Photoblog: Street Food in Seoul

Posted on November 15, 2010 by

As a traveler strangely obsessed with food, I am drawn to the vibrant culinary scene in Seoul. It comes as no surprise that within 10 steps into Seoul’s raucous streets, I am instantly hooked. BBQ red meat glow under the bright neon lights, while live seafood wriggle with vigor before being dished up onto platters. Street-side food stalls are splashed in a kaleidoscope of colors – from various shades of red to green, yellow and brown. Eating is evidently treated as a serious affair in Korea – some say it’s the number two national sport, after football.

Streetside seafood stall in Namdaemun

Street Food in Namdaemun

Almost every district in Seoul has a street food stall tucked within a corner. Whether you are shopping in Hong-dae, sightseeing at Gyeongbok or hang out in Myeongdong, there’ll be rows upon dizzying rows of food stalls to curb your craving. Even when staying in top boutique hotels, the minute you step out onto the street, everything morphs into an underworld of Bohemia, brightly colored streets laced with a plethora of food stalls. As one of the biggest cities in the world, Seoul somehow has found a balance of celebrating internationalism, while staying true to the unique culture that is very much its own. One particular place best for streetside seafood is Namedaemun Market.

Street food hawker in Seoul

At Namdaemun, there are endless choices of octopus fried with glass noodles and raw oysters. I was particularly addicted to the giant oyster drenched in a sweet piquant bean sauce. I could barely stop at 2, but I knew I had to reserve some stomach space for other delish dishes.

Street food stall in Namdaemun

These white springy intestine-lookalikes pictured above are known as odeng, actually boiled fish cake, juicy and savory, excellent for winter bites. Another popular street-side dish is the tteokbokki, rice cakes dipped in a rich sweet spicy sauce.

Cooking by the street Seoul 

Local friends including fellow travel blogger RunawayJuno  bring me on a food hunt. In the dark alleys of Hong-dae area, a popular university student’s haunt, we stumble across several seafood stalls. Here you see an delectable dish of glass noodles fried with octopus, and the picture below that shows fresh scallops drenched in a crisp soya sauce-based gravy.

Octopus glass noodles by the streets 

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An alley across my hostel in Hongik University area springs a surprise on me as I observe this street hawker at work in his tiny van. The cheese buns he is roasting up is soft, tender and extremely flavorful – reminiscent of European crepes but characteristically Korean.

A food truck hawker selling cheese buns

  For lunch, I share a table with local office workers. They watch in awe as I order one item after another, and gobble them all up in a satisfying slurp.

Streetside topoki stall 

BBQ Meat skewers in Hong-dae, Seoul 

After a round of soju drinks, we finish the night off with a nibble at this street food stall in Hong-dae. The crispy deep-fried rice rolls and prawns are thrown into the rich, sassy spicy sauce and then cut up into little chunks, perfect for a pre-hangover cure.

Streetside food in Hong-dae, Seoul

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

18 Responses to “Photoblog: Street Food in Seoul”

  1. ciki November 15, 2010 4:24 pm #

    amazing shots and a great write up.. do i see more? LOL:D bummed you didn't make your trip next week so i can meet u as well!

  2. Erica November 15, 2010 5:48 pm #

    *drool* I love octopus so much. These pictures are beautiful.

  3. ayngelina November 15, 2010 11:20 pm #

    There is nothing better than street food, great photos!

  4. Anil November 16, 2010 1:45 am #

    So much variety; I wish I could jump into these pictures.

  5. Nellie November 18, 2010 12:59 am #

    Thanks guys for the kind words! The colors of the food are just stunning arent they? I absolutely loved scouring through the streets of Seoul for these extraordinary eats. ;)

  6. Nathan November 26, 2010 2:24 pm #

    what great pics – really makes you want to go there and experience it yourself!

  7. lara dunston November 26, 2010 4:48 pm #

    Great post! OMG! I'm salivating! We haven't yet been to Korea, but when we lived in Sydney years ago we would go out for Korean BBQ at least once a week. Dying to go there even more now!

    • Nellie December 2, 2010 12:19 pm #

      I\’d been there once previously but my culinary experience was nowhere near what I had this time round. Local friends, including Juno, showed me authentic Korean gastronomy that just blew my mind away!

  8. Lola December 1, 2010 4:35 am #

    Gorgeous food/night shots. Can't wait to go to Korea one of these days

    • Nellie December 2, 2010 12:13 pm #

      Whoa that coming from you is an honor. ;) I really appreciate that Lola!

  9. Juno February 24, 2011 9:06 am #

    Amazing collection Nell! :) Wish we could spend more time together. There are just so much to eat!!! :D
    Glad to see you enjoyed your Seoul-Korea trip. Like like the photo!

  10. thatbackpacker April 2, 2012 10:19 am #

    Seoul has amazing street food!!! I think I've been overindulging since I got here… ;)

  11. Vicky May 24, 2012 1:26 am #

    The food looks so good! Can't wait to get to South Korea and try it for myself!

  12. Chris Masterson June 24, 2012 5:33 am #

    I love tempura or ddeok bokki street food! It is often better than bar food, so just take a break from drinking, step outside and grab a snack!

  13. semester at sea uva employment May 28, 2013 12:30 pm #

    Hi there! I simply would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great information you will have right here on this post.
    I might be coming again to your blog for extra soon.

  14. onedustycamel September 21, 2013 11:30 pm #

    Since my last visit to Seoul in 1990 my travels focus has changed entirely and reading this post, I wish now that I had thought of checking out the street food on previous trips.

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