Spent the last week in Seoul, South Korea with my brother, who's been living and working here since last summer. Korean food is UNREAL and cheap, which means if you visit you need to eat as much - and as often - as possible. Here's what my bro deemed necessary for a first-time visitor:
  1. Hotteok
    !!! Maybe my favorite thing ever! If you crossed a cinnamon roll with a piece of honey toast with a pancake, you get something that is ALMOST as good as hottok. It's a flattened dough ball filled with honey and black sesame, or swirls of brown sugar, and then deep fried. I got them at every opportunity and I will miss these so much.
  2. Galbi BBQ
    A must! Meat (in this case, beef) and veggies are cooked on a circular grill in the middle of your table, and are served with lettuce and a special leaf (pictured; I can't remember the name) for wrapping. At the end, the meat drippings and leftover veggies are scraped and cooked down together with rice.
  3. Soju
    Most popular alcoholic spirit in Korea. Taken as a shot, rarely mixed. It's definitely on the sweeter side, not as harsh as straight vodka or gin, but deceptively strong. As each bottle costs about $1, it's the cheapest and most effective way to get hammered.
  4. Dokbeokki
    Korea's answer to the "after school snack," these taste (to me) like gourmet Spaghetti-O's. They're pounded rice noodles in a red pepper sauce and have the most satisfying mouth-feel of any dish I tried.
  5. Naengmyeon
    Cold rice noodles in a vinegar broth (better than it sounds). This one was topped with fresh pineapple. Delicious when served with Galbi!
    Honey butter chips were so popular when they first came out that they sold out everywhere, and became impossible to find. They briefly came to the US where they also sold out, prompting the Korean restaurant Oiji (in NYC) to make their own in-house. A year later they were still pretty hard to find in Seoul, but we found them in a tiny grocery store and OH WERE THEY WORTH IT.
  7. Street food
    Don't worry about what it is, because it most likely costs a dollar and is delicious. Trust me. Street food is everywhere, and a great way to sample all the amazing tastes Seoul has to offer.
  8. Bossam
    Korea really has cheap lunches down to an art. This dish is a smorgasbord of marinated & cooked pork, pickled radish & kimchi, lettuce & cabbage (for wraps), rice, soup, and unlimited banchan (traditional veggie side dishes). Total price? $13.
  9. Anything and everything at Gwangjang Market!
    This was maybe my favorite place in Seoul. It's a HUGE food and goods market packed to the brim with locals and tourists alike. The center and side alleys are bustling with food vendors offering everything you could ever want. Come hungry and "bar hop" along the stalls, ordering a dish or two at each place.
  10. Makgeolli
    Oldest liquor in Korea, the equivalent of sake in Japan. It's milky in texture, with a little carbonation and tang. Goes great with Korean BBQ and richer, spicier foods.
  11. Bingsu
    Super popular dessert. It's frozen milk shaved in a special machine so it looks and tastes like sweet snow. You top it with sweet red bean, rice dumplings, crumbled cookie and a drizzle of condensed milk. As you eat it, the condensed milk and snow-milk melt together into this sweet, cold, delicious mess and it is ALL THAT IS GOOD.
  12. Bibimbap
    One of the most easily available Korean dishes in the US, it's 1,000 times better here (obviously). Meat, veggies, rice and a soft-boiled egg are served in a sizzling stone pot, which cooks them all together as you eat. The runny egg yolk makes a sort of sauce, and the rice at the bottom is crispy and delicious. The ultimate comfort food.
  13. Candy/snacks from any convenience store
    Eat all of the things! You won't regret it! My favorites are the melon ice cream pops, the "Denmark milk" (tastes like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of sugary cereal), and these chips that are apparently squid flavored?!
  14. Some weird shit, cause you're in Asia and YOLO
    Pictured: chicken feet, pig trachea, pig liver, pig tripe, and blood sausage. Pig feet not pictured. On another day, Josh also took me to get "octopus sashimi," or raw octopus that's chopped and served on a plate of sliced scallions. The entire plate is moving, and you have to chew really quickly to keep the suction cups from sticking to your throat. 😳🐙
  15. 'Til next time, Korea!