Food I Wanted to Eat in Seoul

Ssam - meat (samgyeopsal in this case) wrapped in lettuce
Ssam – meat (samgyeopsal in this case) wrapped in lettuce

I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I wrote about Korean food or about a Korean restaurant in Toronto. This is especially odd since I eat/cook Korean food on a regular basis. I even host Korean cooking classes (and the last one had lots of Korean attendees… yep, I think it’s odd that I taught Koreans how to cook Korean food too :P).

Now I’m lucky to live in Toronto because we have a lot of good – and some great – Korean restaurants. But not everything I love is available here or I have to travel an hour to get it. So one of the things I was looking forward to most on my recent trip to Korea was all the food I couldn’t wait to eat in Korea. And whenever I think about something, I want to write about it. So here’s a list of the Korean food I was dreaming about.

Bokbunja-ju - my favourite Korean alcohol
Bokbunja-ju – my favourite Korean alcohol

Bokbunja-ju (복분자주, Korean blackberry wine)

Okay, so it’s a drink not a food. But it’s one I can’t get easily in Canada. And not only do I love it (and I do) but it brings back a lot of happy memories when I drink it. I used to drink bokbunja with my “EG family” – my co-workers in Seoul – when it was just the girls out for dinner. Which is funny now as some of my Korean friends (well, pretty much all of the guys) in Toronto have told me it’s “good for men’s stamina” and not women.

Bokbunja-ju is a sweet red wine made from blackberries.

Street food – except bondaegi (번데기, steamed silkworm larvae)

Yeah, I know this isn’t a specific food but Korea has some of the best street food in the world. Some of it is better in the winter – roasted chestnuts or odeng (오뎅, fishcake) – but there’s lots that are good in the summer too. Plus, part of the appeal is the setting. It’s just fun to eat outside.

This is my one regret from my short trip to Korea… the KTO fed us so well (thanks!) that I was always too full to eat any of it. T.T I didn’t even eat one dakkochi (닭꼬치, Korean chicken skewers) which is my favourite Korean street food.

Yummy patbingsu I had with Gia ^^
Yummy patbingsu I had with Gia ^^ (taken with my phone)

Patbingsu (팥빙수, shaved ice and red bean dessert)

This is the perfect summer dessert. It’s light, refreshing and fairly healthy… plus it’s delicious! I can get patbingsu – which is shaved ice with red beans and finely chopped fruit (and sometimes with ice cream like in the picture) – in Toronto but it just seems better in Korea. Plus, with 35C+ weather, it’s what everyone craves.

Triangle Kimbap

Don’t laugh at me but this is the perfect snack! I loved learning Korean by trying different flavours – some are definitely better than others. Plus, it’s fun learning how to get into the packaging. It was also the first food I had after arriving in Seoul (along with #7 – drinking yogurt). Sorry no picture though as I was so hungry I ate it before I thought to take a picture.

Samgyeopsal... sooo good!
Samgyeopsal… sooo good!

Samgeopsal (삼겹살, bbq pork belly)

I can get this in Toronto and I’ve actually found a place or two that does a great job of it but it’s just better in Korea (or perhaps my memories are). Food in Korea is all wrapped up in fun memories of friends and that’s especially true for dwaeji galbi (돼지갈비, marinated bbq pork) and samgeopsal (삼겹살, bbq pork belly). It’s all delicious of course, but the memories make both even more special. 

I was lucky that some of my wonderful friends from my “EG Family” met me for dinner and took me to a fantastic samgyeopsal restaurant. It was just like the past four years hadn’t happened (well, other than the fact that two of them are now married) as we ate, drank bokbunja, and talked all night. Thanks!! It was so fantastic to see them again! (And I’ll have a review of that restaurant coming next week).

치맥 - Chi-Maek or Korean fried chicken & beer in English
치맥 – Chi-Maek or Korean fried chicken & beer in English

Chicken & Beer (치맥, fried chicken and Korean beer)

This one I knew I was going to have in Korea because it was on our tour schedule… as “Chi-Maek (치맥)”. Yeah, I can get it in Toronto (and a couple of places do a good job of it, including ban-ban (반반, half fried, half sauced like in the picture). But it’s just so much better to get it delivered to your picnic spot at the Han River. It’s so delicious and while I’m not a huge fan of Korean beer, it does go super well with Korean fried chicken, especially on hot nights. 

Drinking Yogurt

Yes, I know we have drinking yogurt in Canada and it tastes just fine but our containers are so much smaller. In Korea, it comes in cartons like milk so I can buy 500ml and that makes the perfect after workout snack or a grab-and-go breakfast (something that I definitely did a time or two when I lived in Korea). 

**Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of some of the above. T.T

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday – this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it’s taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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