Showing posts from November, 2014

The Seoul Eats List of Best Noodles in Korea

Yurimmyeon I love noodles and so do most Koreans. Noodles in Korean culture are symbolic of prosperity, wealth, long life, marriage and festivities. Noodles like chanchi guksu are usually eating at wedding banquets to mark the occasion. In the past, eating wheat was a luxury so it usually marked a special occasion. There are a number of really famous noodle places in Korea. These places usually have a very long history and most of them make the noodles in house. There are also a number of young upstarts that are trying to establish something new. Here is my list of my favorite noodle places in Korea. Note: The list is evolving since restaurants close all the time or move in Korea. Also, my ranking may move my favorite restaurants up or down the list. Now with a convenient Map! Here is the link for the map!  13: Ojangdong Heungnamjip: A famous place for chewy Ojangdong-style buckwheat noodles. Their famo

Weiguk Problems: Nostalgia is expensive

A little taste of Florida for breakfast. A bit expensive for nostalgia in Korea though, 10,000 won for a quart. #florida #korea 

Noryangjin Fish Market and Melon Bingsu

Today was a good food day. I was joined by some friends from Singapore so we did a bit of food exploring and eating. First stop was at noryangjin fish market to eat the best of the  sea. Since it was raining today the market wasn't so crowded. Koreans have a superstition about the rain and seafood. The belief is that the seafood at the market isn't as fresh on rainy days. Sure that was the case long ago when fishermen wouldn't venture out when it rained but it is not the case these days.  As you can see, all was fresh and was swimming not long before we had it cooked. The best of the market these days is the yellowtail and the flower crabs. We had the crabs made into a soup and the yellowtail braised in a garlic chili sauce.  We finished the meal with a dessert of melon patbingsu. It was a good food day. 

The Best Thai Restaurants in Seoul

Curry from Yum Thai Pad Thai from Yum Thai Our Meal at Wang Thai Curry from Wang Thai I love Thai food, real Thai food. Yes, I have been spoiled by my visits to Thailand because I know what real Thai food tastes like. Plus, I worked in an Asian restaurant run by a my Thai friend Winston Chinupakat. Winston! When I eat Thai, I want the harmony of sour, spicy, herbs and pungency. I want Pad Thai noodles that taste light with a hints tamarind, lime, fish sauce and peanut. This is usually not the case in Korea. When my pad Thai tastes like sweet peanut butter noodles, I put down my fork and ask for the bill. I know that complaining in Korea won't solve anything because they will tell me that is how their "Korean clients" like it. Koreans like fake Thai food? I don't agree. Thai food has become high-end cuisine in Korea and there are a number of fancy places perfect for the date-set crowds. There are also some hole-in-the wall places that ar

Food Story: Korean Soondubu

My First Soondubu When I lived in Gyeongju, one of my good friends Jikyung wanted to introduce me to the best restaurants in the city. She was fiercely proud of her hometown. She is a food connoisseur and thought that life was too short to eat bad food. One of the first places she took me to was at a famous soondubu place in Gyeongju’s Bomun lake resort area. This restaurant, Metdol Soondubu, was a landmark restaurant and it always had at least a 30 minute wait for a table. Jikyung assured me that it was worth it. The inside was quaint with wooden floor tables all around and the interior was a Korean hanok (traditional) style. The table was empty except for some container with some sauce and there was a little bowl of brown shelled eggs. Jikyung and I had a busy day hiking so I was a tad peckish. Jikyung had gone to the bathroom. So I thought, “ok, these hard-boiled eggs must be the appetizer.” I took one of the eggs cracked it on the table and I discovered the egg was raw. This egg st

Be Patient Please

I am doing a little redesign of the site and moving links over so please be a little patient. Cheers, Dan

