Our last full day in Seoul started off with a food tour. I had wanted to do this earlier on so that for the rest of the trip we would know more about what we were eating, but with scheduling and planning it just didn't work out that way. No big deal because this tour was entirely worth it, even if it came at the end of our trip. We did the lunch time food tour from O'ngo Food Communications.
Ong'o does both food tours and cooking classes. Our guide for the afternoon, Daniel Gray, is a well known food blogger in Korea and has just opened a restaurant in Seoul. He is extremely knowledgable and passionate about Korean food (and food in general) so if you are in Korea and looking to learn about the food, I recommend a tour with Daniel.
The day started off with a cooking demo at the O'ngo cooking school. Daniel taught us how to make a traditional Korean seafood pancake.
Here are our ingredients: Flour, egg, green and red peppers, shrimp and squid, and green onions.
Daniel told us his secret is cooking the green onions first so that they really get cooked and become easier to eat. He mixed the flour with cold water to make the pancake batter. Then this was poured on the green onions and the other ingredients were placed on top.
While it was cooking he mixed up this dipping sauce for us. It was made with soy sauce, vinegar and red chili.
Once it had cooked a little he added 1 (beaten) egg on top.
Then he flipped it, and voila! Easy pancake to make.
This was super yummy. Both my sister and I had to hold ourselves back because we didn't want to fill up on this before heading out for the rest of our food tour.
From O'ngo we headed out to a nearby market to see some local ingredients and traditional foods. We passed by a local Korean sweets shop and took a quick peak. Daniel explained what these were. Similar to Japanese mochi, these are all rice based desserts with different fillings. We didn't stop here to try some, but he did tell us he had a different shop on out itinerary and we would get to try some late. Honestly, if I hadn't taken this tour I would have never guessed these were all desserts.
Really, I would never have guessed this was meant as a dessert! I believe this is all made from rice.
Chuseok, KoreanThanksgiving, was coming up. This is a major holiday in Korea. For Chuseok, you give gifts to friends and family. They are pretty decent sized gift packages. And you need lots of them. Here is one gift and you can see that you buy the gift box in sets of 4.
You can also do gift sets that are filled with various items, not just food. I think this is toothpaste, soap and what looks like tea.
As we walked through the market, Daniel pointed out various ingredients and food items. This is one kind of rice.
This is a different kind.
There were beans and eggs too.
Chili powder, anyone?
Or dried chili's? Yeah, they like things spicy here!
Then we passed by kimchi central. Kimchi is the name for fermented vegetable dishes. They make kimchi out of just about everything you can imagine. Oh boy, this just looks too spicy for me!
Some radishes in this one.
This might be the kimchi you are most familiar with. Lots of cabbage.
As we moved on I spotted fresh made tofu. It looked so good!
You can see a little what this market looks like inside. It's actually underground. There are grocery vendors and restaurants here too.
We stopped at one shop to try out a roll, similar to Japanese sushi.
Here are the all the ingredients the chef would use to make our roll. The big yellow thing is a radish of some sort.
Here she goes! She moves fast! The nori paper is used, just like sushi, and it is on the outside of this. I wish I could remember the exact name for this food, but sadly, I don't.
Pile the veggies in!
Brush the outside and make sure it stays rolled and moist.
There you go. Looks like sushi! Just Korean style. Definitely interesting flavors. I liked a lot more than I had expected. Honestly, that bright yellow radish had me a little worried, but I actually liked it. I am so glad we tried this!
Next up Daniel spotted this and showed us this label as he made sure to take some photos. It's a root and it is used in making some sort of soup. He was writing an article on it so he definitely needed pictures. I know how that goes!
More interesting items in the market. These are dried fish.
Then we got to the sweets shop where we would be tasting them. These are all made from rice, even those pink and purple balls. They were stuffed with fruits (like dates), chestnuts, and some had corn and peas. They were all a little on the sweet side. Definitely different from Japanese sweets. But these were all really good. I am so glad he told us what these were because I would have totally overlooked trying them out.
Here is the inside of the shop. I think they were busy wrapping a lot of sweets in preparation for the upcoming holiday.
Next up Daniel took us somewhere really funny. In fact, weeks later this still makes me smile. Just like in Japan they do pancakes stuffed with red bean paste. In Japan, the fish is your classic shape. I have no idea what is popular in Korea, but this definitely takes the cake.
Here, maybe this will help you!
Oh yes, if you guessed poop, then you are absolutely correct! Daniel thought we would get a kick out of seeing this...and we did!
Next up was a street vendor to try out some more tasty treats. I love experiencing street food but a lot of times it is difficult because I have no idea if there is meat in the food. Sometimes I can ask, but if there is a language barrier, it is just not as easy. So, I will confess that this next food I walked by multiple times and assumed (incorrectly, of course) that it contained meat. Actually, I thought it was little meat sticks, like hot dogs. OMG I was so far off! Now, the question is if they aren't meat sticks, what are these? Rice cakes. Yes, these are rice cakes. There is also fish cake in there (from what I remember) but no meat, chicken, pork or anything like that (I do eat fish).
I am so glad we tried these. They were awesome. As in super awesome! We also tried these potato balls too. Yum!
