One of Seoul's top tourist destinations is a little street near Jongno called Insadong. Nearly every tourist to Seoul makes at least one stop here during their trip. While tourists usually spend their time on the main street discovering art shops, souvenir shops, art galleries and tea shops, I have discovered that Insadong's back alleys are really where it's at. Sneaking down some of the barely noticeable side alleys will bring you to some quite unexpected surprises.
One day I decided to take a trip around the snaking back alleys to see what I could find. There were lots of little, hidden restaurants and interesting looking pubs that were still closed since it was daytime.
Daesong Hanjeongsik Restaurant
Sigeumchi Namul, or spinach in English, is one of the most common side dishes you can see in Korea after kimchi and radish. This is one of my favorites. It's served cold or at room temperature and after it is boiled down, it is seasoned with a little soy sauce, garlic and a touch of sesame oil and sesame seeds.
Baek Kimichi, or white kimchi is less common than the normal, spicy kimchi, but it is another popular side dish, especially with hanjeongsik. Though it is made with cabbage, much like the kimchi we all know and love, it is not spicy at all. It is made with salt, garlic, ginger, and often times some pear juice as well.
Biji in a stone pot, with other side dishes including onions, anchovies and cucumber
Biji is not too common to see in Korean restaurants, but it is a super healthy food. It's made from the insoluble parts of the soybean after tofu is made. Therefore, it's really high in fiber and protein. The consistency is kind of similar to cream of wheat, which we often eat in America. On it's own, it doesn't have much taste, but together with the rest of the side dishes, it's lovely.
Pajeon and boiled pork to the right
Pajeon is a scallion pancake. The bowl in the middle is full of soy sauce for dipping. The fat of the boiled pork might be off putting to some foreigners, but I was pleasantly surprised when I bit in. It was super soft and tasted marvelous. You can also dip it in the sewoojeot, or sauce made from tiny shrimp for extra flavor.
Doenjang jjigae with rice with garlic cloves
And what Korean meal would be complete without some jjigae? Doengjang jjigae is a stew made from a bean paste. It's full of tofu, zucchini, onions among other vegetables as well.
Next time you're in Insadong, be sure to head down some back alleys to find Insadong's greatest treasures!