Food Tours in Korea

Korean Food Truck Deep Insights into Korean Food Korean Vegetarian Buddhist Cuisine Korean Royal Court Cuisine From 2010-2015, I worked as tour and marketing director for a food company in Korea. I was recently funded to do a start-up tour and events company by a group of Americans and Koreans ( iFamily ). Our company is focused on offering deep insights and one of a kind experiences.  Our food tour service is called Delectable Travels. Find me on our website at Right now we are in the development stages but if you would like to inquire about a Korean Food Insights Tour, Ultimate Food Tour, Group Food Tour or other services such as business consulting, please contact me at dnlgray @ gmail dot com for find us on our website at Delectable Travels is the startup food tour company which is partnered with iFamily, one of the large wedding and events company in Korea. It is funded via a venture group in Americ

Chunshin Poja: Great Chinese Steamed Dumplings in Insadong

Also called Siopao, this is a famous shop in Insadong.

Seoul Eats Favorites Map

Korean Food Story: Pork Belly

In Korea, be you young or old, rich or poor, or male or female; the universally adored food is pork belly BBQ with side dishes of kimchi, fresh leaves for wrapping, and a chilled shot of soju to wash it all down.   Many foreign visitors that I have met think that samgyeopsal is just bacon (or rashers in England) and they believe this meat to be very low grade. After all, statistics from the US Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) suggest that people in the lower-income bracket tend to suffer from obesity more often than the rich. I have even seen some foreign guests cut off the fat off pork belly and throw it away. In Korea, this is a definite “No-no.” 
I usually explain to such guests that Korean pork is much different from pork in other countries. The taste, the marbling, the smell, and texture of the meat are all quite different. Plus, the thick cuts of pork belly are neither salt cured nor seasoned. In addition, the pork belly is usually cooked on a cast iron hot plate or a stone

Korean Food Story: Rice

The food that should be on every table in Korea is a bowl of hot rice. Rice is the centerpiece of the meal. Throughout history, the simple bowl of grains has been the driving force behind the economy and the reason for, and the cause of revolutions and social change.  When Korea tried to open up trade agreements to other countries, rice was a battle cry for farmers to protest the agreements. Ultimately, they were able to put restrictions on the amount of foreign imports allowed. Plus it maintained the Korean perception that Korean rice is unique and preferable to other nation’s rice. Korean rice is a short grained rice that is sticky. Korean short grained rice seems stickier and has a poppy bite compared to other nations’ rice that I have tried. It definitely has more bite than a jasmine, basmati, or Chinese long grain rice. I would say it has a chew that is similar to risotto.  The flavor of the rice is bright and with a clean aroma. The rice goes very well with Korean foods such as k

Korean Food Story: Noodles, Noodles (and Mandu)

Koreans love noodles. Actually, I think all cultures love noodles. But in Korea noodles are more than just a meal, it is a reason to celebrate. When I was a little boy in Korea, my mother would to a Chinese restaurant to eat a delicious meal noodles topped with black bean sauce(jajangmyeon) on my birthday. To this day, I still remember the loud smacking sound of the dough slamming on the table as the chef made the chewy noodles by hand. I still think black noodles are better than cake. I also remember the winter days when my mother would take flour, water and some oil to make noodles that she would cut by hand and boil in a clam broth. I would often beg my mother to make this simple noodle soup dish. She told me if I was good, she would make it for me. I would be good so I could watch my mother roll out the dough and cut the noodles with a sharp knife. Even today, noodles are an important part of the culture. I can’t count how many times, I have seen Korean dramas have the stars cook o

Reviews: Who has the Best Kebap in Itaewon?

