Tag Archives: travel

20 amazing things you must eat in South Korea

Sizzling barbecue, fresh seafood, refreshing desserts, and cuisine from around the world: Seoul has it all. There are so many delicious things to taste in South Korea’s capital city, it’s a good idea to make a list. From the most obvious choices (Korean barbecue!!) to some more obscure dining options, here are 20 things you absolutely must try:

1. Everything at a buffet

Loaded up with beef ribs, kimbap, spicy broccoli, salad, kimchi, japchae, pajeon, bulgogi and more. SCREAMfmLondon

A buffet is a good place to start! These restaurants are easy to find in Seoul and will allow you to pile your plate high with anything that appeals to you.

2. Pork belly at Korean barbecue

Korean barbecue on the grill. SCREAMfmLondon

Thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat are called 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal) in Korean, and this is the best meal you will eat. Each restaurant has a different style of seasoning and side dishes, so it’s not even boring to order this all day every day.

3. Street food

A Korean take on Japanese takoyaki in Myeongdong. SCREAMfmLondon

Seoul street food is incredible and inexpensive. In tourist-friendly areas like Myeongdong and Hongdae, the options are endless. You can find more traditional street foods (like fried chicken and egg bread), sweet desserts (like towering ice cream cones), foreign favorites (like water cakes and takoyaki) and everything in between. You can even buy street cocktails!

4. Kimchi and tuna on rice

Tuna flavored with kimchi and dried seaweed served with rice. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a quick, cheap meal you’ll find in a lot of small Korean restaurants. It’s called 김치 참치 덥밥 (kimchi tuna deopbap). It’s flavorful kimchi and meaty tuna and mixed with plain rice. Filling and delicious.

5. Green tea fondue

Green tea fondue with a side of green tea and strawberry drinks. SCREAMfmLondon

Osulloc makes and distributes the most famous green tea in Korea. In addition to an Osulloc Museum on Jeju Island, the brand has many tea houses and cafés throughout Korea. I definitely recommend the green tea fondue, which comes with strawberries, cookies and rice cakes for dipping, as well as a little candle to keep it warm.

6. Basil-infused ramen

Basil pesto-infused ramen at Ittengo. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a follow-up to my post about the best Japanese ramen in Seoul. At Ittengo in Hapjeong, the basil pesto-infused ramen is worth waiting in the line that wraps around the block. Dubbed Midori Kame (green turtle), this signature ramen is super rich and possesses a distinctive flavor.

7. Korean-style lunchbox

Korean school lunch featuring quail eggs, pickled cucumber kimchi and spicy soup. SCREAMfmLondon

In Korea, lunchboxes are referred to as dosirak (도시락). There are many different styles and infinite options for fillings, but they all usually consist of some rice, kimchi and several side dishes. You can find these at schools, in convenience stores and at restaurants around Korea.

8. Fish-shaped pastry

Bungeobang filled with raspberry and cream cheese. SCREAMfmLondon

One famous Korean street food item is bungeobang (붕어빵), a fish-shaped pastry. Traditionally, these are filled with red bean paste, but they can be found with any number of sweet or savory fillings.

9. Moksal at Korean barbecue

Different meats sizzling on the grill. SCREAMfmLondon

No, we’re not finished with Korean barbecue. Next on your list to try is moksal (목살), which is marbled pork chop or neck meat. Less fatty than samgyeopsal, this meat has a completely different and more hearty flavor.

10. Rolled ice cream

Rolled ice cream in Hongdae. SCREAMfmLondon

Ice cream comes in many styles on the streets of Seoul. Rolled ice cream is one trend that originated overseas and became popular among Korean street food vendors. Ice cream is combined with different ingredients like cookies and candies before being rolled up and served to customers.

11. Singaporean laksa

Laksa served at the Yummy Kampong Singaporean restaurant in Yeonnam-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Similar to curry, the broth is made with thick, spicy coconut milk and filled with noodles, seafood and vegetables. This interesting dish can be found in Seoul’s multicultural neighborhoods.

12. Curry

Yellow curry with rice served in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

In Seoul, one of the most popular commonly-eaten foreign foods is curry. From Indian to Japanese-style curry, this dish can be ordered many different ways in many different restaurants.

13. Waffle

Waffle on a stick filled with cream cheese and chocolate syrup. SCREAMfmLondon

Waffles are another Korean street food not to be missed. Nothing beats a piping hot, freshly-made waffle drizzled with your choice of delectable toppings: whipped cream, cream cheese, chocolate sauce, apples and cinnamon, etc.