Next up we headed through a little park/temple and enjoyed watching the old people having a good time.
The pagoda is enclosed now to protect it from damage.
Our next stop was another street vendor. Again, I would have (incorrectly) assumed this was meat. Wrong! In fact, I have no idea why I was thinking meat. Maybe the stick made me think of yakitori (meat on a stick, although can be veggies or seafood too) in Japan.
Um yeah, so this was a delicious cinnamon and sugar filled donut.
While eating this we headed over to watch Korean honey candy being made. This is an art form. Daniel explained these guys are the originals doing this. It is a Korean sweet that originated as a sweet used for royalty. This is a big bowl of corn starch.
They take a hard piece of honey and make a hole in the center and then stretch it. They fold it over and each time it doubles the number of loops.
Here he is at the start.
And at the finish it is so many fine, little strands that it looks like horse hair!
Seriously crazy! Even funnier was the commentary that went along with this. They were so funny that we nearly died laughing. My sister laughed so hard she dropped the donut on the ground! If you are ever in Korea, you must watch this. We were in the Insadong area, so definitely check it out there.
Once they have the strands they serve it wrapped around a little filling. We tried it with peanut but I think it also came in almond and chocolate.
Our last stop was to check out the honeycomb. They come on sticks and have a cut out stamped on the front. Apparently it is a game and if you can punch the shape out without breaking it, then you get another one (or something like that).
My sister actually makes a variation of this, so it was interesting to see how hers was different.
He started off with a flame.
Then the sugar goes on and gets heated up.
Once it becomes liquid then baking powder is added and it foams up.
It gets placed on the table and then gets stamped with a shape. Definitely fun to watch.
After we ate our honeycomb the vendor also gave us some rice punch to try. Yeah, there was definitely rice in there.
That ended our awesome food tour. My sister and I both had a blast. Daniel was helpful and a great tour guide. I high recommend a tour with Daniel to anyone going to Seoul.
After a short stop at our hotel we headed back out for a little more shopping in Myeongdong. To get there we decided to walk along the little park area that paralleled the street in front of our hotel and went under the major intersections. We loved this little escape from the crazy traffic above.
Here is Rachel enjoying herself as we walked along the little stream.
Then we reached Myeongdong, which was area next to where we were staying. This is the spot to be for shopping in Korea.
As we were strolling we spotted a Thai massage place and decided to try it out. Definitely worth it! We both did the Thai foot massage. So relaxing!
We also stopped into Starbucks. Rach splurged a little because it isn't every day that you find a green tea and red bean soy frappuccino with soy whipped cream. Yes, you read that right. She wasn't a huge fan, but she did try it out. Turns out their green tea is not quite the same as in Japan and it was a bit too bitter for her.
After we finished shopping we walked back to the hotel, but went a way we hadn't tried yet. Good thing we did because we came across this amazing juice place called Beesket.
What a cool concept! So here is how it works. You pick if you want juice or a yogurt smoothie. Then you take your beesket and pick out your three fruits or vegetables. You place those inside the beekset and then take it to the register. They will place it on a scanner which instantly reads your selection and then the nutrition info for your soon to be made drink is displayed for you on a computer screen. Yes! Calories plus vitamins and minerals. Crazy!
Rachel and I both went with just the juice. So we picked up the red beesket.
I filled mine with the 3 fruits I wanted. I picked raspberry, peach and lemon.
Then I brought it to the register and this was quickly displayed to me. My juice was calculated to be 138 calories and high in vitamin C, E and 2 things that I can't read because it is in Korean. Oh, and don't worry, that didn't cost me $5,900. It was more like $5.50. Totally worth it for the fun experience!
As soon as it was ready I picked it up from the pick up window. I loved that it came with a little ticket (it helped determine whose drink was whose) so I could remember the nutrition info about my drink.
Then we headed back to the room to pack up before heading to dinner. It was our last night so we wanted to fit in everything else we wanted to do or see. That meant a visit to Peggy Pie, which we passed by numerous times and never went in because we were either not hungry or too full.
I had a berry flavored ice slushie type drink. I have no idea what was in it, but it tasted good and the good working seemed very pleased that I tried this.
We ended up having dinner at Potala again, the Tibetan restaurant. We ordered much less food this time, but we definitely didn't forgo the Thukpa. I was in the mood for a beer so I asked about something called Chang. It is a traditional beer from Tibet. The server was kind enough to tell me about this drink and then we decided it probably wasn't the right choice for me. But, he was kind enough to bring me a little sample. Holy cow! That stuff is potent! Yeah, there was no way I could drink that much of this. Wow!!!
We were ready after that to say farewell to Seoul and head out early the next morning to catch our flights home. Rachel would fly back to the US and I would fly back to Japan. So we parted ways at Incheon Airport. We both had good trips home. Uneventful, just the way I like it!
One last picture before I wrap up Korea. These are face masks, hair masks and foot masks that I picked up from various stores in Seoul. They are very big into hair and skin products in Korea. We are definitely not used to these products so we ended up buying a ton of them just for the novelty.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever gone on a food tour? Have you ever completely misjudged what you thought was in a dish? What 3 fruits/veggies would you put in a Beesket drink?