From ancient palaces that tell tales of a world of the past, to high speed underground subways that zoom into the future. Ancient markets to haute couture. And from humble temples to modern glass skyscrapers; Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a traveller’s paradise.
While the city offers attractions that leave you gasping, as a Muslim visiting Seoul, one might wonder what Halal food options are available. If you thought instant rice and cup noodles would be your only solace, then hold your thought.
With the increasing number of Muslim travelers, restaurants serving Halal food in Seoul are now available. And hey, like they say, know a culture best through its food! But you wouldn’t want to fine dine your way through Seoul, right?
Here’s our pick of top 8 local Halal street eats to fill yourself up with on your visit to the dynamic city of Seoul!
1. Tteokbokki (Rice cake)
Walk into any alley of Seoul and you’re sure to find the pojangmacha (street vendors) selling out paper cups laden with this street food delight, which to no surprise is the most popular choice of Korean snack.
Tteokbokki is a stir fry mixture of soft rice cakes in a sweet and spicy red chilli sauce called gochujang, which is made from red Korean peppers. This simple combination of chewy rice cakes in spicy sauce is sure to tingle your taste buds and leave you craving for more.
Foodie Tip: The sauce may sometimes contain some vegetables and fish cakes, but generally no kind of meat is added, making it a perfect Halal snack to try!
2. Pajeon (Green onion pancake)
The Korean equivalent of a pancake, Pajeon is yet another enticing Korean street food. It’s made from a batter of eggs, wheat flour and stalks of green onion often topped with seafood like shrimp and squid (known as Haemul Pajeon) and is served alongside a soya sauce and chilli dip.
If you don’t prefer seafood, you can ask for a vegetarian one too. Couple this dish with some instant Korean coffee and you’ve had your high tea right on the streets!
Foodie Tip: If you enjoy Pajeon and want to experiment more with it, check out the Pajeon Alley (yup, it exists) located near Kyung Hee University.
How to get there: Take Seoul subway line 1 to Hoegi station and head toward exit 9.
3. Bungeoppang and Gyeranppang
If you are looking for something more substantial to snack on, then your best bet would be to opt for either a bungeoppang or a gyeranppang.
An age old Korean street snack, a bungeoppang is a fish-shaped bread with a delicious filling of red bean paste, cream custard or cheese.
Gyeranppang, on the other hand, combines an all-time breakfast favourite of eggs and bread into a neat parcel. A whole egg is baked either inside or on top of an oblong shaped bread, sprinkled with parsley, nuts or seeds. Now that’s a delightful way to satisfy those untimely hunger pangs!
Probably the best way to satisfy your snack cravings whilst in Korea is to bite into one of these many deep–fried treats. Twigim, as called by the locals, involves delicious tempura-style batter coated ingredients which are deep fried until crispy. The choice ranges from pieces of squid, shrimp and vegetables including peppers, spinach leaves, sweet potatoes (the best!) and boiled eggs. You can pick the ones that appeal to you the most and create your own twigim assortment.
Foodie tip: Almost all vendors will sell mainly seafood and vegetable twigim. Some will sell mandu (dumplings) twigim which might have a meat filling. You’ll want to avoid those. Besides that, worry not and indulge in your deep fried heaven of deliciousness.
5. Chamchi (Tuna) Kimbap
No trip to Korea is considered complete without trying out kimbap – the dressier version of Japanese sushi.
Sticky rice is wrapped around with a sheet of seaweed drizzled with oil and sesame seeds. A generous filling of pickled vegetables, kimchi and meat, seafood or tofu complete the kimbap. While many variants of the kimbap are available, you can opt for Chamchi Kimbap which is a tuna filling for the Halal option.
Alternatively, you can also go for the veggie roll – spicy pickled vegetables creating an explosion of flavours with each bite.
Foodie tip: If you’re on a budget trip, treating yourself to a couple of petite kimbap rolls will make for a tasty and healthy lunch!
6. Ojingeo Gui (Grilled Squid skewers)
Koreans love to put any food on a stick. And the most popular ‘stick food’ around here that’s easily available at all major markets and foodie streets is the squid.
A very simple preparation, it consists of squid cut into pieces and grilled hot on a charcoal barbecue. If you’re a lover of Korean barbecue, you will instantly get addicted to the smoky flavour of these little squid pieces on a stick.
Foodie tip: For a greasy, extra satisfying squid snack, pick up a packet of butter roasted squid.
7. Eomuk (Fish cakes)
Unlike other Korean street eats, which are either deep fried or drizzled with butter, eomuk is a healthier alternative, as it’s the local variant of fish cake.
These delectable fish cakes are skewered onto sticks, steamed and then dipped into a hot broth prepared with vegetables and seafood such as crab pieces. At a local vendor, you can pick as many fish cake sticks as you want and enjoy them by dipping into the flavoursome broth or ladling some into a cup to enjoy on the side. The broth is absolutely free of cost and you can have as much of it as you want.
Foodie Tip: Spice up your eomuk by dipping them into the gochujang (red pepper) sauce as opposed to the broth. Also freely available at the stalls!
If you’ve already had your meal and are looking around for some local desserts to experiment with, or if you just have a sweet tooth, a top recommendation would be Hotteok or Korean pancake.
Hotteok is a traditional Korean dessert made with a flour dough and is stuffed with honey, brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon. The pancake is served hot and crispy or in some cases chewy with each mouthful oozing goodness. Every vendor will have their own style and recipe of making Hotteok, so you can try it in a couple of places until you find one that you like the best. (Ignore the calories, you’re on a vacation!)
Foodie Tip: A savoury version of Hotteok is available at Insa-dong. Here, it’s filled with noodles and vegetables, for those who want to try other types of the Korean pancake.
So if you thought Seoul is only all about palaces and cosmetic shopping, we hope to have completely changed your mind. The city is home to some of the top dining destinations, and of course you can’t deny that the street food is amazing. Now that’s a great reason why Seoul should be on your travel bucket list this season!