the city.
Dining Traditions And Etiquette In Seoul
Being polite and respectful is one of the most important parts of eating with others in Seoul, and while the etiquette may be relaxed a little with the younger generations, it is still important to follow local customs, particularly if you are dining at the home of your host. One of the most important aspects at the start of the meal is that people take their seats in order of age, and it is also polite to match your eating speed to that of the elders at the table. When it comes to pouring drinks it is expected that you will look after the glasses of your neighbors, and they will make sure that there is plenty in your glass.
Chopsticks are used in most homes and restaurants in Seoul, although these are slightly different to Japanese traditions as you are often given a spoon too, which means that you should not raise the bowl from the table. Tipping is not a common experience in most restaurants in Seoul apart from the Western restaurants, although where you have received particularly good service a tip of up to five per cent of the bill may be left for the waiter.
Spice And Common Ingredients In The Local Cuisine
One thing to be aware of when moving to Seoul is that the cuisine can be quite spicy, with many of the traditional foods also using fermentation to preserve the ingredients, which makes for many dishes with strong flavors. One of the most common ingredients used to flavor many dishes and soups is gochujang, which is a fermented red chilli powder that has a strong smell and flavor. Rice and noodles are a common staple for the majority of dishes, while kimchi's international recognition certainly reflects its popularity in Seoul and in South Korean cuisine.
Seoul's Most Popular Meat Dishes
One of the most popular dishes to be enjoyed in the winter is gamjatang, which is a hearty potato and pork soup that is made with a spicy red broth that is often served piping hot, with the meat being tender and delicious. Gogi-gui is Korean barbecue, a simple meal that is found in restaurants across the city, and is commonly a communal meal where several pieces of meat are grilled and served up with a selection of sides. If you are looking for a more inexpensive meal, then sundae is a type of blood sausage that is stuffed with noodles, vegetables and pig's blood, and while they may not look appetizing, they are certainly tasty.
Rice And Noodles
Rice plays a very important part in the cuisine of Seoul, and one of the most common ways to eat rice is as tteok, which is a type of rice cake that is usually served in a hot sauce made with gochujang. These rice cakes are usually tubes of rice that can be made with a variety of ingredients to add flavor to the rice, ranging from lettuce and pumpkin through to tteok made with flower petals or pine cones. Noodles are also often served in Seoul, and one common dish is naengmyun, which is a mixture of chilled buckweat noodles served with fresh grated vegetables and gochujang, to make a tasty summer meal.
What To Drink In Seoul
When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks, Seoul is known for its excellent selection of fruit and herb punches and also for the quality of its tea. The hwachae punch is commonly made with orange or mixed fruits, and can also include honey and flower petals. Teas can also be infused with a variety of berries and fruits, along with herbs such as ginger and cinnamon.
Soju is probably the most consumed alcohol in South Korea, and it is very affordable and commonly found at evening meals around the city. However, go easy on your first time as it is around 20 per cent alcohol. There are also a variety of fruit and flower petal based drinks, while makgeolli is a thick and sweet rice wine that is often eaten with Korean pancakes.
International Cuisine And Restaurants
If you find the urge to try different international cuisines outside the traditional South Korean fare, Seoul will not leave you wanting, as it has a great range of different restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. Whether you have the urge for a burger or a curry, you will not have to go far to find a suitable restaurant, where you will often meet many local people who also enjoy trying different foods.