Seoul's 'Gourmand Alleys' Full of Restaurants Serving Delicious Food
In Seoul, buildings are often huddled together, so you often see narrow alleys. Although you can find streets with themes, such as mural alleys, cafe alleys, and gourmand alleys, the best among them is gourmand alleys. Gourmand alleys are food-specialized streets where restaurants focusing on only one menu are gathered. Many long-established stores have maintained their reputation for 20 to 30 years so you can experience the true value of the taste.
If you want to taste delicious food while enjoying the unique landscape of Korea, you can visit gourmand alleys. The savory smell that fills the alleys, the bustling atmosphere, and the old-fashioned market landscape will leave a deep impression on your trip to Korea.
'Gongdeok-dong Jokbal Alley' Loved by Drinkers
You can see an old traditional market nestled among high-rise buildings when you come out of exits 4 and 5 of Gongdeok station. Gongdeok-dong Jokbal Alley was formed 30 years ago as a restaurant that sold Jokbal/Braised Pigs' Feet prospered on one side of the market. The current food alley took shape as restaurants selling similar menus and customers gathered. Jokbal is a representative late-night snack for Koreans. It is a dish of pork legs boiled in broth and sliced thinly, and it tastes very savory and chewy. Its taste goes well with soju, so it's also a food drinkers love. Thanks to this, Gongdeok-dong Jokbal Alley is lit up until late at night.
Most restaurants in gourmand alley have a similar menu, so you can go to the place that appeals to you the most. If you order Jokbal/Braised Pigs' Feet, a plate full of steaming, moist meat is served. The soy sauce broth seeps in and takes on a brown color, which is very appetizing. Jokbal’s appeal is the pork rinds attached to the end of the lean meat. It has a high collagen content, so it is elastic and chewy so that you can feel a different flavor and texture from lean meat. Gongdeok-dong Jokbal Alley has a culture of serving Sundae and Sundae Soup for free when ordering Jokbal. This is also a chewy and savory dish, so enjoy it with Jokbal.
Heaven of Sweet and Spicy Taste, Seongnae-Dong Jukkumi Alley
Jukkumi/webfoot octopus is a mollusk of the octopus family distributed in the coastal areas of Korea, China, and Japan. Think of it as a small octopus the size of your palm. Korean people enjoy jukkumi as a stir-fried dish. They mix it with spicy and sweet seasoning and stir-fry them on a hot iron plate. Seongnae-dong Jukkumi Alley is lined with restaurants specializing in webfoot octopus dishes. Since the 1970s, similar restaurants have opened one by one, and the alley has become famous through word of mouth. Upon entering the alley, the spicy smell of seasoning wafting from the restaurants stimulate the nose. There are also jukkumi murals and sculptures all over the street, so you can enjoy looking around there.
Jukkumi Bokkeum/Stir-fried Webfoot Octopus is delicious on its own, but you can add shrimp or pork belly to make the taste even better. 'Jjukkumi Samgyeopsal/Webfoot Octopus and Pork Belly' is a particularly loved menu item because you can enjoy the savory taste of pork and octopus together. When you order food, seasoned webfoot octopus, vegetables, and meat are served on an iron plate, and your mouth is already watering during the sizzling process of stir-frying. Cooked webfoot octopus is plump and chewy, so it tastes good when chewed. The more you chew, the more the spicy seasoning and the savory taste of webfoot octopus come out and work up your appetite. Crunchy bean sprouts, sweet pickled radish, and fragrant sesame leaves can be added to enjoy a variety of flavors. If you eat 'Nalchial Bokkeumbap/Flying Fish Roe Fried Rice' after you finish it, you can enjoy Korean-style Jukkumi Bokkeum perfectly, so be sure to order it.
‘Wangsimni Gopchang Alley’ Full of Savory Aroma
When you enter Wangsimni Gopchang Alley, you will be hungry immediately due to the savory smell of grilled Gopchang/Grilled Beef or Pork Small Intestines. Gopchang Gui is a dish in which a cow's or pig's intestines are grilled. Although it does not look appetizing because it is an internal organ, it has a unique and savory taste, making it a food with a large fan base. Wangsimni Gopchang Alley was formed due to its geographical advantage of being nearby a livestock market. It made its name known by supplying and selling fresh Gopchang, Makchang/Tripe, and Daechang/Grilled Beef Large Intestines to workers. Therefore, you can taste the freshest and best quality Gopchang Gui here.