When I have the time and make it into Itaewon to handout, it usually involves drinking, eating, drinking and then kebabs. Sunday night had kebab at two places: Pasha and Anakara Picnic (I had not been in Itaewon in a while so i decided to indulge. I guess you could say it is one of my last indulgences because I really have to go on a diet soon according to my doctor, but that is a story for another time. Anyway, the kebabs.  At Pasha, I had the chicken and it was good. veggies were crispy. I thought the chicken was well spiced but a tad on the dry side. The yogurt sauce at Anakara picnic is better in my opinion.  At Anakara Picnic, I had the lamb kebab. It was great. The lamb was moist and flavorful. I really like the veggie medley and pickles at Anakara. I think it just seems fresher. Also the sauce has a bit more lemon tang.  Ok, so the other places I love in Itaewon is Sultan Kebab and Mr. Kebab. Sultan is the original and still one the best. Mr. Kebab is good if none of the other p

Review: Burgers and Taters at Left Coast Burgers

There is no shortage of "gourmet" burger joints in Korea. However few truly live up to the bill. Left Coast was inspired by California, USA to make Asian-inspired soul food.  They have surprisingly gourmet accompaniments to their burgers such as homemade tater tots, kalbi fries (Korean short rib fries) and mac and cheese (mmm...mac'n cheese). On the burger front, they have three different types which are all made from freshly ground beef, handmade sauces, and served on their own homemade buns.  The tangy and robust John Wayne Burger topped with melted sharp cheddar and crunchy onion rings is a taste of the American west. My favorite was the Juicy Lucy: a burger stuffed with American Cheese and cooked till the cheese is oozy. For those looking for something a little different, I would recommend getting the Little Piggy Bao Bun which has uber-savory pork belly topped with a sweet, tart sauce and a vinegary Asian slaw. The space is clean and slick and the open kitchen elevat

Review: Decent Indian Food at Indoro in Insadong

The idea that a decent non-Korean restaurant to exist on the traditional area of Insadong seems like a paradox. You go to Insadong to eat Korean food after all. There is a terrible Indian place on the main drag which I despise to this day. It is the worst. Anyway... Recently Indoro restaurant has opened near the main drag down from McDonalds.  The place has a modern, festive interior and it offers a sanctuary in its 2nd floor local. The festa colored tables go with the Indian music and the Bollywood videos playing.  The menu is extensive and moderately priced. You can get a palak paneer for 12,000 won or a lamb vindaloo for 15,000 won.  The last time I came, I thought the dishes to be flavorful but a bit salty. So how was it this time?  Very good and well balance.  My wife and I ordered the Vegetable Thali for 14,000 won and a Mutton Rogan Josh for 15,000 won. The vegetable had 3 different curries, a naan, a roti, rice and mango chutney. Surprisingly, all were tasty especially the toma

Activities: Bau Dog Cafe!

If you like dogs and want to spend an afternoon petting over 25 different dogs then you should head over to Bau House Dog Cafe. The spacious cafe has a feeling of love as dogs prance around and are loved by the many patrons that come. The place has an energetic feel and the place is surprisingly clean as the many staff are constantly cleaning up after spittle and numbers 1 and 2.  The rules are:  1. You should order 1 drink per person (6,000-8,000 won each)  2. You can bring your own dog but you should take care of him or her and make sure they behave.  3. You can only feed the dogs snacks bought at the cafe.  Other tips, they offer daycare for your pet as well! Bau House Dog Cafe Dropped Pin near 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (64 Yanghwa-ro)

Story: How I became a 35 year old Dishwasher

The first job I had when I was 15 years old was as a dishwasher at a pancake restaurant. Since then I have run a catering business, been a barista and a bartender. I have worked as a teacher, a marketer and a business owner. So at 35 why am I washing dishes? I don't know really, but I can tell you washing dishes does give perspective. I am not better than my employees nor my cook. I am the same and I do what needs to be done as part of a team. Sure, that is what I tell myself. But seriously, why am I washing dishes? In my time I have also built several successful businesses for my employers and now I am the main owner of this somewhat successful pizza shop. I guess it is because it needs to get done. If I can do this well then I can do other things well and hopefully people will respect me. The dishes keep on coming though and I am like, "haven't I made it yet?" I started the restaurant because I wanted to try it. The business plan seemed right and I had the extra mon

