A Look Inside Seoul's Shinsegae Luxury Department Store Food Market & Food Hall

When visiting department stores in Seoul, I skip the upper floors and head straight down to the basement where the food court and markets can usually be found. The fancier the department store, the fancier the food hall. Shinsegae, a luxury department store in Myrongdon, is the fanciest with a giant food wonderland sprawled out across their lower level.

There's a supermarket, completely pristine and looking more like set design than a real working grocery store. 

There is a fresh food/produce section in a big room, then in another section, packaged foods. The look of this section reminded me a lot of Le Bon Marche's food market in Paris.

But the real fun to be had is in the food hall. There are two Korean bakeries, a Dean & Deluca, and lots of different counters with high stools, making and selling food.

Counters served different specialties like dumplings, kimbap, or shaved ice. It'll take about a week just to sit and eat at each one.

Does this look a bit like Eataly? But with brighter light and less claustrophobic. 

CARB HEAVEN. Freshly baked bread on premise.

BUT, but, this was my favorite section. DESSERTS! The glass case loops all the way around and in each one, rows and rows of delicious looking treats.

How cute are these little animal sweets? 

I spent a good 40 minutes just walking the entire floor, taking in everything, so an afternoon can easily be spent eating your way through, which I'll definitely need to do on my next visit!

INFO: Shinsegae Department Store | 52-50 Chungmuro, 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea | +82.2.1588.1234

Posted on December 18, 2014 .

All the Korean Street Food I Ate in Seoul

The street food in Seoul is INSANE. Everything is freaking delicious and it's hard to stop eating since there's something new every couple of steps, especially in super touristy areas like Myeongdong. Street food is the ultimate cheap eats.

Starting with Egg Bread, which are just about $1. Soft, savory with a hint of sweetness, the pancake-like base is topped with a whole egg. I barely had to chew, it just melted in my mouth.

At Namdaemun market, my Korean friend Claire told me we HAD to get one of these hodduks, a fried Korean pancake, which is filled with clear noodles and vegetables. The location with the three women by gate 2 is the most popular and well-known by locals. There was a short line and when we got ours, it was piping hot. I dream of eating this again -- it was so good.

This hodduk is a sweet one, filled with sugar and cinnamon and also fried, which can mean only one thing. Fried = delicious. The best version of this is at Insadong where you'll see an orange tent with a long line.

The rest of the street food I had was at Myeongdong, where the streets are completely filled with food carts, mixed with the occasional sock cart. Side note: Socks are a great gift idea since they're cheap and the quality is pretty good.

Potato Stick. One potato that spirals around a stick, coated in batter, then deep fried. There are 3 optional toppings and I went with onion.

Churros are pretty popular and instead of sticks, they're shaped into a loop using one long piece, with each made in front of you. They're coated in sugar and cinnamon. The last time I had churros was in Paris, which were also excellent.

Roasted chestnuts, perfect for the fall weather. They come in a paper bag and are already peeled. 

These are Tteok-galbi Meatballs...on a stick. They have different sauces you can top the meatballs with. This one is on the SUPER pricey end at $3.

Pokki was one of my childhood treats in Korea and you would find women making and selling them in residential neighborhoods, but now you can only find them in tourist spots. They're made by melting sugar and a pinch of baking soda. They're then flattened and stamped with a simple design. If you were able to cut out the design perfectly, they would give you a free pokki for your efforts. I'm not sure if they still do this though but it's still fun trying to cut out the shape.

Goldfish Bread are crispy pancakes filled with sweet red beans. I found these miniature versions which were gone in two bites.

And last but not least, the 32cm ice cream. Looks great, tastes horrible. 

Posted on December 11, 2014 .

Dawon, A Korean Traditional Tea House in Seoul

Claire, a friend of mine that lives in Seoul, highly recommended Dawon and it did not disappoint. Off the bustling main street of Insadong is a traditional tea house in the courtyard of the Kyungin Museum of Fine Art. 

There's seating inside, but there are just two tables in the back that are set up so you can sit on the heated floor. Make sure you take off your shoes first!

Once seated, Claire accidentally knocked open the rice paper windows and we were treated to this gorgeous view of the courtyard.

It was a little tough ordering since I wanted to get EVERYTHING. Even though it was a little chilly, I opted for the iced cinnamon punch, a sweet beverage made with dried persimmon (I love persimmons.) and Claire ordered the hot Daechu (Ju jube tea), a popular drink at this tea house. All drinks are made in-house.

Iced ripe persimmons and an assortment of rice cakes were ordered for us to snack on. The rice cakes were just average, but I loved the frozen persimmons. We were given two fluffy traditional Korean rice snacks, which are one of my favorite treats.

After sipping on my sweet beverage, I munched on the dried persimmon sitting at the bottom of my tea, since apparently I can't get enough persimmon.

I had laid my coat on the floor and once we were ready to leave, I was happy to realize a perk of sitting on a heated floor -- my coat was all nice and warm when I put it on.

Upon leaving, I left the check sitting on our table, which is a no no, since you pay the cashier up front as you leave, which goes for every dining establishment in Korea. Plus, no tip to leave behind on the table, since you don't need to tip in Seoul. 

