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Home > Asia > Korea > Food & Shopping Guide  

Food & Shopping Guide

Types of Korean Food

A diverse array of foods and dishes can be found throughout Korea.
Korea was once primarily an agricultural nation, and Koreans have cultivated rice as their staple food since ancient times. These days Korean cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of meat and fish dishes along with wild greens and vegetables. Various fermented and preserved food, such as kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt) and doenjang (fermented soy bean paste) are notable for their specific flavor and high nutritional value.

The prominent feature of a Korean table setting is that all dishes are served at the same time. Traditionally, the number of side dishes varied from 3 for the lower classes to 12 for royal families. Table arrangements can vary depending on whether a noodle dish or meat is served. Formal rules have developed for table setting, demonstrating the attention people pay to food and dining. Compared to neighboring China and Japan, a spoon is used more often in Korea, especially when soups are served.

Kinds of Traditional Korean Food

1. Bap (steamed rice) and Juk (porridge)
Boiled rice is the staple of Korean cuisine. Most people use sticky rice, which sometimes has beans, chestnuts, sorghum, red beans, barley or other cereals added for flavor and nutrition. Juk is thought of as highly nutritious and light. Many varieties of juk exist, for example, juk made of rice, red beans, pumpkin, abalone, ginseng, pine nuts, vegetables, chicken, mushrooms and bean sprouts.

2. Guk (soup)
Soup is an essential dish when rice is served. Ingredients of different soups include vegetables, meat, fish, shellfish, seaweed, and beef bones.

3. Jjigae (stew)
Jjigae is similar to guk but is thicker and hardier. The most famous jjigae is made from fermented soy bean paste. Jjigae is usually spicy and served piping hot in a heated stone bowl.

4. Jjim and Jorim (simmered meat or fish)
Jjim and jorim are similar dishes which are prepared with vegetables and soaked in soy bean sauce, then slowly boiled together over a low flame.

5. Namul (vegetables or wild greens)
Namul is made from slightly boiled or fried vegetables and wild greens mixed with salt, soy sauce, sesame salt, sesame oil, garlic, onions, and other spices.

6. Jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt)
Jeotgal is a very salty food made of naturally fermented fish, shellfish, shrimp, oysters, fish roe, intestines and other ingredients.

7. Gui (broiled/barbecued dishes)
When cooking gui, marinated meats are barbecued over a charcoal fire. The most popular meats of this type are bulgogi and galbi. There are also many fish dishes which are cooked this way.

8. Jeon (pan-fried dishes)
Jeon is a kind of pancake made from mushrooms, pumpkin, slices of dried fish, oysters, unripe red peppers, meat or other ingredients which are mixed with salt and black pepper, dipped in flour and egg and fried in oil.

9. Mandu (dumpling)
Mandu is dumplings stuffed with beef, mushrooms, stir-fried zucchini, and mungbean sprouts. Pork, chicken, or fish is sometimes used instead of beef.

Shopping in Seoul

Insadong and the surrounding area were the residences of Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) officials, extended royal families, and the yangbanaristocratic class.
The antique art shops that were established here during the Japanese Colonial Period carried everyday items of the privileged class as these items became antiques in the face of modernity.

Since then, Insadong has been home to dozens of art galleries and antique shops. Insadong's narrow alleys branch out into all directions from one main street.

To explore the interesting places on these side alleys, it would be helpful to get a map of Insadong at one of three Tourism Information Centers that are located at the center and the two ends of the main street.

41% of Korea's antique shops. These shops display and sell quality antiques such as old paintings, ceramics, woodenware, metalware, old furniture and many other items. Among them, ceramics are found abundantly. Numerous antique shops are renowned for specific merchandise: Tongmungwan for old documents, Haedonggodoja Research Institute for ceramics, Godosa for daily utensils of the past, Dongmundang and Gonghwarang for calligraphy supplies, and Naraksil and Gayajae are famous for old furniture.

Art Galleries
Art galleries began to settle in Insadong from the 1970's and presently account for more than 70 shops. Galleries in Insadong display and sell modern art pieces as well as antiques. The price of artworks range from a few U.S. dollars to ten thousand U.S. dollars. Exhibitions are held frequently in these galleries and give good chances for Korean artists to gather. Insa Art Center and Gyeongin Art Gallery are famous in Insadong.