Story: Glamping at the Public Pools

Korea, it's hot outside. I mean today it was a toast 27 C degrees (80  F). I was our at one of the public pools by mangwon and I was melting and cooking in the sun. Seriously, I was dying. All I wanted to do was crawl into a freezer and shut the door.  First of all, Korean pools are madhouses. I mean it's like Lord of the Flies out there. Sure it is a public pool but you have to fight for space and respect among the elements. The smart Koreans get there early and they bring their own tents. I mean lots of tents. There are umbrellas there to shade those that aren't into "glamping" however, those with tents will take the umbrellas and use them to shade their shaded tents. You'll see families with a little compound of a large tent with three tents over the tent to keep them from getting burned. Korea, seriously, give the umbrellas that didn't bring tents. Share a little. Don't worry, North Korea is contained. The IMF is passed. Also, those working at the

Review: The Abomination of what they call a meal at Kofoo

Oh, Korea, you know that I love you. I love the down-home, authentic Korean food you serve. I love how you will share the whole gamut of flavors and cooking techniques in a single meal.  When you make Korean Food.  Yeah. Korean food in Korea is great. I mean really great. Sometimes other cuisines, not so much.  Korea, I would like to talk about the abomination of the meal that I had at Kofoo food. I should have suspected it as going to be bad when I discovered that the name of the place meant, "Korean Food" yet they served Italian. Korea, I would also like to state that I wanted to eat soup and rice like a good Korean, but my wife wanted Italian (in retrospect, I will try to make the dish at home because I don't need to pay 20,000 for a pasta unless it is fresh made and has gold flakes and stuff).  Anyway, so my wife ordered the vongole that was overly salty but did have nice clams (I think they over salted the water and then added more salt before service). I ordered the

Trends: Lee Hyori's Lentils

Korea is the land if foodies and the people and the media are constantly talking about food. The focus of the food is how it is trendy and new or the health benefits it has. There has been a backlash against power bloggers as they are being criticized by the "netizens (Korean Citizens on the net and...they are very different on the net than online. It's where many Koreans let their Mr. Hyde out.). Some of these power bloggers get paid thousands of dollars to endorse a product or restaurant.  In the past many Korean people would quickly search for a restaurant by searching for an area and writing 맛집 (restaurant) and picking up the results. The problem is that power bloggers are taking up all the search terms.  It is actually quite easy to find bloggers and invite them to restaurants and starting (therefore hungry) bloggers (those with 800-2000 visitors a day) can easily be invited for a free meal or "taxi" fare (20-50,000 won). As this abuse of the net is happening,

Rant: Microwaved Bagels and Other Food Crimes

I Love Korea for the most part but some aspects really peeve me off especially when in the morning. I love western breakfast and it is so hard to get a decent one here that doesn't cost me 12 usd for some eggs, Hashbrowns and some fricken bacon. Geez... Anyway, Dunkin Donuts really peeved me off today. I just wanted a bagel because I wanted to make a turkey sandwich (the fricken bakeries don't open early in my area and I don't want bread from a convenience store because it usually has margarine or sweet peanut butter in it...another food crime). I brought my own turkey from home and I asked the girl from dnd to slice the bagel. She asked if I wanted it in half (vertically)...((no... Who the heck does that!!)) grrr. She asked me if I wanted it heated. I was like sure. 30 seconds later I got a soft, hot, mushy bagel. Food crimes happen all the time in Korea. I shared this with the Seoul Eats Facebook group and many personal stories of food crimes others have experienced here

Dessert: New York Cheesecake at Cheolsan Station

I am with my wife over by Cheolsan station having a coffee break with my wife and we found a decent cake shop. The interior is clean and the cake is tasty. I know the name says New York cheesecake but it is more Asian-style. What I mean is that it is lighter. Luckily it does taste cheesecake-esque. My wife wanted the crepe cake so we got that. It was OK. A tad dry. The chocolate-layered cheesecake was really good. It was light and fluffy with creamy cheese cake icing. It's nice to know you can get decent cheesecake outside of Seoul. New York cheesecake Gyeonggi-do Gwangmyeong cheolsandong 526 [네이버 지도] 경기도 광명시 철산동 526, <a href=""></a>