INFO: Dawon (Traditional Tea House) | 11-4 Insa-Dong 10Gil, Jongro-Gu, Seoul, 110-300 Korea | +82-2-730-6305

Posted on December 9, 2014 .

Afternoon Tea Review // The Shilla Seoul

Oh, The Shilla Seoul, you had me as soon as I sat down and was given a hand towel on a silver platter.

For this afternoon tea, Robyn and her financee Kåre, joined me since they happened to be in Seoul. The three of us shared an afternoon tea for two between the three of us (plus an extra pot of tea). (Thanks for joining me, guys!)

Afternoon tea is served in The Library, which I found to be a little too business loungey, and less froufrou that I like, but it's a lovely space with seating spaced nicely apart so it seems very intimate. The seating is extremely comfortable, to the point I didn't want to ever get up.

SERVICE: ★★★★★
Excellent service from start (hand towel) to finish (cake!). 

Excellent! The tea menu lists not only the tea but the name of the company the tea comes from, the first I've ever seen noted. With a nicely curated selection from Fauchon to NINA'S Paris, this allows for two Earl Greys, each from a different company. 

I went with Birth, a black tea blend from Fauchon, which was delightful.

Savories were all tea sandwiches for this course, and they were SO GOOD. Simple, but perfectly executed. I'm going to go far as to say these were the best tea sandwiches I've ever had. So full of flavor, and completely fresh with fluffy bread, I loved each and every one.

Each person gets three scones each, which is really one too many, but I'm going to let that go since they brought these out after we ate the tea sandwiches to ensure that they came out nice and warm. 

I am however, going to knock off a star for serving clotted cream and jam from commercial mini jars.  I much prefer house-made jams served in tiny containers with matching spoons.

SWEETS: ★★★★★
Where do I start? The sweets course goes on, and on, and on! The three tiered tray held sweets at the very top. The macarons were really, really, good, rivaling Laduree and Pierre Hermes'. Everything was delicate and robust in flavor that I can't even say which was my favorite since they were all excellent.

Next up, these macaron sized treats made with meringue. Surprisingly light and soft, with a nice exterior crisp.

And just when we thought we were done, a dessert trolley with two cakes was rolled alongside our table. Did someone say tableside? I'm such a huge sucker for anything tableside. 

We got a slice of each, one raspberry based, and the other, a not-too-sweet chocolate with citrus layers. We were so stuffed by then we could barely get in more than two bites of these delicious cake slices.

OVERALL: ★★★★★
Come hungry! The Shilla Seoul's afternoon tea is not one to miss. It was an exceptional experience and one I highly recommend.

INFO: The Shilla Seoul | 249 Dongho-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, 100-856, Korea | +82-2-2233-3131
COST: ₩46,000

//Afternoon tea courtesy of The Shilla Seoul, a member of Preferred Hotel Group. All content and opinions expressed here are my own.//

Posted on December 8, 2014 .

All the Korean Shaved Ice with Sweet Red Beans (Patbingsu) I Ate in Seoul, Ranked

There were MANY, MANY things I knew I wanted to eat once I got to Seoul, South Korea and patbingsu was at the top of my list.

Patbingsu is a Korean shaved ice dessert topped with sweet red beans.
Pat = sweet red beans
Bingsu = shaved ice

I managed to get to six spots in Seoul that specializes in shaved ice and here they are, ranked, from best to eh. The ones I went to barely scratched the surface of all the patbingsu places in Seoul -- more the reason to go back again soon!

1/ Okrumong 
With about 50 locations in South Korea, Okrumong leads the pack with their snowy soft shaved ice. I got the green tea one (9,000) which wasn't green all the way through, but had layers of milky white shaved ice and more sweet red beans tucked inside. I especially liked the extra touches of brass to all their bowls and spoons. Simply delicious.

2/ Mealtop
On the 5th floor of the Hyundai department store in Apgujeong is Mealtop, a cafe that is known for their shaved ice. Out of all the patbingsu, I liked their sweet red beans the most. The green tea version (8,000) was skimpy with the green tea, but the shaved ice was pure snow.

3/ Sulbing
No green tea version at this chain shaved ice cafe so I opted for the black sesame (8,000) although the Injeolmi version is their most popular. Nice and fluffy, but I found it to be slightly dry with all the dry ingredients that sat on top of the milk based snow.

4/ Patsunsang
Located in Itaewon, this place was a little off the beaten path, but they served simple shaved ice that melted in my mouth. (6,000)

5/ Wicked Snow
The green tea shaved ice at this chain was disappointing since the low-grade matcha was just sprinkled over the shaved ice. The ice itself was very good though since it wasn't just ice, but rather, tasted more like finely shaved milk. (7,000)

6/ Tea Story
A cafe, shop, and tea museum in one, I had high hopes for this lovely green tea art form in a bowl. The shaved ice was definitely not as smooth and fine as the others and inside the dome were sweet red beans and whole nuts. WHOLE NUTS = hard to eat. I like my patbingsu to melt with minimal chewing, but the whole nuts gave my jaw a workout. This was also the most expensive at 15,000. Total eh.


Posted on December 4, 2014 .