14. Buffet at a Korean wedding

The amazing selection of foods at a wedding buffet in South Korea. SCREAMfmLondon

Not to be confused with a regular buffet, a Korean wedding buffet is an event all to itself. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Korean wedding, you’ll find that the ceremony is kept short and sweet before the guests are directed to an impressive buffet complete with all the Korean foods, Western foods, desserts and drinks you can imagine.

15. Fried rice

Bokkeumbap at a Korean barbecue restaurant. SCREAMfmLondon

Some Korean barbecue restaurants offer you the option of making bokkeumbap (볶음밥) or fried rice toward the end of your meal. Rice mixed with kimchi and other vegetables is added to the leftover meat on your grill, topped with dried seaweed and cooked until it’s a lovely shade of golden brown.

16. Tiramisu

Tiramisu in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

I don’t know why, but tiramisu recently became incredibly popular in Seoul. Trendy tiramisu shops popped up everywhere overnight, and now you can buy these delicious desserts in a wide variety of flavors on almost any street.

17. Udon

Udon noodle soup at a Korean restaurant. SCREAMfmLondon

Steamy soups are always a good choice on cold Korean nights, and I’ve recently grown pretty fond of Japanese udon noddle soup. The thick, chewy noodles give it a more filling feel, and the distinctive flavor of the broth is addicting.

18. Fried chicken

Fried chicken with a coating of sweet oats. SCREAMfmLondon

Korean fried chicken is definitely unique and tastes amazing. It’s lighter and crispier than Western-style fried chicken, and Korean restaurants are known to serve up some interesting flavors.

19. Bingsu at the sheep café

Adorable sheep bingsu! SCREAMfmLondon

You can kill two birds with one stone here: visit one of Seoul’s most famous themed cafés and taste some of the most delicious bingsu in town. Outside of the Thanks Nature Café is a pen with real sheep you can meet. Inside, the restaurant serves super adorable and very tasty sheep-shaped banana ice cream treats. You can’t go wrong!

20. Brunch

Brunch at One Bite Café in Hongdae. SCREAMfmLondon

Seoul is a very late-night city, so there’s not much going on in the early hours of the morning (unless you’re just heading from the club to grab some hangover soup, which is acceptable). Therefore, brunch is the perfect way to get a good start at midday. With all the cute, trendy cafés to choose from, there should be no trouble finding a great spot for brunch.

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I recorded a k-pop song at King Studio in Gangnam

The next big thing in k-pop: me. SCREAMfmLondon

“I’m not good at singing,” I whispered into the microphone.

“I know,” came the engineer’s frank reply through my headphones. My self-deprecating cackle resounded through the recording booth.

Last weekend, I visited the King Studio in Gangnam — a professional recording studio where Korean stars like VIXX, Seo In-guk and Apink’s Jung Eun-ji have recorded music — for my own solo recording session.

Now, I’m pretty far from being a k-pop star myself. One main obstacle I tend to encounter is that I have no talent. But don’t worry! For a price, anything is possible.

At King Studio, customers can choose any song they’d like to record, and the staff will prepare your debut single for as low as 78,000 KRW. And the staff is phenomenal. The engineer is exactly the kind of tough-love vocal coach I dream about having in my fantasies starring me as a JYP trainee. They put forth incredible effort to make nervous customers feel at ease and offer all the guidance you need to nail your track.

For some totally absurd reason, I chose to sing “Spring Day” by BTS, which would have been difficult even if I had singing talent.

I know!

But you have to let King Studio know your song choice ahead of time so they can prepare for your recording session. I spent the day and a half I had before my scheduled time practicing the two rapped verses at 50 percent speed and slowly working my way up until I was able to kind of proudly and kind of confidently rap along with the original song. I didn’t practice the singing bits at all.

I know!

Great place to give yourself a pep talk before recording at King Studio in Gangnam. SCREAMfmLondon

When I finally arrived at King Studio, I was given a short tour of the cozy basement space. They took some photos and videos of me fixing my hair in the vanity mirror and admiring the framed album art that hung on the walls.

Before recording, they gave me a chance to listen to the music they’d prepared for me and to peruse the lyrics. I was shaking when I entered the booth, pulled on my headphones and began to rap.

