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What the locals are eating in Seoul

From sweet potato ice cream to rib-stuffed ravioli, the Korean capital dishes up plenty of surprises

What the locals are eating in Seoul
Image: Ryunique

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Black silky fowl at Ryunique
Increasingly, Korean chefs are placing high-quality, homegrown ingredients at the heart of their haute cuisine. At Ryunique, chef Tae Hwan Ryu uses only what he can source within the country’s borders. Arguably his most memorable creation, black silk fowl (pictured) is a stuffed leg of Cheongju quail with buckwheat noodles from Gochang County, plus speckles of tomato miso paste. It’s served with a bowl of consommé. 

Galbi raviolo at Mishmash
Galbi is a marinated beef short rib, usually cooked on the barbecue. If you go to Mishmash looking for this Korean staple, you’ll find a rather different take. Stuffed inside a duck-egg raviolo, it’s topped with pine nuts and deep-fried mushrooms, and served in a puddle of brown butter, green onion sauce and chilli oil. 

Ice Cream hotteok at Hotteok Dang
Most visitors to Seoul will quickly encounter hotteok, a glutinous rice pancake — usually stuffed with sugar, honey and nuts. But if you desire a more inventive filling, Hotteok Dang offers options as left-field as japchae (sweet potato and veg noodles), and a ‘pizza’ version containing tomato sauce and mozzarella. The star of the menu, though, is the ice cream hotteok. Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla are all available, but the refreshing green tea offers a true taste of Korea. 

Sweet potato bingsu at Café Bora
Bingsu is always big in summer, with Seoulites seemingly unable to resist this shaved ice dessert, which is traditionally topped with condensed milk, powdered grain and red bean paste. Recent takes on this refreshing staple include the Café Bora version, topped with violet sweet potato puree and served with crunchy sweet potato chips and walnuts. T: 00 82 70 8613 5537

Beef tendon noodles at Lao Piak
Laotian cuisine is incredibly popular in the Korean capital right now, and in the ultra-trendy neighbourhood of Mangwon you’ll find Lao Piak. The menu features only six dishes, the pick of which are the beef tendon noodles, covered in beef-stock soup and topped with chunks of tendon-laced oxtail, slivered onions, and a punchy chilli sauce. The restaurant only has a few tables, and the handmade noodles tend to run out by mid-afternoon, so come early — and be prepared to queue. T: 00 82 10 5322 3008  

Published in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food