I have to admit that my travels really do revolve around food. Eating, drinking and taking photographs from place to place is my main idea of travel. Most of my friends think I'm crazy and obsessed but I can't really change it. A couple of months ago, I went to Seoul for a week, a period not enough to fully discover the fascinating, lively city. Of course, my itinerary was packed with great food places to seek out, from Korean-style to noodles and dumplings.
Although this is a bit predictable, my highlight was sitting around the grill plates with lots of locals drinking soju, beer and wheat rice wine, called makgeolli. Cooking lovely cuts of tender skirt meat, garlic and mushrooms and then wrapping it all in lettuce is a fun way to eat. On the side, of course, lots of kimchi and different sauces can be used to spice the food up a bit. I observed the locals to see how they eat and to learn local eating etiquette.
The noodles and dumplings in Kwang Jang market were so delicious that I went back twice. I wish I could speak a bit of Korean to learn the secrets of how she makes her hand-pulled noodles and kimchi and tofu filled dumplings so fresh. Lots of people had also recommended the fried mung bean cake, which is a specialty of the market. Served with white onion and soy sauce, they were great but you need to eat where they make it, fresh and hot. I enjoyed the vegetarian cakes better the coloured seafood stuff.
The third dish I liked was the deep fried chicken and deep fried green pepper stuffed with pork, all washed down with big tankards of beer. The drinking culture reminded me a lot of Vietnam, where we often have beer and rice wine on the table, except in Seoul it's beer and soju. One interesting drink we tried was called 'Sweet after Bitter', a big glass of beer containing two shot glasses, one with soju and one with coke! Of course, you have to drink it down in one go!
Topokki, a dish of sliced rice cake with fish cake and a rich sweet chili sauce was not on the top of my list as it was too spicy and too stodgy . I tried it twice and even after a solid evening of drinking, I didn't like it. But the street food tents all over the city have lots of other stuff to try, too.
Visiting market is another way to see the local culture and Seoul's best market is the Noryangjin Fish Market. I spent hours there taking photographs. What an amazing market with so many different types of fish and I loved the way they arrange their shops and also how they prepare the fresh seafood. It was fantastic experience and I don't think I could ever forget it.
Shopping in Seoul is also great with well-known brands and local products but they aren't cheap. I loved looking at the fashion-conscious young local people walking around shopping centres with cool glasses, fashionable clothes and bag fils of cosmetics. They are obsessed with cosmetics, especially skin whitening products. I've never seen so many cosmetic shops in my life. I wonder what they thought of my country-bumpkin tanned skin!
I'd love to go back to Seoul again for another week as I had a fabulous time there.