Unfortunately, despite all my preparedness, I struggled a lot with the first verse. I had a hard time keeping up with the song’s rhythm, and as a non-native speaker, I stumbled over quite a few of the Korean words. And this was the rap! The slower rap of the two! It bummed me out that I wasn’t totally killing it as I’d envisioned.

And then it was time to sing. Until that very moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d actually have to try to hit the actual notes in the song. I’d always just sung it jokingly in a weird kind of monotonous baritone.

But — bless their hearts — the lovely King Studio staff was totally patient with me and didn’t even recoil in horror that much. They kindly coached me and praised me when I tried harder. It wasn’t long until we’d grown comfortable with each other and understood the best methods for working together.

My wonderful sound engineer hard at work at King Studio. SCREAMfmLondon

By the time I reached the second rap, I was feeling way more confident. And I didn’t really kill it (like, AOMG isn’t going to be knocking on my door any time soon), but I definitely maimed it, at least.

“Wow!” the engineer exclaimed after I finished spitting my sick verse.

“Yeah, I practiced a lot.”

“I can tell.”

“Only this part.”

“I can tell.”

After that, I felt much more at ease in the studio. We worked in the booth for about an hour and a half, until it was starting to get really hot in there and not just because of my fire Korean rapping skills. They kept playing the track back to me to see if I was happy with it, and I kept trying not to cringe and/or laugh hysterically at my terrible pronunciation and tuneless voice.

But it was so much fun! I had the best time, and I didn’t want to leave. Forget a single — I want to record a whole EP!

This is where the magic happens at King Studio. SCREAMfmLondon

After my recording session was finished, they did a quick interview with me and took a few more photos for their Facebook page (where, by the way, you can listen to the first line of my song, which is the most of that song I’ll ever play for anyone ever).

King Studio was such a blast, and now that I’ve tried it, I’d really love to go back. I’d love to go back and choose a different song. A much easier song. But, hey, no regrets! You’re only an idol trainee once.

For more information on King Studio, visit www.kingstudio.asia, or check out www.onemoretrip.net for booking information.

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Lunar New Year 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan

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Colorful lanterns and crowds of revelers in front of Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan on New Year’s Eve 2017. SCREAMfmLondon

This weekend, I happened to be in Taipei, Taiwan in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which fell on Saturday, Jan. 28 this year.

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Colorful lanterns represent the Year of the Rooster. SCREAMfmLondon

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.

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Lunar New Year 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

Around town, many Taiwanese people burned Joss paper (also known as “ghost money”) in metal fire pits as part of a special holiday ceremony. The sheets of paper are burned in honor of the deceased.

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Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

Ciyou Temple is an ornate temple dedicated to Mazu, a Chinese goddess of the sea. The temple was built in 1753 and is an impressive historical landmark in the Songshan District of Taipei.

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Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

The temple has an impressive six floors of detailed decorations to see.

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Lanterns cover the street in honor of Lunar New Year. SCREAMfmLondon

After midnight on the new year, locals shoot off fireworks to celebrate.

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Happy Lunar New Year 2017! SCREAMfmLondon

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Happy Lunar New Year! SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles in Hapjeong

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A large bowl of pho on a cold winter morning. SCREAMfmLondon

In the hipster enclave of Hapjeong, there are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and bars that serve interesting dishes and minimalist décor. One such spot is simply identified as “Pho.” This intimate restaurant can only seat a few parties but has nice hardwood tables, clean decorations and tasty Vietnamese food.

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Love the fresh vegetables in these rice paper-wrapped spring rolls. SCREAMfmLondon

We were sitting so close to the couple at the next table that I kept shooting glances at their delicious-looking food and ordering exactly what they had. We started by splitting an order of spring rolls. They’re rice paper stuffed with cabbage, carrots, cucumber and other fresh vegetables, served alongside a peanut dipping sauce.

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Chili shrimp stir-fried rice. SCREAMfmLondon

For my main course, I ordered the chili shrimp stir-fried rice. The stylish bowls make this dish look deceptively small, but it’s actually really filling. The rice is mixed with seafood like shrimp and baby octopus as well as a variety of vegetables. It’s not overpoweringly spicy but does pack a good punch. It also came with a nice, small bowl of soup on the side.

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Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles. SCREAMfmLondon

But the trip would not have been a complete if we didn’t try the pho. This serving was also very generous, and the dish included a fair amount of meat. Perfect antidote for the freezing cold wind in Seoul these days.