So Gopchang/Grilled Beef Small Intestines are grilled as they are, and Dwaeji Gopchang/Grilled Pork Small Intestines are seasoned and stir-fried with vegetables. Both are savory and delicious, but if you want to enjoy the original taste of Gopchang, So Gopchang is recommended. If you order Modeum Gui/Assorted Grilled Dish, parts such as Gopchang, Yang/Tripe, Yeomtong/Beef Heart, and Daechang/Grilled Beef Large Intestines are also served, so it is good to taste a variety of things. Gopchang grilled to a golden brown are soft and chewy. If you chew it a few times, the Juice inside will melt like cheese, giving your taste buds pleasure. It's very greasy and savory, so once you fall in love with it, you may love Gopchang more than regular meat. If you grill the mushrooms, potatoes, and onions served together or add seasoned chives and onion sauce, you can make it more delicious, so enjoy it in various ways.
Fun to Choose and Eat on the Spot, Experiencing Korean Markets
When you travel abroad, you can have fun by looking around local markets. This is because the market provides the best glimpse into the lifestyle and local food of the people in the country. Korea also has markets where you can experience Korea's unique culture and food. Here are three special markets where you can have fun looking around and eating on the spot.
Fun to See and Eat - Fresh Seafood - Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market opened in 1927 and has a history of nearly 100 years. It is a market specializing only in marine products, and it is a huge market that accounts for 50% of the trading volume in the metropolitan area. Because all marine products traded in Korea are gathered here, you can easily find various fish species that are difficult to taste at ordinary restaurants. There are various fish: fresh fish, aged raw fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and dried fish.
You can feel the lively atmosphere with merchants and customers bargaining, moving, and handling seafood in the market. If you are wondering which store to go to, just look at the color of the signboard of each store. It is convenient because the stores' signboards are color-coded by items they sell: blue is for fresh fish, light green is for aged raw fish, orange is for shellfish, and pink is for frozen seafood.
Seafood at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market can be purchased to go, but you can also eat it right away in the restaurant on the second floor. If you pay for the table setting, they cook your seafood the way you want. You can choose different cooking methods: raw, grilled, steamed, or stewed. The cooking cost is about 10,000 won per dish and may vary depending on the cooking method and restaurant.
For meals, fresh raw fish is recommended. Koreans usually eat fish as raw slices and boil the remaining by-products as Maeuntang/Spicy Fish Stew. If you are averse to eating raw, you can grill or steam it, and if you are not good at eating spicy food, you can also make 'jiri (non-spicy soup).'
The World's Largest Meat Market – Majang Meat Market
Majang Meat Market is the world's largest meat market, with over 2,500 stores and 2 million annual visitors. 60-70% of meat products distributed in the metropolitan area pass through this place. As a kind of wholesale market, you can buy meat at about 20-30% cheaper than in supermarkets. Most of the stores consist of restaurants specializing in Korean beef and pork, but there are also stores specializing in intestines, special parts, and imported meat.
Majang Meat Market has separate entrances in the east, west, south, and north directions, and a signboard with a 'cow' sculpture greets visitors. You can smell the savory meat from nearby restaurants when you get close to the market. Like Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, you can bring your own meat to the restaurant and eat it. There are many restaurants in the market, so you don't have to get lost, but if you still want a recommendation, it's a good idea to ask the owner when purchasing meat. There is also a restaurant called 'Meat Cooking Village' operated by the market cooperative, so look around and enter the place that attracts you.
When you take a seat at the restaurant, various side dishes and vegetables are provided as a basic table setting. Usually, meat is grilled over a charcoal fire, and the flavor of the meat becomes even better when the unique scent of charcoal is absorbed. It's very fresh, so it's delicious to eat it as it is or to wrap it with vegetables. When finished eating meat, Koreans have dessert. They prefer rice and Doenjang Jjigae/Soybean Paste Stew or Naengmyeon/Cold Buckwheat Noodles. The savory Doenjang Jjigae/Soybean Paste Stew makes you feel full, and the cold and chewy Naengmyeon/Cold Buckwheat Noodles makes your feel refreshed. Regarding Naengmyeon, you can have two options: Mul Naengmyeon with cool beef broth and Bibim Naengmyeon mixed with spicy seasoning.