Trends: 2014 Food Trends in Korea

1. Corn is becoming a big import as a snack and it is being imported from Thailand and Vietnam. Korea has always enjoyed boiled corn as a snack but local corn prices have been going up and much of it is being exported. Foreign corn (except from China) are seen as exotic and corn on a stick covered in Butter, cheese and spices is and grilled is becoming a popular restaurant item and street food.  2.  Waffles on a stick: This is emerging as a new snack at major social hubs as a street food. The waffle is topped with whipped cream and toppings. It's just a new iteration of the waffle sandwich. I don't think this will last beyond the season.  3. The Selfie Stick: Everyone and their mother has a selfie stick these days and it is the must have social-outing accessory. The trend is that Koreans want the convenience of the stick and it is a "uniform" that lets others know they are out to have fun. The selfie stick is much more convenient than a tripod and the trend is moving

Food Story: Korean Meals at Home

The other day my wife and I invited our mother to go out to eat. I thought it would be a special treat for her since she prepares many meals for us.  We didn't get the expected response. Our mother was offended that I had suggested that we eat outside for a normal meal. She said we should eat at home.  Home meals in Korea symbolize family in Korea. The patriarch takes great pride in preparing the meals and when the family eats and enjoys the food. Well, at least it is the case with my mother. It would have been better for me to bring some high quality ingredients to her such as fruit, vegetables or meat and have her prepare the food. When I cook, I need to have this same pride and respect for my family's health. Food is not just food. Out meals are representative of our current state. How are we all doing? How is our health? How is our financial situation? My mother and I had a long talk yesterday about different country's food cultures and their perceptions of food. The wa

Review: Where's the Tabouli at Hummus Kitchen

Last night the wife and I went out to Itaewon for a date night. So we did a little food crawl through Itaewon. First stop was Hummus Kitchen. We planned on going to a few more places so we got their signature salad platter which was a gaudy 21,000 won.  It had a sampling of their signature dishes like Hummus, yogurt, falafel, and salad and (wtf) a peach-like chutney.  First of all the hummus was quite good: smooth and balanced with garlic and lemon.  Their spicy hummus was too spicy to enjoy the texture of the hummus. Their yogurt were thick and the falafel were amazing. I will have to come back to get a falafel in the future. This would been a great starter of it weren't for the salad. It was a green salad with balsamic dressing. It just didn't go with the dish. It was a bit overpowering. I mean a tabouli or a simple lemon and oil salad would have worked but the sticky sweet dressing didn't jive.  Also the chutney was too sweet. Finally pita were too small and thin so they

Review and Trend: Churros

Churros are so hot right now. They are last season's Bubble Tea and the season's before's lemonade. They are essentially hotteok that is a stick that is easy to eat on the go. Churros will have a thousand copycats and only one or two will survive. The survivors might even franchise.  The guys at Street Churros have the stuff to make it and let me tell you why. They are: 1. Young and hungry 2. They understand social media 3. They differentiate enough to make themselves stand out.  4. They have good sauces 5. They seem to offer lots of free "service" but they aren't really.  Let me explain.  1. Being Young and hungry makes young people want to come. Most Koreans I know all dream of owning their own place and this is a way of living vicariously through others while secretly thinking of copying them and starting their own venture. Old people want to feel young so they will also stop in as well. Plus, in Korea, a crowd always draws a crowd.  2. Social media: They a

