Delicious Seoul Scenes

Here are a few things I’ve been doing in Seoul for the last 2 weeks…

Pollock stew (생태찌개 – saeng tae jji gae) in a brass pot cooked at the table.  Once ignored as a reminder of the hard times, this type of thin brass pots and bowls called yang-pun (양푼) made a comeback as a nostalgic memento in Korea.  I love how Korean stews can be so hearty and refreshing at the same time, and having pollock-in-season as the main ingredient only makes it better.


Thanks to Joshua of Wine Korea, I had a chance to DIY grilled clams over briquettes.  Clams were fresh, fire was hot, and it was actually a lot of work, true to the meaning of do-it-yourself.  It was made truly unique with a bottle of Chardonnay poured in proper wine glasses, courtesy of Joshua.


I was back at Baru, where Korean temple cuisine is served in course meals.  Above is beoseot gangjeong (버섯 강정), crispy mushrooms in spicy-sweet glaze.  This is a dish that would make everyone – vegetarian or not – happy.


A new duck dish at Jung Sik Dang, it tastes as good as it looks pretty on the plate, if that’s possible.  Every morsel on this plate adds to the whole with its flavor and texture.


Jujube tea at a tea house in Insadong.  Jujubes, a.k.a., Chinese dates (대추- dae chu) or red dates are used in traditional medicine in Korea, but don’t let that scare you away.  These are naturally sweet and known to soothe your mood.  After walking a long way in the cold, I think a cup of hot, sweet jujube tea would work for everyone.


I could never get tired of street food – mini kimbap, tteokbokki and fish cakes (어묵 – eo muk) in Gwangjang Market (광장 시장 – gwang jang shi jang).


I’m being a tourist in my own city and I’m finding new angles and details I overlooked before.  I don’t remember much about my childhood field trips to palaces in Seoul, but this time, I was in awe in the secret garden (후원 – hu won) behind Changdeok Palace (창덕궁).


Gilsangsa (길상사) is a Buddhist temple in Seongbukdong (성북동).  The site and some of the original buildings were donated by the owner of what used to be an exclusive restaurant to the Venerable Beopjeong, one of the most beloved Buddhist monks in Korea.  Beopjeong seunim (스님 – Buddhist monk) later spent his last days here before he passed away in 2010.  Not only does the temple sit on a picturesque site, I found another little pleasures of this temple.  There are short messages and teachings of the late Beopjeong sunim found in random places in the temple.  Here is one.

우리가 인생에서
참으로 소중한 것은
어떤 사회적인 지위나
신분, 소유물이 아니다.
우리들 자신이 누구인지를
아는 일이다.
– 법정 스님 –

In life,
a truly precious thing is
not any specific social status,
class, or things we own.
It is to know
who we are ourselves.
– Beopjeong Seunim –


I was off to Chuncheon (춘천) for a day trip.  I think it was about -15C (5F) that day, or at least it felt like one.  Still, when I got to Soyang River Dam (소양강 댐), the view just opened my eyes and my mind.


…and here are my pickings from the farmers market in Chuncheon.  Clockwise from the the top left, sea water tofu, dallae (달래 – small wild onion, Allium monanthum), naeng i (냉이 – Capsella bursapastoris ), godeul bbaegi (고들빼기 – Crepidiastrum sonchifolium), announcing the arrival of spring.


Back in Seoul, I helped a friend with the new menu for his cafe/bar.  Look out for the new bruschetta plate at 1950 hotel in Shinsadong (신사동) Garosugil (가로수길).


Spending time in tourist sites in winter means…that you’re spending your day in the cold.  Really cold.  But it also keeps many others indoors, which allows you to take it slow and notice the remaining snow on the tiled roof at Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁).  The sun came out for a few minutes before it hid itself for the rest of the day, and there was a perfect minute of silence before others joined in for the view.


Gwanghwamun (광화문), the main entrance to Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁), was reopened in 2010 after renovation.  I guess I wouldn’t have walked by Gwanghwamun at this hour if I lived in Seoul.  Gwanghwamun came a little closer and real to me this time.