If you find it difficult to purchase or want to eat seasoned meat instead, head to Majang-dong Beef Market Gourmand Alley, where you can find many restaurants. It's right next to the market, so it's easy to find, and you can eat there at a lower price than regular restaurants.
Fun to buy and eat with traditional currency ‘Yeopjeon’ – Tongin Market
Tongin Market is a traditional market with a history of over 100 years and is a comprehensive market that sells various foods, groceries, clothing, and miscellaneous goods. In particular, it sells a variety of foods such as Tteokbokki, Gimbap, Guksu/Noodles, Eomuk/Fish Cake, Dak Gangjeong/Deep-fried and Braised Chicken, and Dak Kkochi/Chicken Skewer, so it is an excellent place to look around and eat.
Tongin Market is famous because you can experience buying food with Yeopjeon, the traditional Korean currency. Yeopjeon can be exchanged at ‘Dosirak Cafe Tong’ located on the 2nd floor of the Customer Service Center in Tongin Market. Yeopjeon is counted in nyang, and 1 nyang is 500 won. You can get one bundle (10 nyang) for 5,000 won, and if you want to use it more, you can buy two bundles (20 nyang / 10,000 won).
After exchanging Yeopjeon, take the bowl and go to the market to buy food at a store affiliated with 'Dosirak Cafe Tong.' Tongin Market is famous for Oil Tteokbokki and Dak Kkochi/Chicken Skewer. Unlike ordinary Tteokbokki, Oil Tteokbokki is stir-fried rice cake on the lid of a cast-iron pot as if frying it, and the more you chew it, the more savory it tastes. Chicken skewers are cooked on the spot when you order, so the taste is good, and the ingredients are abundant, so it is a highly satisfying dish. In addition, there are many delicious and interesting menus, so fill your bowl as much as you want. Meals are available at 'Dosirak Café Tong,' where rice and soup can be purchased separately (Rice/soup 1,000 won each).
Dosirak Cafe Tong is open from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and Yeopjeon sells until 3:00 pm on weekdays and 4:00 pm on weekends. Please note that regular holidays are every Monday and the third Sunday of the month.
A pub where one can enjoy various traditional liquor in one place - Hottest Pubs for Traditional Liquor in Korea
Traditional Korean liquors encompass unrefined rice wine also known as makgeolli, clear and aromatic refined rice wine, and herbal liquors made by adding more ingredients to refined rice wine. All kinds of ingredients can be used, including malt and rice for authentic Korean liquors and wild grapes and peaches for fruit liquors.
Traditional Korean liquors only using traditional ingredients such as rice, malt, and water can vary to a great degree depending on what kind of brewing method is applied. They have different tastes, flavors, aromas, and alcohol proofs.
Recently, traditional Korean liquors are hot among Millennials and Generation Z who are attracted to something new and unfamiliar. They go even further beyond by learning how to make these liquors.
Numerous brewing companies have been collaborating with various brands to refresh their images, shifting their focus away from classicism or traditionalism. For example, Hangang Brewery, one of the important brewing companies in Korea, succeeded in getting the attention of those in their twenties or thirties. Draft unrefined rice wine called Pyomun Makgeolli was born out of collaboration with Gompyo Wheat Flour, recognized by younger generations for its retro vibes. Apart from these, Jikhyu Makgeolli created in collaboration with men’s magazine GQ also made a huge hit among the youth.
Bar Charm Offering Unique Traditional Korean Liquor Cocktails at a Hanok Bar
Bar Charm is a cocktail bar in the Seochon alley over the walls of Gyeongbokgung Palace. With a bartender assigned to each table, you will be able to try special cocktails made with traditional Korean liquors embodying the taste, charm, and stories of Korea. For example, ‘Hamyang’ is a type of cocktail made with Damsol, a traditional liquor from Hamyang, Gyeongsangnam-do. It is in perfect harmony with butter and ginger, coming with a roasted pinecone for a smoky aftertaste. Another example would be ‘My Sweet Orange Tree.’ Just as the title of this worldwide classic suggests, you will be able to enjoy a glass of orange-infused cocktail with extra sweetness.