Hanbok Korean Traditional Clothes, Ceramics, Handicrafts and Souvenirs
Most hanbok shops in Insadong sell a simplified version of hanbok. hanbok usually costs about two hundred U.S. dollars, but the price of high-quality hanbok could go up to a few thousand U.S. dollars. Jilgyeongyi Wuriot is a famous hanbok shop. Ceramics is another popular shopping item in Insadong. Good quality ceramics have a clean color and make a pure sound when tapping it with a finger.
Bakyeongsukyo is a prominent ceramics shop which even was visited by Queen Elizabeth ? of England. If hanbok or ceramics are too expensive, traditional-style daily items might be a good option. Wuri Segye, Sori Hana, and Tongin Gagye are good shops to get souvenirs such as silk pouches, oriental fans or mobile phone strings. Gana Art Shop inside of Insa Art Center offers traditional high quality items. Awon Gongbang is a good shop for metal crafted products and the National Souvenir Center and Seoul Souvenir Shop are specialized souvenir shops in Insadong.

Food and Drink
Most restaurants in Insadong are on alleys near Sudo Pharmacy. (Please refer to the map of Insadong.) Traditional restaurants in Insadong serve Korean dishes cooked without synthetic seasonings in remodeled traditional Korean houses. Sanchon serves good temple food along with a traditional performance. The Restaurant Jirisan Restaurant is famous for delicious dishes that taste of Korean home cooking. Sadongmyeonok is renowned for manduguk dumpling soup, Insadong Hangari Sujebi is recognized for sujebi clear soup with wheat flakes, and Gaetmaeul Milbatjip is celebrated for kalguksu noodle soup. Yetchatjip, Gwicheon, and Jeontong Dawon located inside of Gyeongin Art Gallery are popular traditional teahouses. A fun experience in Insadong is to try hotteok Chinese stuffed pancake or ggultarae from a street vendor.

- Seoul Subway Line 1, Jonggak Station, 5 minute walk
- Seoul Subway Line 1, Jongno 3-ga Station, 5 minute walk
- Seoul Subway Line 3, Anguk Station, 5 minute walk

Located in the heart of Seoul, Myeongdong is a representative shopping district in Korea. It also houses the headquarters of banks and securities brokers, and many western and traditional restaurants. Compared to Namdaemun and Dongdaemun Market which sell products at low prices, most shops in Myeongdong deal with mid-level price items. The main street in Myeongdong is lined with quality brand name shops, while mid-class brand name shops and no name brand shops are located in the side alleys. Moreover, large shopping malls like Avatar or Migliore and department stores are present as well. All kinds of shops and restaurants are densely located on the main street with lanes which resemble the shape of a chess board, so it’s advisable to divide Myeongdong into a few sections in your mind and explore each section separately.

Myeongdong Street (A)
Migliore, U-too Zone (Shopping Malls)/ Brand Name Shops (Levi’s, Bean Pole, Geumgang Shoes Store, Elkanto Shoe Store, Esquire Shoe Store, etc.)

Side Alley (B)
mid-priced brand name shops (Ssamzie, Club Monaco, Guess) / No Name Brand Stores/ Trend 20, Myeongdong Uiryu (Shopping Malls)

Side Alley (C)
No Name Brand Shops/Brand Name Shops (Giordano, Jangbangee)/Restaurants/Coffee Houses

Central Street (D)
National Souvenir Center / Avatar (Shopping Mall)/banks/fast food restaurants

Chinese street (E)
Chinese Embassy/Chinese restaurants/stores for Chinese medicine, books, etc.

- Seoul Subway Line 4 Myeongdong Station Exit 7.

Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun Market, located in the very center of Seoul, is the biggest traditional market in Korea selling children's clothing, men & women's clothing, daily miscellaneous goods, kitchenware and local and imported products. Most shops have their own factories and make the products themselves offering both wholesale and retail prices which enables visitors to purchase various shopping items at an extremely inexpensive price. Foreign visitors to Namdaemun Market show different features: the Japanese are more into foods like Gim (seaweed), Gimchi, and ginseng, while the Chinese show interest in clothing and miscellaneous goods. On the other hand, most tourists from the west simply enjoy the ambience of the traditional market. Hours vary by store, so it's advisable to plan out in advance according with a shopping list before you start the actual shopping.

