Food La La: Eating (and shopping!) in Korea

Nov. 28, 2011 | 5 Comments

The author, left, and her friend, Kelly Loui. (Courtesy Lindsey Muraoka)

The author, left, and her friend, Kelly Loui, take a break in a Korean cafe. (Courtesy Lindsey Muraoka)

BY LINDSEY MURAOKA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

On our second day in Korea, Kelly Loui and I woke up early so that we would have lots of time to explore Seoul and shop! We ate breakfast at the hotel since it was complimentary during our stay. The lounge of the hotel room was very nice with comfy chairs and a television to watch the morning news.

I loved all the pastries and fresh juice. I tried all three kinds of juice: melon, grapefruit and orange. The shrimp and mushrooms were my favorite out of the buffet. I ate them every morning. Delicious!

This is the view from Kelly’s hotel room. You can see Seoul Tower on the top of the mountain.

I took lots of pictures of the hotel lobby because it was so nice.

The sitting area of the lobby.

One of the gift shops in the hotel.

A pretty gift basket.

This is too pretty to eat.

They had macadamia nuts in the store!

We took some pictures while waiting for the free shuttle service outside of the hotel.

An outside view of the hotel.

Our first stop was Dongdaemun! It’s a huge shopping district with more than 26 departments and 30,000 shops.

Inside the department stores are floors and floors of clothing boutiques. Everything was so cute! If it wasn’t winter time I would’ve gone on a crazy shopping spree. Instead, I just bought a few accessories here and there.

There are food stands like this everywhere. It was very tempting to stop and eat since it was so cold!

I think tarot card reading must be popular in Korea, because I saw many places like these throughout the city.

We took the subway to Myondong. There’s even more places to shop inside the subway and much cheaper than the department stores. I ended up buying boots for $30 because the ones that I was wearing were not comfortable.

Myongdong was one of my favorite places that we went to. It’s another main shopping area in Seoul. Every street was filled with stores — you could spend a whole day there and that wouldn’t be enough time. There were lots of tourists, especially from Japan. All of the salespeople spoke Japanese and kept mistaking me for a Japanese tourist. A few times they would try to drag me into their stores and Kelly would have to pull me back out.

First, we went to check out Uniqlo.

This is an advertisement for a dog cafe. Supposedly, you can choose a dog and play with it while drinking coffee. I wanted to go but we didn’t have enough time. They also have cat cafes.

I’m not sure what this panda was trying to advertise — but it was adorable dancing in the street!

A huge Forever 21 store!

H&M! I wish we had this store in Hawaii.

A really cute children’s store named “Teenie Weenie.”

There were coffee shops everywhere — at least two on every block! I’m not sure how they all make money. We stopped to take a break at one called Cafe John and Jin’s.

We ordered the waffle set.

Green tea waffles, green tea latte, and Americano. The waffles were soft and sweet. The ice cream was very creamy.

After our break, we headed to Namdaemun which only took about 10 minutes of walking to get to. The streets there were lined up with vendors selling lots of clothes and accessories. There were lots of food vendors as well. It’s much cheaper than Myongdong, so I ended up buying a lot of hair accessories.

We stopped at a small shop to eat dukbokki, kimbap, and oden. The dukbokki was amazing! It was so soft and delicious. The oden was hot and tasted so good after being out in the cold all day.

All of this for around $7!

This was one of many happy moments during our the trip.

Right across of the shop was a stairway that led to even more vendors.

A Hello Kitty store! Kelly had to drag me away from that place.

After a long day of shopping, we headed back to the hotel to meet with the other teams and to get ready for the welcome dinner. It was held in Insadong at a restaurant called Min’s Club. It used to be a traditional Korean house that was renovated into a restaurant.

Min’s was beautiful with private rooms and a garden area. The type of food served there is European-Korean fusion.

The dinner was with the other contestants, Seoul tourism representatives and Seoul government officials.

Our dinner consisted of six courses! I was still so full from eating the dukbokki just a few hours ago, but kept stuffing myself since it was so good. I could barely breathe by the time we got to the main course. Kelly looked like she wanted to pass out — but she kept eating, too.

First they served us makkoli! I was so happy because I love makkoli! It tastes even better in Korea; I guess because it’s fresher.

Maokkoli is a type of alcohol made with wheat and rice. It’s milky and sweet, with a similar consistency to nigori sake. Actually, the team from Bulgaria loves makkoli more than me and ordered it at every restaurant we went to the entire trip!

Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Our first course was pan-fried sea scallops with a tuna polenta cake and green pea sauce. Everything tasted light but still very flavorful. I really liked the creamy polenta cake.

The second course was salmon. It was yummy and refreshing.

The third course was a very delicious, creamy and slightly sweet corn soup.

My favorite was the fourth course because it was very pretty. On the left is a spicy chive and pineapple salad, and on the right is chicken stuffed with foie gras and vegetables made to look like a piece of kimbap.

Our fifth course was the main entrée. Kelly got the beef sirloin with wild vegetables. The beef was very tender and filled with flavor.

I ordered the grilled seafood with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and tomato basil sauce. Everything tasted so fresh! The shrimp was so juicy and the abalone was amazing.

The dessert looked like a marshmallow, but it was actually an extremely creamy ice cream and brownie.

I finished the meal with shikeh which is a traditional Korean sweet rice drink. I’ve never felt so full in my life.

After dinner, Kelly and I went to check out Hongdae with the two contestants from England, Adam and Sean. Hongdae is filled with lots of young people, entertainment and nightclubs.

I started hyperventilating when I saw this Hello Kitty cafe! I didn’t get to try it though, because they were about to close for the night. It was very tragic.

We didn’t get to try the cat cafe, either, since it was also about to close.

Instead, we ended up going to this fancy looking cafe. It had a very girly and frilly interior with private rooms and a great view for people-watching. We stayed for about an hour since it was freezing outside.

Sean and Adam with the most Korean pose they could come up with.

Kelly got cappuccino and I got a strawberry milk tea latte.

On our way back to the hotel we saw a man selling cotton candy with a giant Husky.

Stay tuned for day three! That’s when I started to go crazy with my video camera. So I have lots of footage to sort through and edit as well as more pictures!
Lindsey Muraoka blogs about food and drink for the Pulse. Contact her on Twitter or via email at

  • Anonymous

    A clone of Tokyo and Osaka travel!
    Amazing how similar and identical the stores, concepts, and food is.
    The only difference is the language.
    The cultures, they are all one. I hope they stop bickering and we can all get along.

    • Lindsey Muraoka

      I thought the same thing too..It felt like I was back in Shibuya. It was amazing.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic picts! If anything I remember the winters in Korea! Keep them coming! Kamsamnida!

    • Lindsey Muraoka

      Thank you!!  How long did you live in Korea?

  • 진주 박

    You went around everywhere in Seoul! So jealous! Sorry that u couldn’t try Hello Kitty Cafe. That is one of ma favorite cafe in Hongdae!