Korean Night Dining Tour by O’ngo Food Communications
Hello world! I just came back from Korea for a work trip but extended my stay to explore the country. One of the best night I had in Korea, was attending Korean Night Dining Tour by O’ngo Food Communications.
I first got to know the VP of O’ngo Food Communications, Daniel Gray, when he did a guest post for me on “Top 5 Must Try Foods for Singaporeans in Seoul, Korea“. He is a Korean adoptee that returned to Korean in 2005 in order to find his birth mother and to learn about Korean culture. He started a restaurant review blog (www.seouleats.com) in 2007, that became a local and international hit.
O’ngo Food Communications is a culinary tourism and consulting company that offers Korean cooking classes and restaurant tours to travelers. His food tours and cooking classes are ranked as one of the top attractions in Seoul. And so, I decided to take the Korean Night Dining Tour which explores Korea’s rich history through a variety of Korean foods like barbecue and drinks. This walking tour takes me to 4 different places with different food and alcohol at each stop.
The tour started with by going to Galmaegi-sal Jeonmun, a pork barbecue restaurant specializing in garmaeggisal: a special cut of pork located near the pig’s diaphragm. Tour guide, Jason, said this part of the meat is very rare as it is only about 4kg of the entire pig. Butcher will usually keep this part for themselves, hence it is called “Butcher’s Steak”.
Indeed, the meat was very tender and moist. The seasonings made the meat even better. Each of us had a bowl of chives and onions marinating in a special sauce made of lemon juice, mustard, soy sauce etc.
In addition, there is a also mung bean powder, sesame powder, salt & pepper powder, chilli sauce (ssamjang) and raw garlic. You can take a fresh lettuce leaf or sesame leaf, dip the grilled meat into all the sauces, pair it with the garlic (optional) and put the whole thing into your mouth.
Our tour guide, Jason, was explaining to us what is Cojinganmek (구징안픽). It is basically a Korean cocktail which has one shot of coke, one shot of shoju and one shot of beer.
In a small beer glass, place one shot glass. Fill the shot glass with Coke. Next, place a second shot glass on top of the first glass of coke. Fill it with shoju. Finally, top the glass with a shot of beer.
On the first sip, it is very bitter because of the shoju and beer. Subsequently as you drink till the end, you will taste the sweetness of coke. This drink is therefore “sweet after bitter”.
How to go?
Jongno-gu Donui-dong 47
Go our Jongno 3ga Station exit 6 and walk down the alley
At a very narrow alley in Insadong, there is a small korean restaurant in a traditional Korean-style house called “Pub of the Blue Star”. It is owned by a famous Korean stage actor Choe Shn Il, who has played in the classic Korean movie “Taebaeksanmaek”. That is why you see many superstar signatures on the wall.
The restaurant is very famous for its tofu and kimchi. They make their own tofu from scratch. How do you eat it? Grab a piece of tofu and a piece of kimchi. Wrap the kimchi around the tofu and enjoy!
Diners also come here for their Makkoli, Korean rice wine. Makkolli used to be the staple drink of farmers, fermented milky rice liquor that they made at home. Because it is a farmer’s alcohol, people drink it on bowls instead of cups. It has a mixture of sweet and sour taste.
Before opening his bar 2 years ago, Mr Choe travelled throughout Korea to find the best Makkolli, before settling for the Makkoli from Sangju, a city in the south-east of Korea. But he has added some herbal ingredients into brew, making it healthier and more tasty.
Here’s a shot of the actor Choe Shn Il (left) with Daniel Gray, the food tour creator.
How to go?
Anguk Station, Insadong 16-gil
Next up, we visited Bong Chu for its steamed chicken (jjimdak).
Jjimdak is actually a spicy dish of broiled chicken, vegetables, and clear cellophane noodles, with a soy sauce base originated from a An-Dong area. Bong Chu is said to serve the best jjimdak in Seoul, hence it is very popular.
All of us enjoying jjimdak! Oh by the way, do you know why are korean chopsticks made of metal? One of the sayings, according to Jason, is because during Japanese invasion, the japanese made weapons using metals. After the invasion ended, Korea melted these metals to make utensils.
Bong Chu is available almost everywhere in Korea, so it is not difficult to find a branch.
The tour ended at Kwang Jang Market which is the nation’s first market. These traditional markets is a “must see” for any tourist visiting Seoul!
On the market’s ground level, there are many snack stalls selling delicious snacks but Kwang Jang Market is really famous for its bindaetteok (빈대떡), Korean Pancake.
They are cooked with mung bean batter seasoned with meat and vegetables. It is paired with a simple soy and onion dipping sauce.
We also had Ddeokbokki, which is rice cake with hot sauce.
How to go?
Euljiro 4-ga station exit 4
All the four places above are within walking distance, so if you like to do your own food tour, alight at Anguk station and follow the trail.
Especially when you walk along Insadong street, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the street was dominated by Dohwawon, a place of study for painters. Hence, till now, it is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. You can also see the only Starbucks in Seoul where its signage is written in Korean instead of the usual English.
I am glad to meet new friends all around the world during this tour, especially Pei Yee from Malaysia and Andrew who give up his job and sold his car to travel around the world. He has visited 31 countries (including Singapore) over the last 14 months! Amazing, isn’t it? He even told me his favourite hawker centre is the Old Airport Road Hawker Centre! Check out his blog www.temporarilylost.com.
Lastly, here’s a shot of me with Daniel. If you are visiting Korea and needs some food recommendations, visit his site at www.seouleats.com