- Seoul Subway Line 4, Hoehyeon Station Exit 5

Dongdaemun Market
Ever since its opening in 1905, Dongdaemun Market has been one of the major markets in Korea. Specializing in wholesale clothing, the market has grown large, having more than 20 shopping malls. A full range of fashion items that cover from head to toe, are found in Dongdaemun Market at inexpensive prices. Just name it and you shall find it! No wonder that the market is always crowded with retailers, foreigners, customers and tourists.

Section 1 - Retail Shops
The main street divides Dongdaemun Market into two sections. Section 1 is on the side where Doosan Tower is found, and Section 2 is the side of Dongdaemun Stadium. (See the map below.) Huge shopping malls in Section 1 basically sell wholesale and retail goods, but mostly deal with general customers and tourists at retail prices. Thus, they have convenient facilities like money exchanges and information desks with English speaking staff. Open hours are also aimed at general customers, opening from 10 am to 5 am of the next day. With a pleasant interior, and rhythmical music played all day long, shopping malls in Section 1 draw many young people everyday. Various events organized by these shopping malls (7 or 8 pm) are also delightful. Sometimes you will get to see the youth come up on the stage in front of the mall, dancing or singing. Major shopping malls are Doosan Tower, Migliore, Freya Town and Hello apM.

Section 2 - Wholesale Shops
Shopping malls in Section 2 sell goods both in wholesale and retail, but mainly sell in bulk. That is why shopping malls here usually open at about 8 pm and close at 8 am or 5 pm the next day for the convenience of wholesalers. The peak time comes late at night through early morning. Since most shops deal with the wholesalers, there is no dressing room. Refunds and exchanges are not guaranteed, so make sure to check the quality and size carefully. Major shopping malls in Section 2 are Designer's Club, Migliore Valley, Nuzzon, Gwanghee Fashion Mall, Jeil Pyeonghwa, and Heungin Stardom. Among them, Jeil Pyeonghwa and Heungin Stardom attract customers in their thirties or forties with items of simple and elegant design. The teens or youths in their twenties usually visit Designer's Club, Migliore Valley, Nuzzon and Gwanghee Fashion Mall.

Sporting Goods
Near Dongdaemun Market is Dongdaemun Stadium. There is a variety of sporting goods shops around the stadium.

- Seoul Subway Line 2 Dongdaemun Stadium Station, or Line 1 or 4 Dongdaemun Station

Itaewon is the most exotic place in Seoul representing fusion culture with a distinctive atmosphere. Many people say, “You may not know Seoul, but you should know Itaewon,” showing how renowned of a shopping district Itaewon is. The Itaewon shopping area covers a 1.4 km long street, stretching from Itaewon 1-dong eastwards to Hannam 2-dong. The area has a vibrant ambience with shops, restaurants, bars and street vendors. Most signboards are written in English, and often seen are English speaking people on the street.

Clothing shops of hip hop style, casual wear, formal suit are clustered in Itaewon. Unlike other shopping districts, big & tall sizes and exotic clothing are well prepared. Good quality leather goods are abundant, and even personal orders are accepted. Most tailors have been established for over fifteen to thirty years.

A variety of bags from suitcases, to casual backpacks are available. ‘Chungnamsanghoe’ is a good shop for suitcases and briefcases and Samsonite for high quality suitcases. There are bunch of other shops dealing with leather bags.

Various options are offered from world-class brands to unique no name brand goods. Nike and Adidas in Itaewon provide large size shoes and many designs. There are also a bunch of leather shoes stores

Antique Furniture
Antique Street in Itaewon is especially popular among non-Koreans. Shops carry small interior items as well as expensive antique furniture. Most antiques are from the Goryo and Joseon Dynasties. Personal orders of reproduction products are accepted. Small antique goods make good gift items.

- Seoul Subway Line 6, Itaewon Station Exit 1,2,3 or 4

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