Hangaram – Seoul

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The next day, we met up with K’s friend who studied in Vancouver but went back to her homeland in Seoul after graduation. It was great to have a local take us around Bukchon Hanok Village, which surprisingly was just right near our home! The Hanok Village is in the Samcheong-dong neighborhood. She took us to Hangaram, which is a cute little restaurant that serves set menus. You can also order a la carte if you wish. There are rooms where you must remove your shoes and sit on mats. It makes you feel like you’re in a traditional Korean house.

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Makgeolli

First, we ordered the famous Makgeolli, which is a traditional Korean alcoholic beverage. This is made from rice or wheat mixed with a Korean fermentation starter called nuruk. Our makegeolli came in a tea pot and when poured out, it has a milky creamy white colour. It doesn’t look like your typical alcohol! I absolutely loved this! It’s a little sweet, but doesn’t have a strong alcohol taste to it. I found it much like a dessert drink! It’s actually around 6-8% in alcohol content, but doesn’t taste like it. Before drinking, you should also swirl your cup first since the cloudy substance tends to settle at the bottom. A definite must try in Korea!

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Salmon Sashimi Salad

We ordered the set menu, so everything came with the portions made for the 5 of us. Some dishes, like this one came in 2, so you actually get quite full from the set menu! The Salmon Sashimi Salad was very refreshing. Thinly sliced salmon that reminded me of smoked salmon were topped with a mix of greens and sprouts and topped with a fruity dressing.

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Japchae and Fried Shrimp Cakes

Next up, this dish also came in 2 plates. On the left is Japchae, which was flavourful and strong in sesame flavour. On the right were Fried Shrimp Cakes, which were a little spicy and lightly battered. Yummy!

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Pork Belly Wraps

Then, we had the Pork Belly Wraps. These were so good!!! Thinly sliced pork belly with just the right amount of fat. It came with white kimchi, and this was the first time I’ve heard of this! The white kimchi is not spicy, but still has the sour and pickled taste. You place the slice of yellow radish in it, and along with the pork belly which is dressed in a sesame and sweet soy sauce, this is the perfect match! A bit of crunch, and tons of flavour!

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Grilled Fish

Then came the Grilled Fish, which came in a sizzling plate. It was topped with onions, bean sprouts, and more greens. I’m not usually a fan of cooked fish (for some strange reason), but this was quite delicious! The sauce reminded me of unagi sauce, and the fish was extremely soft. I think the sauce really made the dish delicious!

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Grilled Duck Salad

The last dish was the Grilled Duck Salad, which was also a favourite at our table. Topped with greens again, the grilled duck were extremely tender! A light soya based sauce was all it needed. A must order!

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Bulgogi Hot Pot

Then came the two hot pots. I didn’t know we would be having so much food! First, was the Bulgogi Hot Pot. This was our favourite out of the two hot pots. It came with japchae noodles (sweet potato noodles), bulgogi beef, enoki mushrooms, and lots of green onions and onions! What made the hot pot delicious was the broth. It wasn’t the typical bulgogi broths, but rather it tasted really healthy! I felt like there were some medicinal herbs in there which gave it a very healthy flavour to it!

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Spicy Seafood Hot Pot

The second hot pot was the Spicy Seafood Hot Pot, which we all agreed was only average. The broth wasn’t too spicy, but there was a very strong taste of seafood (which I guess is a good thing). It came with clams, little shrimps, tiny crabs, some noodles and enoki mushrooms. This was probably my least favourite dish for the lunch.

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They also provide you with lots of appetizers – some that aren’t as familiar to me. It came with some kimchi, radish, chives, and quail eggs! We especially loved the quail eggs. It was a good touch since we don’t usually see them being served as complementary dishes.

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Sweet Pumpkin Soup

Lastly, we were served dessert, which was the famous Sweet Pumpkin Soup. Koreans love to use pumpkin as an ingredient in their food. The soup is more like a tea and is slightly sweet with a strong pumpkin flavour. Perfect for pumpkin lovers!

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Overall, we were extremely satisfied with our lunch at Hangaram. It may be a little pricey at just under 30,000 won per person, but you will be guaranteed to be full! It’s a great experience to try so many dishes with good portion sizes as well! To be honest, we finished most of the food, other than the rice and a bit of the hot pot.

 

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After lunch, we wandered around the Bukchon Hanok Village, which is located near many of the famous palaces, like Gyeongbok Palace. You take a walk up a steep street, and you will find yourself in a street full of traditional houses or hanoks. I believe that this village used to be where the top government officials used to live during the Joseon Dynasty.

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The architecture here is absolutely beautiful! Feels like you went back in time in Korea!

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The roads here are all very narrow and steep. If you go to the very top, you can get some views of the city (although Seoul is always quite gloomy and foggy)! On this trip, we really didn’t do a lot of sightseeing in Seoul, because we aren’t interested in palaces and such, but if there is one sightseeing stop you would like to make, Bukchon Hanok Village is surely the right one! I believe you can pay to go into some of these houses too.

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Sikhye

After all the exercise walking up the village in the burning sun, we stopped by a little stall to get Sikhye. Our Korean friend told us that this is a traditional Korean drink and is made of rice! There are grains of cooked rice at the bottom and the drink is sweet and refreshing! It’s a drink that supposed to help with digestion! Perfect after a big meal. They now sell Sikhye in cans at supermarkets, and I actually purchased one back in Vancouver at H-mart. However, I have to say that the old granny who was stirring her pot produced much better Sikhye! So sad that I won’t be able to have this now that I’m back in Vancouver!

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