Take Stock: Seoul
To help us navigate the entertaining resources in electrifying, Seoul, South Korea, Countlan (Issue 04) hooks up with Yaeri Song, co-founder of go-to local website, SeoulistMag.com (she is also an avid picnic lover- see map). Born in Seoul and raised in the U.S, Yaeri returned to Seoul for work and soon discovered the city was lacking in quality English resources for its growing expat/international population.
Along with her creative group of friends, she was determined to fill the gap. From 24 hour fish markets to where the DIY-crafty Seoulites go to shop, Yaeri shares her favourite places in the city she once again calls home.
Take Stock: Seoul
Map Illustration: Claire Heffer
We ask Yaeri: WHERE ARE THE BEST…….. IN SEOUL?
01 Desserts: (if you are not baking them yourself)
Seoul can be a hard place to scale, so the bakery I go for fresh bread really depends on which neighborhood I am in. Publique in Hongdae, Le Alaska in Sinsa and Maybell in Itaewon are all excellent. Maybell is centrally located, and it’s one of the few places that slice bread by hand, so I find myself buying bread there most often.
Maybell Bakery (오월의종): 737-2 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea (Tel: 02-792-5561)
NOTE: Most people buy meats from neighborhood marts and sometimes small butchers, but within Seoul, people don’t normally seek out a certain place to buy meat.
Most neighborhood marts and butchers, both big and small, offer a good selection of domestic and import meats. For a good dinner, I buy han-u (Korean beef) from Hoengseong (횡성), a region in the Gangwon Province known for its superior cattle.
Bangsan Market is the baking market of Seoul and it’s where cafe and restaurant owners shop. The market sells everything for your cooking needs, especially spices that are difficult to find in Seoul. The Foreign Food Mart in Itaewon also has a good selection of spices. Local spices can be easily bought at any local traditional market.
Bangsan Baking Market (방산종합시장), 19-1 Jugyo-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel: 02-2268-6691)
Yangjae Flower Market is the best place for flowers, but it’s a little out of the way. The Express Bus Terminal also has some great options and it’s directly connected to the subway station.
Express Bus Terminal: 162 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Noryangjin Fish Market, hands down. This wholesale market is open nearly 24 hours and attracts throngs of visitors and local seafood lovers. Purchase a fish and a vendor will slice it into sashimi you can enjoy right on the spot, with a bottle of soju, of course.
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market (노량진수산시장): 13-8 Noryangjin 1(il)-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel 02 814-2211)
06 Table Décor:
Namdaemun is where a lot of crafty DIY Seoulites shop. The flagship store of Alpha, the Korean office/stationery franchise, is a good starting point. They have a great selection of high-quality hanji (traditional handmade Korean paper), which can be used for everything from placemats to tags. From there, you can walk into the street and poke into the various ribbon and wrapping shops for inspiration.
Alpha (알파문구 본점): 20-42, Namdaemunno 4(sa)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel: 02 752-0096)
The Korean cafe franchise Coco Bruni is big on chocolates and desserts, with packaging that’s cute to boot. There’s one in nearly every upscale or busy neighborhood, but my favorite one is the one in Hannam-dong with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a low-lying patch of the neighborhood. Also in the area is Passion 5, which has an impressive premium chocolate section for those looking for something special.
Coco Bruni (코코부르니): 683-136 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel: 02-512-6058)
INTERVIEW: Yaeri Song, Seoulistmag.com
01 Do you entertain at home?
I’m a homebody, so I love having people over. Meals are rewarding, but so much work so when I have a free night I’ll get a couple bottles of wine, some cheese and salami and have a quiet night in with a few friends. When the weather permits, my friends and I love to picnic along the Han (river) and especially on Seonyudo, the restored, once-industrial island-turned-park.
Seonyudo Hangang Park (선유도한강공원): 1 Dangsan-dong Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
02 What is a unique about entertaining in Seoul?
Modern Koreans don’t tend to entertain much at home unless they’re newlyweds or hosting a housewarming party. My generation is changing, however, and they’re much more comfortable with opening up their homes. In the past, guests most often brought utility gifts (toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, etc.) and seasonal fruits when visiting homes, but these days it’s more common to see candles, wines and cakes.
03 What can often be found on your table when you entertain?
I like to offer an assortment of jams for guests to eat with bread and crackers. Last season, my friend made delicious plum jam that sustained me through the winter. I’m also a big fan of the earl grey jam from Napoleon Bakery, and so are most guests. Aside from food, I found that little cork toys (like Corkers) keep people entertained and their hands busy while conversing around the table.
Napoleon Bakery flagship store (나폴레옹과자점 본점): 35-5, Seongbukdong 1(il)-ga, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel: 02 742-7421)
04 What is your favourite dish to eat?
My favorite dish to serve (and eat!) is a fruit salad that consists of pomegranate seeds, dried jujubes with raw chestnuts. It’s a labor-intensive salad to prepare with the de-seeding, slicing and skinning, but worth it. I prefer to serve finger foods and salads that stay fresh over a period of several hours when I entertain because I’ve never had guests show up around the same time (between the average Seoulite’s overtime hours and the city’s traffic jams, I find it difficult to arrange a sit-down dinner.)
05 On Korean Soju and Spirits:
NOTE: Soju is so readily available that people don’t go out of their way to purchase it; other alcohols are a different matter, so I added that note here.
Local brews and soju can be found at your neighborhood convenience store for just 1,000 won apiece. Gaja Juryu (가자주류) is on the big Itaewon road and has some of the most competitive prices on import alcohol I’ve seen in Seoul. The owner also runs the eponymous Gaja Changgo (가자창고), a cheap “self-beer” bar not far from there.
Gaja Juryu (가자주류): 126-2 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. (Tel: 02-793-9848)
Korean Recipes Worth Trying:
- Rasa Malaysia: Japchae (Korean Mixed Noodles)
- Korean Bapsang: Kimchi JJigae (Kimchi Stew)
- A La Main: Bi Bim Bap
- Cherry On My Sunday: Korean Fried Chicken
- Beyond Kimchee: LA Galbi, The Korean BBQ Ribs
- Lily Eats: Korean Style Broccoli with Gochujang
- Chow Divine: Tteokguk (Korean Rice Cake Soup)
- Laurenda Marie: Korean Shrimp Tacos with Sweet Chipolte Yogurt Sauce