What to eat in South Korea
Largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables and meat, Korean cuisine is delicious and healthy. Traditionally with main meals a quantity of side dishes are served known as banchan, the most popular of these being kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional fermented dish made with vegetables, typically cabbage, radish, onions or cucumbers and flavoured with salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang – a fermented chilli paste, it can have a very salty and spicy flavour.
A speciality is the Korean barbecue which usually involves beef, pork or chicken. The dishes are typically cooked at the diner’s table on a gas or charcoal grill built into the centre. One of the most popular dishes served is galbi, beef short ribs, often marinated in spices before grilling. In specialist restaurants the diner can cook their own food to their liking at the table, with a waiter on hand to offer help.
Further dishes worth trying include the mouth-watering bulgogi, marinated beef served with slices of onion and pepper and garlic. Seolleongtang (ox bone soup) is also incredibly popular and is served with slices of beef, green onions and rice or noodles. For dessert, there are few things more satisfying than hoeddeok, South Korea’s response to the western pancake. Soft and doughy on the inside but crunchy on the outside and filled with cinnamon, honey, sugar and peanuts, these are a real treat for the tastebuds.
What to shop for in South Korea
Considered a shopper’s paradise, great deals can be had in South Korea on shoes, clothes, leather goods, silk, antiques, handbags, suitcases and so much more. Clothes can be tailor-made and range in quality depending on the amount of money you are willing to part with. Most department stores have fixed prices but the major open air markets such as Namdaemun or Dongdaemun in Seoul offer everything imaginable from well known brand names to near perfect rip offs and it is here where you can barter, just be sure you know whether you are haggling over a fake or a genuine item!
For gifts, travellers should seek out K-Pop merchandise. Ranging from clothes to collectable model pop stars, this uniquely Korean phenomenon makes for a truly original souvenir. For something slightly more cultural, the ginseng root, while one of the most expensive things you could take home, is renowned across the globe for its medicinal properties.