From street vendors along narrow alleyways to classy restaurants within five-star hotels, great Korean food can be found virtually everywhere in vibrant Seoul. Many of these delicacies have existed for more 2000 years, and were only consumed by the royal families.
Today, Korean food has become so popular that locals and tourists alike describe them as savoury, spicy, hearty and nutritious delights that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. With that being said, we’ve compiled a list of top Korean foods in Seoul that you must sample during your stay in South Korea’s capital city.
This signature Korean dish has been around for more than 2000 years, dating back to the Shilla Dynasty. Kimchi consists of Korean cabbage, radish, pumpkin, onion, ginger, and scallion with chili powder, crushed garlic and salted seafood, which is then left to ferment. With more than 200 variations available in Seoul, this traditional cuisine is eaten on its own or with white rice, and added into porridges, soups, and rice cakes. Kimchi is also the basis for many derivative dishes such as kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae), kimchi pancake (kimchijeon), and kimchi fried rice.
- Opening Hours: Daily 07:00 - 16:00
- Address: 12, Myeongdong 9-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 776 5656
Another must-try during your visit to Seoul is bibimbap, a filling and nutritious dish that’s widely available in restaurants, food courts, and street markets. Depending on region and ingredients used, bibimbap can be served as a meat-based or vegetarian dish. The most common bibimbap consists of warm rice topped with mixed vegetables, beef or chicken, and raw egg, as well as soy sauce and a dollop of chilli pepper paste for seasoning. Ideal for seafood lovers, there’s a variation of this Korean mixed rice dish called hoedeopbap, which replaces meat with raw seafood such as salmon, tuna, or octopus.
- Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 22:00
- Address: 37, Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 776 3211
Red rice cakes (Tteokbokki)
Tteokbokki is a traditional Korean street food that’s made with thick slices of garaetteok (boiled rice cake), fish cake, onions, diced garlic, salt, sugar and assorted vegetables that are stir-fried in sweet red chili sauce. Distinguished by its bright red-orange ensemble, this popular snack can be found anywhere in Seoul and is usually sold at street vendors and independent snack bars.
- Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 - 19:30
- Address: 17-18, Anguk-Dong, Jongno-Gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 723 8089
Bulgogi consists of thin slices of marinated beef sirloin that are cooked alongside sliced onions, green peppers, and garlic using a charcoal burner, resulting in a distinctive smoky flavour. Prior to grilling, the meat is marinated between two and four hours in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, garlic, onions, ginger, and sugar to enhance its flavour and tenderness. This dish is also served with a side of leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often times along with ssamjang (spicy paste) and kimchi.
Gwangyang Bulgogi Bonga
- Opening Hours: Daily 11:30 – 22:00
- Address: 983-1, Daechi3-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 567 8494
Korean stew (jigae)
There are many different varieties of jiggae available in Seoul, but this Korean stew usually contains meat, seafood or vegetables in a broth seasoned with hot pepper paste (gochujang), fermented miso (gaenjang), soybean paste, or salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot). Usually served as a palate cleanser between heavier dishes, jigae has a similar consistency to a western stew. One of the most popular jigge dishes in Seoul is budae jigae or army stew, which incorporates bacon, sausages, and Spam meat as well as ramyeon noodles and rice cakes mixed with gochujang paste for a spicy flavour.
- Opening Hours: Daily 10:30 - 22:00
- Address: 50-1, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 735 8156
A Korean-Chinese fusion dish, jajangmyeon uses thick handmade wheat noodles topped with raw cucumber slices and a mixture of salty black soybean paste, diced pork and vegetables. Priced from 5,000 won onwards, this hearty noodle dish is great for when you need a quick meal that doesn't break the wallet. It is also usually eaten by singles on Black Day, which takes places each year on April 14th. Those who do not receive gifts during Valentine’s Day wear black attire and gather to consume black-coloured food such as jajangmyeon.
- Opening Hours: Daily 11:30 - 15:00 & 17:00 - 22:00
- Address: 21, Noksapyeong-daero 26-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 798 9990
Samgyeopsal is another staple Korean dish that requires little culinary skills, where chunky slices of pork belly are cooked on a grill at the diners’ table. It is then wrapped in lettuce or sesame leaf with dipping sauces and other accompaniments such as button mushrooms, sliced green chili peppers, shredded green onions, sliced raw onions and garlic, as well as aged kimchi. A popular dish amongst young working adults in Seoul, samgyeopsal is usually paired with a shot (or two) of soju liquor.
- Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 – 23:00
- Address: 18, Baekbeom-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 719 4848
Korean spicy fried chicken
Korean spicy fried chicken takes on the quintessential American fast food with its own unique flair. Unlike its American counterparts, the chicken is coated with a sweet and spicy sauce (some restaurants add green pepper inside the batter for a spicier kick) before double frying it in vegetable oil. As a result, the meat is very juicy on the inside while the lightly battered skin is crunchier and less greasy. It is a popular late-night snack that’s typically served with beer.
Han Chu Korean Fried Chicken
- Opening Hours: Daily 17:00 – 03:00
- Address: 549-9 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul
- Tel: +822 3446 5778
Spicy cold noodle (bibim nengmyun)
True to its name, bibim nengmyun is served in a stainless steel bowl with a cold broth, julienned cucumbers, Korean pear slices, boiled egg, and slices of cold boiled beef. The long and thin noodles are made from flour and buckwheat or sweet potatoes, though seaweed and green tea are also used for other variations. Symbolising longevity of life and good health, the noodles are traditionally served without cutting, but diners can request for waiters to cut the noodles according to their preference.
Maple Tree House
- Opening Hours: Maple Tree House
- Address: 26, Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 790 7977
Gingseng chicken soup (samgyetang)
Locals believe that the body’s energy must be replenished during summer, so it is a common practice for them to consume a piping hot bowl of samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup) between the months of June and early September. This glutinous soup consists of a small spring chicken stuffed with chestnuts, garlic, dried jujubes, ginseng, glutinous rice, and gingko nuts. The ingredients are then slow-cooked until the meat is very tender and the thick broth permeates a slightly bitter yet fragrant taste.
- Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 22:00
- Address: 85-1 Chaebu-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Tel: +822 737 7444