Bibimbap. Bulgogi. Tteokbokki. We’re not going to sugarcoat things; Korean cuisine can be just as confusing as attempting to correctly pronounce the name of a dish. Now, that’s no reason to spend every evening dining at Lotteria (Korea’s version of McDonalds, complete with a ramen burger); in fact, all the etiquette and ingredients and ceremony of a hearty Korean meal means diving in head-first and, yes, tasting the kimchi.
For first timers to Seoul or those who need a refresher, we recommend joining an O’ngo Dining Tour. Depending on your tastes (literally), O’ngo will take you out for Korean BBQ, to nibble from street stall to street stall in bustling Myeongdong, or—what we booked—down the alleys and into the local favorites around Anguk after dark. This one tour gave us the confidence (and pronunciation help) to continue devouring only Korean cuisine for the next 7 nights of our stay. Best idea ever, really.
Tours begin at 35,000 KRW ($35) per person, although the 3-hour Night Dining Tour goes for $88. As there were three of us, we ended up shelling out a lot of cash for one night on the town, but soon forgot because that money buys everything you consume in the evening, from specialty tofu dishes and turmeric-tinted rice wine to soju bombs (soju, Coca Cola and beer all chugged down at once).
The guides are Seoulites who these lead tours in their off hours from being university students or working 60 hours a week in an office. Being sleep-deprived but well fed is a South Korean way of life, one that’s all too easy to fall into even on the shortest Seoul stays.
Of O’ngo’s tours, we think you’ll like these two the most:
· Night Dining (88,000 KRW per person). You’ll make 4-5 stops and eat and drink at all, with special attention to Seoul foods (pun intended).
· Korean Fish Market (90,000 KRW per person). Skip Tsukiji in Tokyo and save your fish market first time for Seoul, where having lunch at Noryangjin or Garak Market is as simple as pointing at seafood still swimming and having it turned into ready-to-enjoy sashimi right in front of you.