Mealtimes in South Korea are lively and often raucous occasions: many of the nation's most popular dishes are made to be shared, from crispy deep-fried chicken and smoky Korean barbecue to platters of juicy braised jokbal (pigs trotters) and crunchy wedges of pajeon (savoury Korean pancake).

It's food which requires you to get involved: flipping slabs of pork belly on the grill, wrapping kimchi and meat in lettuce leaves and tearing meat off chicken wings with your fingers. It's fun, social and all washed down with handles of beer or shots of soju, the local spirit.

Seoul can be a bewildering place, especially when you're out to find something good to eat. Fortunately for travellers there are parts of the city where restaurants dedicated to serving a particular dish are grouped together down small alleyways or in nondescript, multi-storeyed buildings.

Here are a few of our favourites.


1. Rabokki in Tteokbokki town

Rabokki is the perfect hangover food. Tteok (rice cakes) and ramyeon (instant noodles) plus some added extras like hard-boiled eggs, deep fried dumplings and spring onions are all cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce in a shallow pot set over gas on the table. It's hearty, spicy food ideal for soaking up the excesses of the night before.

Tteokbokki town had its heyday in the 80s when DJs would spin records from booths inside the restaurants while people tucked into giant pans of belly-warming rabokki. Tteokbokki town is now sans DJs, but locals still flock here drawn by the generous portions and sense of nostalgia.

Eat at: Tteokbokki town, 10-18 Dasan-ro 33-gil, Sindang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Open for lunch and dinner.

2. Tofu in Dubu Alley

Tofu Alley is a must-visit. Photo / Supplied
Tofu Alley is a must-visit. Photo / Supplied

Kikers fuel up at Dubu (tofu) alley, at the base of Dobongsan mountain, before tackling the mountain's many trails. The restaurants that make up Tofu Alley are famous for their son dubu: homemade tofu made fresh every day.

Opt for the steamed tofu: slices of plain, carrot and mugwort tofu served simply with tangy kimchi and slices of pork belly - the purity of flavour is astonishing. And tack on an order of sundubu jiigae (soft tofu stew).

Delicate curds of tofu bubble away in a scalding broth laced with chilli, tiny clams and slices of spring onion. Ladle the stew on to your bowl of rice, savouring the fiery broth and fresh creaminess of the tofu.

Eat at: Dubu Alley. Take the train to Dobongsan Station. The restaurant is between the two Red Face stores on the street that leads to the National Park.

3. Sundae (Korean blood sausage) in Sundae Town

Blood sausage is a popular Korean street food. Photo / Supplied
Blood sausage is a popular Korean street food. Photo / Supplied

A trip to Seoul is incomplete without a taste of sundae. You'll often spy the popular street food steaming away at stands in the markets, ready to be sliced up and dipped in a salt and black pepper mixture before eating.


We reckon one of the best ways to enjoy this Korean specialty, made of potato starch noodles mixed with pig's blood and stuffed into intestine, is to eat it stir-fried in Sundae Town.

Sundae Town is a four-storey concrete building packed with stalls and restaurants serving sundae cooked every which way.

At Ttsuni Sundae the walls, tables, bench seats and staff are all decked out in bubblegum pink (it's the owner's favourite colour).

Wrap up your sundae in a green leaf. Photo / Supplied
Wrap up your sundae in a green leaf. Photo / Supplied

It's also the place where sundae bokkeum (stir-fried sundae) was first invented. Stir-fry your sundae on the hotplate on your table, together with rice cakes, vegetables and a sesame seed paste.

Nab a perilla leaf - a vibrant green leaf with a strong aniseed flavour - wrap up your sundae and you're away!

Eat at: Ttsuni Sundae in Sundae town 1640-31 Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Open 24 hours.