Jungdamun Bossam, an Encounter Between Napa Wraps with Pork and Traditional Korean Liquors at a Peaceful Hanok
Jungdamun Bossam invites you to feel the essence of traditional Korean beauty by renovating a 120-year-old hanok in Bukchon Village with a contemporary touch. Once you step inside this place, a wooden desk with a variety of traditional Korean liquors against an empty wall will come into sight right away. In this beautiful hanok space, you will be able to enjoy one of the top must-try dishes in Korea, napa wraps with pork, and other special menus with seasonal ingredients such as sea pineapples and sea snails alongside various traditional Korean liquors including Bukchon-style unrefined rice wine, unrefined chestnut rice wine, and draft Tiger Calyx unrefined rice wine.
Namsan Sool Club, a Korean Traditional Liquor Curating Bar Run by a Cheerful Foreign Sommelier
At Namsan Sool Club with a wonderful liquor collection constantly being updated, you can enjoy dozens of draft traditional Korean liquors. What is unique about this place is that it does not have a menu. Bartenders will offer you customized liquor curation services depending on your mood, atmosphere, and preferences.
Learn, drink, have fun! - Brewery Experience
In Korea, pungnyu (loving and enjoying the arts) has long been considered a righteous behavior of seonbi (virtuous scholar). You cannot discuss pungnyu without mentioning liquors. Traditional Korean liquors have evolved over a thousand years into present-day forms, always served at all kinds of banquets and feasts.
Traditional Korean liquors are rice-based, unlike fruit-based Western wines and spirits. If you want to make alcohol from grains instead of fruits that naturally ferment on their own, you need malt. Thus, the quality of malt defines the taste of liquors.
Another important ingredient is water. Korea has clean and clear water more abundant than in any other country in the world, which can be attributed to enhancing the unique flavors and tastes of the original ingredients.
Taking a tour of a brewery and making traditional liquor can be a rare and meaningful opportunity for those of you visiting Korea. You will be able to enjoy K-food to the fullest when it is paired with the traditional liquor you make by yourself.
Bae & Brewing Co. (Sansawon) Following the Legacy of Liquor Masters and Promoting the Korean Drinking Culture
Bae & Brewing Co. is one of Korea’s most famous breweries named after late Bae Sangmyeon, a master of liquors, who founded the traditional Korean liquor brand Kooksoondang. It has been developing and producing traditional Korean liquors for over two generations. If you visit its traditional liquor museum, Sansawon, you will be able to have a glimpse of how master Bae Sangmyeon contributed to amending relevant laws to promote the traditional Korean liquor industry and incubating different fungi to find the best malt.
After looking around the museum, you will be able to taste a variety of traditional Korean liquors in one place. You will have a lot of choices to choose from such as unrefined rice wine, clear rice wine, herbal liquors, and fruit liquors made by carefully using various methods of brewing. If you have paid the admission fee, you will be given a free bottle of unrefined rice wine and options to purchase a variety of liquors including the ones only available at Sansawon.
Sansawon is a beautiful and peaceful place to drink in the natural scenery. Particularly, Sewollang, a spirits warehouse in a wide-open, outdoor space at Sansawon is a famous photo spot you might want to visit.
Together Brewery Leading the Latest Trends in Traditional Liquors
Together Brewery presents unique unrefined rice wines by incorporating six more ingredients into its traditional method of brewing. Six Yeonhui Liquors containing mint, melon, citron, black tea, plum blossom, and illicium verum stimulate the taste bud of the younger generations and foreigners with their rich, abundant flavors while sticking to the traditional method of brewing.
Unlike most breweries located in affordable small towns with a large area, Together Brewery is in Hapjeong-dong, Seoul, one of the places most visited by people in their 20s and 30s and foreign tourists. It is to offer a variety of traditional Korean liquors just around the corner.
You can make a reservation for the traditional liquor & cocktail tour on NAVER with a fee of KRW 65,000. The tour last for two hours and consists of two parts: liquor-making and cocktail-tasting. Particularly, liquor-making is perfect for foreign tourists because it is easy to follow despite the language barrier. As part of this tour, you will be able to observe malt, the key element in traditional liquors with a microscope and take home the unrefined rice wine you make on your own. Five glasses of cocktail served by a bartender are also what-not-to-miss.