Korean Traditional Tea Room (Insadong) (인사동 반짝반짝 빛나는) – Seoul

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Omija Smoothie

After exploring the Hanok Village, we decided it was time to relax and grab some desserts! Our Korean friend took us to 인사동 반짝반짝 빛나는 in Insadong. I don’t believe it has an English name, but it’s a Korean traditional tea room on the second floor of a building. The inside is decorated with many of the pottery that are handmade next door. Pretty neat! Their popular menu items are the smoothies. I wasn’t too sure what it was at first, but it ended up to sort of be like a sorbet icy. We started off the Omija Smoothie, which was a light pink colour. Omija is also known as five flavour tea and is made from the fruit herb. It’s essentially like a iced smoothie, but in a thick form. Super refreshing and helped quench our thirst. The flavour was a mix of sweet and sour.

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Citron Smoothie

Next, we also got the Citron Smoothie. I believe it was really yuzu. It was topped with citron peels that had been candied. Again, the hint of sweet and sour made the smoothie very refreshing. This was probably my favourite flavour!

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Sweet Pumpkin Smoothie

The third smoothie was the Sweet Pumpkin Smoothie. This one didn’t feel as icy and refreshing, but rather a bit more filling. It was mainly sweet with a strong pumpkin flavour.

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Other than the smoothies, we also tried some traditional Korean snacks. This one was similar to a mochi and was dusted with roasted soybean powder. Chewy and quite interesting and unique! It came with two dipping sauces – one was a citron sauce, while the other was crushed peanuts with honey.

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Ginger Sweets

We also had the Ginger Sweets, which are also known as Yugwa or Yumilgwa. These were just as good as the ones at Mok Hyang. Very light but still remained the chewy texture.

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Jujube Tea

Lastly, to finish off, we had the Jujube Tea. It came in a pot and smelt really good! Jujube is a Korean date and is slightly sweet. A great way to end our dessert meal!

I highly recommend checking this tea room out. It even had guestbooks where you can write a message or mark down that you’ve visited. We too, drew a little picture to remember that we were here! I wonder if it will still be there when I visit again.

Insadong Geujip (인사동그집) – Seoul

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After a day of exploring the Insadong area, we began to look for food. There’s so many restaurants on the main street and we came across Insadong Geujip. It had a huge line up, but surprisingly, when we asked for a table of 4, we were able to get a seat immediately. The restaurant is huge! He took us behind the kitchen and there were more rooms set up which gave you some privacy. The restaurant is in a traditional hanok house, so it’s pretty neat!

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First, we were presented with the complimentary appetizers. There was cold tofu with a spicy sauce, marinated radish, mayonnaise salad, kimchi, and seaweed soup. K’s favourite was the cold tofu as usual. It has no flavour on its own, but is delicious with some spicy sauce. My favourite was actually the marinated radish. I don’t normally like radish, but it was the spicy pickled flavour that I enjoyed. It also had a great crunch to it!

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Nakji Dolsop Bibimbap (bibimbap in a hot stone pot)

We decided to share three dishes between the four of us since we weren’t very hungry. First, we got the Nakji Dolsop Bibimbap. It was our first bibimbap in Korea, and it definitely didn’t disappoint us. Mixed with beansprouts, zuchhinis, cloud ear fungus, carrots and seaweed, it gave you a crunchy texture and bursts of flavours. Instead of the typical egg yolk that they normally use, there was octopus in it! Tiny baby tako which were marinated in a spicy sauce. Super tender and flavourful. We much preferred this bibimbap compared to the ones we just plain old veggies!

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Doenjang-jjigae (soybean paste stew)

Next, we had the Doenjang-jjigae, which is a soybean paste stew. It’s a bit different from the typical tofu soup, because you can really taste the soybean. It’s pretty much like miso soup with tofu in it. The soybean flavour was very rich and strong. A very small hint of spice as well, but I was addicted to this!