Ssamjigil (쌈지길) in Insadong is a complex of cute shops selling traditional, kitchy, fun, random stuff like teas, T-shirts, plates and hats.


Cheong-gye-cheon (청계천) is a stream running through the middle of the busy office and tourist districts in Seoul.  Looking down the water feels rather cold during the day, but evening lights seem to warm it up a bit.

Bukchon Hanok Maeul (북촌 한옥 마을) is a hilly neighborhood lined with traditional houses.  Although I had been here before, I decided to take a detour on my way to dinner that evening.  How glad I was to go the long way instead of rushing to a meeting like I usually do.

That’s what I have for now.  I’m spending my last couple of days in Seoul with my family and wrapping things up.  I’m not really sure how I’ll organize hundreds of photos I took, but I hope to tell you somewhat coherent, interesting stories through those photos soon.  But I’ll worry about that when I get back to New York.

Korea Trip – First Update
Trip to Korea – Part 1, 2010
Trip to Korea – Part 2, 2010
Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌 한옥 마을), 2010


Restaurant: Korean BBQ Plus!, Concord, Calif.

Kimchi Dakgalbi


5 thoughts on “Delicious Seoul Scenes”

  1. I learned a fun new Korean phrase for refreshing that can be used at the jjimjilbang or when you’re eating “hearty and refreshing” Korean food: 시원하다!

    And speaking of tea and tea houses in Insadong, a Korean friend told me about one of her favorites, 지대방 (Jidaebang, it’s across the street from one of the “dragon’s beard” candy makers) with great atmosphere and some delicious teas. Their green plum tea is good, although it’s not remarkable, in my opinion. However, what is amazing is their fermented pine needle tea (I don’t know the Korean for it, but fortunately the menu is also in English.). It’s amazing! It’s an iced tea, and it may not sound like a great choice when the weather is cold, but when I’m there (about 5 times so far by myself and with friends and family), I just have to have it, it’s too interesting and delicious to pass up.

    • Maybe you’re talking about Insadong Tea House (Insadong Chatjip 인사동 찻집)? It’s my favorite tea house there, and I love their hot pine needle tea. It’s like drinking a Christmas tree.

      • I’ll have to try the hot pine needle tea too, that sounds great! The place I’ve been too (about 5 times now 🙂 is definitely 지대방. I’ll go to Insadong Chatjip when it’s cool outside, Jidaebang when it’s sweltering.

  2. Hi Colin,
    I used to think ‘시원하다’ such an old man’s expression, but I’ve come to appreciate it – it’s hard to get that ‘hearty’ and ‘refreshing’ feeling in one bite, but many Korean stews do that for you.  

    There are quite a few nice tea houses in Insadong, and now you’re telling me about Jidaebang, I’m sorry I missed it.  My go-to tea at a traditional tea house is jujube tea, especially the dark, cloudy, thick ones because it takes effort to make it and I love it that way.  But maybe I can try pine needle tea at Jidaebang (and even at Insadong Chatjip) next time I’m in Korea.  Thanks for the tip!  
    Btw, I found the fermented pine tree tea at Jidaebang is called ‘솔바람차 (sol ba ram cha – breeze of pine needle tea), such a poetic name!  The general term for fermented pine needle tea is called 발효 (bal hyo – fermented) 솔잎차 (sol yip cha – pine needle tea).  Try ordering it in Korean next time, maybe you’ll get a smile out of the server! ^_^

    • I do like the concept of “시원하다,” especially as it applies to spicy and invigorating food, and yes, Korea has a lot of it! I’m also looking forward to using it when I ease myself into a hot tub at a jjimjilbang. I’d be very surprised if that doesn’t bring a smile to the face of the other guys in the hot tub. And then “개운하다” as I’m leaving the jjimjilbang will certainly make them laugh.That is a beautiful name for the tea. I’ll will definitely use it next time. Thank you!


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