Review: Julio's Somewhat Mexican Cuisine

Julios is a popular Mexican-themed restaurant in Korea. They have 4 locations that I know of and they were one of the Mexican food-trend leaders here like 5 years ago. I remember going to their first location by Gangnam Station and being pleasantly impressed. It tasted "authenticish." These days Mexican food has upped their game with restaurants such as Vatos, Coreanos, and Gusto Taco. Julios is no longer leading the trend, but following, and they are trying to maintain the flavor profile their Korean clientele expect.  The results are a train wreck-mishmash that is Korean/Mexican-esque with a bit of Cajun and a bit of Italian. Yeah, they need a chef to come in and right this ship.  Let me explain There was a Cajun hot sauce at the table and Italian dressing on my salad that had shredded cheddar and Reggiano? Cheese. My pork tacos were dry and the pork was flavorless. My wife's enchilada was more of a rice roll smothered in tangy tomato sauce and cheese. The enchilada was

Cafe Review: Steamers Coffee Factory

I grew up in America and that means that I want my coffee early in the morning and not at 10am when it seems most Korean cafes like to open. I like to have my coffee a bit later on Sunday's but I still want it before 8am. Steamers Coffee Factory has very impressive facilities. They brag on their cup that they have : "2 Roasters, 3 Coffee machines, 3 coffee machines, and 8 Baristas." That's great but I don't know when you can get all that great coffee. Sorry but cafes should be reliable dispensaries of caffeine. Because, I need it! Argh!  Anyway, their coffee is robust and delicious. I mean really good and it should be at 8,000 won for a hand drip. The first day I just had an espresso and I have to admit it was one of the best ones I have had in a while. It had nice creama and balanced tannins; it reminded me of Portland. I went back and had an Americano and that was also great except for the leaky lid. That sorta pissed me off because the lid is one of those new f

Review: Lamb and Cheesecake at Twiga

I was lucky enough to be invited to the South African restaurant Twiga by the owner. It is located behind the Crown Hotel and across from the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Located on the 5th floor, it doesn't seem like a restaurant at all but a dinner party at a friend's condo.  On the evening, we were greeted by the owner's very cute daughter who decided to sit at our table to play with her "My Little Pony" and draw. Normally, I would find this quite distracting but she was so cute that we didn't mind the entertainment.  The owner, Vanita, offered us menus and told us they were currently doing a bit of retooling. She said they were prepping brunch soon but for dinner she had some choice recommendations. We ordered the lamb chops that were topped with some micro greens and over risotto. The lamb chops were massive, juicy and grilled just right (27,000 won). The creamy risotto also went well with the dish and I enjoyed the bit of greenery on top for the dish was so ri

Review: 50/fifty: A Restaurant in Dire Need of even Half a Concept

As a food writer and restauranteur, the rise and fall of restaurants fascinate me. I can usually tell within a few visits if a restaurant will be successful or not. Most restaurants I see these days make fatal flaws that are hard to recover from. The biggest problem is usually rent and the startup costs which leaves nothing for operations afterwards. Concepts and Locations are also main factors. It seems like many restauranteurs have an "all in" plan and when customers call their bluff they quickly fold.  Fifty, 50, is located by Jongno 3ga exit 6 and it is on the main drag right in the heart of the tent dining district. They started as a dining lounge and dance club. This concept failed and after 2 months they reopened as a chicken and beer place featuring craft beer.  The problem is that they don't have craft beers on draft and their chicken is greasy and chips undercooked. Maybe it was because it wasn't busy, but when it isn't busy, shouldn't the cooks put

A Transition

It's been almost a decade of living in Korea and it has been good so far. I guess it has been also ten years of getting older, making and losing friends, working, changing jobs, etc. It's life after all. It has been good so far and I appreciate the patience it has given me. At times I feel like a lost child in Korea but somehow I find my way. I think it was my lack of direction and naivety that has been my foot in the door.  Anyway, I need to get back to my roots and I need to be more real. I worked in a very academic environment for several years. It made me learn a lot and it is nice to be in school. The problem is that I have too much ambition and I like to see things happen.  Anyway, next year is exciting to me. I have a family that depends on me and I need to do well for them. Let's get real.  Also, I need to start focusing on my health. This is day 5 without a drink (I read you need 2 weeks for the liver to restore itself). I am making that effort and I have been exer