A Chef’s Guide to Seoul, South Korea, with Woongchul Park

A Chef’s Guide to Seoul, South Korea, with Woongchul Park

One half of the chef duo behind London fine-diner Sollip, Woongchul Park shares his tips on exploring Seoul’s exciting food scene

Park might not have grown up in Seoul, but the city has always been a
touchpoint for his, and his partner – and cooking compatriot –
Bomee Ki’s, culinary inspiration. Raised in Cheonan-si, 85km south
of the capital, the chef then flitted between Boston, London, where
he attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and met his partner, and
the South Korean capital.

When the pair moved to London to open Bermondsey restaurant
they chose to blend the city’s flavours with classical European
cooking. Dishes on the tasting menu might include a daikon tarte
tatin or squid served with stracciatella. “I love classic French
beef tartare,” says Woongchul, of his favourite plate on the menu.
“Ours is made with gochujang, a chilli pepper paste-based

Beef tartare, Sollip, Bermondsey
Dining room, Sollip, Bermondsey, London

Sollip’s beef tartare dish, left, and the restaurant dining

Fiery-hued, tongue-burningly spicy tteokbokki; silk-thin folds
of scarlet beef sizzling over a metal grill; golden, fish-shaped
waffles; throat-stripping soju: clichés come too easily when
describing South Korea’s diverse food offering. Eating in Seoul is
a feast for the senses in a very literal sense – the spicing hits
tectonic levels, while flavours spar with temperatures, swinging
from the silky comfort of cool soya soups to the fierce fury of
kimchi hotpots.

Read on to discover Woongchul’s tips for exploring Seoul’s food

A food-focused tour of Seoul, South Korea

When’s the best time to visit Seoul?

Late March to early June or September through to October.

Where should we stay?

I’d recommend a couple of places in Bukchon Village, which is a
lovely old village in the north of Seoul. Either one of the
properties in the Rakkojae collection, a series of hanoks spread all
over the village, or AnGilSaGa, a former scholar’s house. It’s a beautiful
and serene space to stay, with a small garden and a tea room.

Rakkojae Collection, Seoul, SouthKorea
Rakkojae Collection, Seoul

Rakkojae Collection.

How should we get around?

You have a few options. The tube and bus systems are well
organised, but Tada, the Korean version of Uber, can be used in
English and is another good way to get around.

Tell us something unexpected about Seoul.

There’s lots of great hiking in and around the city – try the
Bukhansan route and the Cheonggyesan mountain trail. It’s a great
way to explore a part of the city most people won’t see.

Any neighbourhoods we should check out?

Namyoung-dong and Sinyongsan are both neighbourhoods that have
been recently renovated and restyled, and they’ve got great casual
restaurants, cafés, art galleries and shops, as well as BBQ spots
that are open late.

If you’re wanting to go shopping, try Seongsu-dong, which is
full of young Korean startup brands.

Seongsu Dong, Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea

A Seongsu-dong coffee shop, left, and a Seoul street. |
Photo credit: Richard Ernestyap / Shutterstock.com

Where should we head for breakfast?

Head to the Euljiro district for jukhyang [porridge], or try the
Myeongdong shopping area to pick up some gomtang [beef soup].

What about a low-key lunch?

Head to a Baekbanjip restaurant for a traditional Korean set
menu of rice, pickles, fish and soup.

Any favourite restaurants in the city?

Onjium is a great example of refined Korean cuisine.
Wooraeok [62-29 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jung-gu], an old-school place
that’s been open since 1946, serves cold noodles and beef bulgogi.
Miro Sikdang [80 Wausan-ro 30-gil, Mapo-gu] is a more casual spot,
serving up home-style Korean classics like spring onion pancake,
grilled pork neck and bulgogi.

What about street-side dining?

The Sinchon neighbourhood, in the northern part of Seoul, has a
handful of streets that are full of bars, late-night eateries and
young people. If you hang out there for a night, just pick anywhere
that looks good and busy.

Then, try the pojangmacha – literally meaning “tented wagon” –
stalls at Jongno 3-ga. These street-food tents specialise in all
different things, but mostly sell popular snacks like tteokbokki
[spicy rice cakes] and mandu [dumplings]. You need to eat from a
few when you’re in town.

The Insa-dong neighbourhood is a great place to go for Hotteok,
a Korean street-food snack made of dough that’s usually filled with
sugar, honey, nuts and cinnamon. Try Namdaemun Market for vegetable
Hotteok, too.

Street food, Seoul, South Korea
Street food vendor, Seoul, South Korea

Street food stalls in the Jung-gu district.

Where do you head for a late-night snack?

Anju Maeul [3 Jahamun-ro 1-gil, Jongno-gu] in Seochon is one of
my favourite spots for fresh sashimi, mulhoe and grilled fish. For
Korean fried chicken, try Hyodo Chicken. Want some bibimbap? Head to Saebyukjib
[6 Dosan-daero 101-gil, Cheongdam-dong]. Also, Sanullim 1992 [60
Seogang-ro 9-gil, Cheongdam-dong] in Hongdae is a great
hole-in-the-wall bar where you can eat bansang – rice with a few
side dishes.

Any Seoul specialities to seek out?

Coffee is a big deal in Seoul. The scene is so good. You must
try some of the shops when you’re there. If you’re looking for
showcases of Korean cuisine and culture, try to get on a tour of
the Gyeongdong and Noryangjin markets, too.

Tell us about somewhere doing something different in the city
that has impressed you.

The Hyundai Department Store is an incredible place;
there’s so much to do with lots of restaurants, the Sounds Forest
to explore, a food hall and great shops. It’s a good example of the
complex cultural spaces that Seoul does so well. Also, pay a visit
to the Starfield Library in the COEX Mall. It’s a super-futuristic
space where you can go and sit, and read any books you want.

What should we bring back as a souvenir?

Some gamtae [seaweed], monkfish jerky, seasoned kim seaweed
snacks and a couple of spicy sauces to try.

Hanok neighbourhood of Jeonju

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