I guess you could say that marketman and I like Korean food.
Just a little.
Ok, fine -- we are obsessed. So after whetting our appetites with a visit at marketman's parents' house down in Gongju (her yukkaejang and miyukguk were awesome!!), and knowing that we had such limited time to eat the rest of the things we craved, we were quite ready for a full day of eating (and perhaps a little sightseeing) in Seoul. And now I bring you the conclusion of our East Asian journeys: Seoul -- City of Gluttony: The Return.
Missing a little taste of the States, we started our day with sausage McMuffins and hash browns -- far less grease than those in the U.S. -- at the Central City McDonald's (meal 1: check). Then we caught the subway to Gyeonbokgung Palace and the adjoining National Folk Museum. Some history ingested, we decided we had worked up an appetite and headed for Insadong to see what we could find.
I was tempted by the place with the headless, dead eels hanging out front (those of you who know me well recognize that this statement is 100% true), but we continued towards the heart of Insadong and found the same traditional bibimbap place marketman's parents had introduced to my family the first time we visited Seoul in 2005. It was a perfect, hearty mix of veggies, rare beef, gotchujang, sesame oil and rice served with some kongnamul soup (meal 2: check). On the way back to the subway, we passed a stand where some men were shouting at passers-by and making something with their hands in corn starch so we stopped to observe. After they established that I was an American tourist and thus easily amused and completely gullible, one of them showed me how he could take a single ball of honey candy and stretch-and-fold it into 128,000 strings (yes, they counted...aloud) which he then wrapped around some sweetened nuts to form a bite-sized candy. He then told me he loved me which was a very dirty ploy, but it worked, I giggled and blushed and bought a box (snack 1: check). Kamsahamnida!
Our next stop was Namdaemun, the original southern gate to Seoul and the home to a marketplace and street bazaar. The place is like an outdoor casino: lots of flashy things, loud noises, no easily discoverable exits, a maze of aisles, and thousands of places to part with your money. Though marketman was temporarily wooed by a Batman sweatshirt, our focus was on one thing: street food. So when we passed a ddukbokki stand, we could not ignore the aroma. We ordered up a dish of the spicy rice cakes and a cup of the broth in which they cook the fish cake, and we dug in (snack 2: check). After polishing off the last rice cake, we took three steps and ran right into a stand selling hoddeok, a pancake filled with goopy, cinnamon-y brown sugar. We ordered two, thanks (snack 3: check). Namdaemun was a wind tunnel, and a sign for Starbucks in the basement of the nearby Shinsaegae department store was too inviting to pass up. A few lattes later, we were ready to brave the cold again (snack 4: check).
Back on the subway, we went one stop to Myeongdong, a trendy shopping area. It was Friday evening, and tons of young people were out shopping and heading to the many restaurants in the area, so we joined in the fray. After a "successful" stop at Uniqlo (depends on to whom you are talking), we decided we were ready for a light dinner and found a tong dak (roast chicken) place that my mother-in-law recommended. Out came one small chicken with its salt-and-pepper dipping sauce and a dish of mou (pickled radish; Meal 3: check). Out on the street, it was starting to get cold and people huddled around the ddukbokki stands. We had had our fill of rice cakes earlier in the day, but some fried squid and a giant chicken skewer fit the bill quite nicely (snack 5: check). It wasn't right to leave without dessert, so as we passed a hoddeok stand that specialized in corn batter, we got one to go (snack 6: check).
One 15 minute subway ride and a few Tums later, we tucked in for a good night's sleep!