Scenes from Busan: Jagalchi Fish Market and more

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Busan’s famous Gamcheon Culture Village. Houses built on windy roadways on the foothills of a coastal mountain make this spot a must-see for tourists to South Korea’s second-largest city. The alleys are uniquely decorated with murals, sculptures and vibrant colors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Jagalchi is Korea’s largest seafood market. Vendors sell all types of fresh seafood throughout the market’s meandering corridors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Vendors at Jagalchi Market offer everything from live turtles and eels to dried fish and seaweed. SCREAMfmLondon

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Small restaurants found inside Jagalchi Market serve freshly-prepared fish dishes. SCREAMfmLondon

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Busan Gamcheon Culture Village at dusk. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Tim Ho Wan dim sum in Hong Kong

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Tim Ho Wan’s steamed dumplings with shrimp (shrimp siu mai). SCREAMfmLondon

Where in the world can you sit elbow-to-elbow with strangers speaking dozens of different languages while chowing down on Michelin-starred food for less than $10? That’s Tim Ho Wan — the Hong Kong-based dim sum chain famously called the world’s most affordable Michelin-star restaurant.

Dim sum and yum cha (drinking tea) date back to ancient Chinese traditions, originating with the Cantonese in southern China, when roadside teahouses were set up to give travelers and traders a place to rest and eat snacks along the Silk Road. The bite-sized dim sum dishes are fully cooked and ready to serve from steamer baskets and small plates, providing the utmost convenience.

Tim Ho Wan opened in Hong Kong in 2009, received its first Michelin star in 2010, and has since opened a number of additional locations around Asia. But nothing beats the original.

To get a seat in the packed restaurant, diners have to take a number at the desk out front and wait patiently to be called. I rolled up optimistically hoping there wouldn’t be a crowd, but, well. There was. As I waited for my number to be called, I realized that I maybe should have studied some Cantonese numbers. Luckily, I was dining alone, so the hostess quickly plucked me from the crowd and led me inside to fill an empty chair at one of the bustling tables.

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Tim Ho Wan’s famous baked buns with barbeque pork. SCREAMfmLondon

I sat at a table where five other people were already dining, their delicious-looking plates covering the cramped space as I perused my menu. An elderly woman sat across from me, eyeing me skeptically as I did things incorrectly (man, I think you’re supposed to rinse off your plates and chopsticks with tea before the meal, but nobody told me what to do?!) and tried to help me use the correct utensils.

After using a pencil to check items off the green paper menu, the food begins piling up quickly.

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Tim Ho Wan’s vermicelli rolls stuffed with beef. SCREAMfmLondon

First to arrive was my vermicelli roll stuffed with beef ($21 HKD, or about $2.70 USD). Seasoned soy sauce is poured over the dish as soon as it’s placed on the table. These three rolls were super delicious — especially the two on the bottom that were able to soak more of the soy sauce into their rice noodle wrappings. The perfect tenderness and consistency, but I might have liked a little more beef flavor.

As I was finishing up these rolls, my steamed egg cake ($16 HKD) arrived. Y’all, this was so amazingly good. I was definitely expecting something that more closely resembled egg, but when a tasty, sugary sponge cake appeared, I was not mad about it. It was so light and fluffy with a tantalizing brown sugar kind of flavor. I loved this and could have eaten 20 of them.

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Tim Ho Wan’s fluffy, spongey steamed egg cake. SCREAMfmLondon

The Tim Ho Wan menu items I’d heard the most about were the baked buns with barbeque pork ($20 HKD for three buns), so I obviously had to try them out. These char siu bao did not disappoint! The three buns were served encased in perfectly-cooked, flaky breading. Slightly sweet and crunchy on the outside, but chewy and meaty on the inside. I think I could eat 20 of these as well. The texture is absolute perfection and the flavors blend together so well. These are Tim Ho Wan’s signature dish for good reason.

Finally, I ended the meal with some steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($27 HKD). I used to eat a lot of microwave shrimp siu mai from Trader Joe’s, but it’s an honor to get to try the real deal. These were great (what else did you expect?), packed with shrimp filling and bursting with flavor. Hot and juicy, and the perfect way to top off a great meal.

After the four small plates, I was feeling pretty stuffed, but so happy that I was able to taste these excellent dishes. It’s worth the wait, it’s worth the trip to Hong Kong — Tim Ho Wan is a fantastic dim sum experience.