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Gungjung Tteokbokki (Royal Palace Rice Cake)

Last but not least, we had Gungjung Tteokbokki, which can be translated to the Royal Palace Rice Cake. We had plenty of spicy rice cake, so we decided to go for the non-spicy version. Filled with marinated bulgogi (beef), carrots, mushrooms, chestnuts and a sprinkle of sesame, it was absolutely delicious! The rice cakes were super soft but still remained the chewiness. The sauce was sweet and not overly salty. We definitely agreed this was our favourite dish!

I’d definitely recommend checking Insadong Geujip out if you’re in the Insadong area. Prices are fair and service was pretty quick. Best of all, the food is delicious!

Address: 3, Insadong 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Mok Hyang – Seoul

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In Seoul, we stayed at an airbnb apartment in the Insadong area. The Insadong district is a huge tourist spot due to the traditional arts and crafts you can find here. You’ll find things such as traditional clothing (hanbok), traditional paper (hanji), teas, folk crafts, and pottery. If you love culture and art, then this is the place for you. While walking down the main street, we came across Mok Hyang, which is a traditional dessert house. It’s located just behind the Ssamziegil complex.

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Mok Hyang prizes itself as Seoul’s only two-story traditional hanok house. The outside is definitely really cute with the wooden touches, but the inside is even more gorgeous! You must remove your shoes at the door and you will walk on wooden floors. The wooden tables are made from logs and are very low, hence you sit on the mats. There’s pottery as decor all over the area. Definitely a great place to have some tea and snacks and relax for a bit.

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Fruit Patbingsu

The downside about this spot is that each person must order one item, whether it’s a beverage or dessert. Hence, we got 5 different items to share. First, was the Fruit Patbingsu. Lots of red beans were piled atop the shaved ice. On top, there were bananas, watermelon, pineapple, and kiwi. Quite refreshing actually! It also had a piece of matcha sticky rice cake.

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Green Tea Patbingsu

The second patbingsu was the Green Tea Patbingsu. The ice had green tea flavouring already in it. It had a pile of red beans again and a few pieces of match sticky rice cake. We found that the green tea flavour was lacking. It wasn’t as strong as we would’ve liked it, so it tasted more like just red bean patbingsu.

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Surichi Injeolmi

Sticky rice cake is very popular in Korea. It’s a traditional sweet that they eat during festivities. Here, we have Surichi Injeolmi. Essentially sticky rice cake with matcha powder all over. To be honest, I like the Japanese mochis more. I find that the Korean sticky rice cakes to be too chewy and not as soft. It feels very tough when you chew on it. As well, the powder is not very sweet. Your mouth is just filled with powder when you eat it. Not my cup of tea.

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Seoyeojeungsik

Next, we chose Seoyeojeungsik, which are steamed hemp. It reminded me of baked bread dough. The dough itself is not very flavourful. It has a crispy texture on the outside, but very chewy inside, like it had some sort of sticky rice cake mixed within it. You then dip it into the honey to add a sweet flavour to it. We really enjoyed this! Something we all haven’t had  before!

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Ginger Sweets

Lastly, we had the Ginger Sweets, which are also known as Yugwa or Yumilgwa. They are traditional Korean confectionery and are a mixture of grain flour and honey. They are then deep fried and fried rice kernels are added on the outside. These were by far my favourite traditional Korean sweets. Super airy when you bite into it, but it still has a slight chew. A hint of ginger taste will linger in your mouth. We ended up buying some of these on the streets and shops in the Insadong area, but they definitely did not compare to the ones here. I highly recommend trying these!

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At Mok Hyang, they also provide women with silky napkins to place on your laps if you’re wearing skirts, dresses, or shorts. Very courteous and respectful in here. Pricing is average – not the cheapest, but you can’t expect much since it is a tourist area. I believe their teas are also very popular and they do have a wide selections of them. Great place to relax and get a taste of the Korean traditional culture!

Address: 32 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 110-300