Summer survival guide
Guess what?! Korea has four seasons. We know you’ve heard that many times and think, “So what? So does much of the rest of the world.”
A better way to phrase it is that Korea is highly seasonal. The seasons are more intense, especially when it comes to food. There is produce that only exists in stores for a couple of weeks a year. There are foods that are designed for the seasons.
Seoul summers start off pleasant then rainy then sticky hot. Rather than complain about what you can’t control, embrace these times with consumables. To make these moments crystallize. Grab some spicy food to sweat the heat, some icy noodles to quench the fire and some sizzling joen and makgeolli for the rainy days. The Groove food team has put together some ideal ways of surviving the Seoul summer.
Spicy Galbi Jjim
Dongin Dong 동인동
511-5 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Story and photo by Andy Hume
“Mepgae hae juseyo,” I asked, “Make it spicy.”
The ajumma arched her eyebrow but said nothing. I’m no masochist, but I’ve had too many “foreigner specials,” where restaurants dial things down. Not Dongin Dong in Sinsa, where such requests are taken seriously. The star here is the modeum jeon, the best and juiciest Korean pancake I’ve had anywhere in the city. Still, don’t dare think of heading to Dongin Dong without trying their spicy beef galbi jjim as well. Arriving at the table in a battered metal bowl, the radioactive red tint of the sauce makes good on its threats of serious spice. You’ll suck down makgeolli by the kettleful, but it won’t help. Nothing can help. Eat through the pain. Welcome the cleansing fire. Then order more makgeolli.
1F, Coatel, 1330 Seocho-dong, Gangnam-gu (Gangnam Station, exit 5)
Other locations around Seoul and Gyeonggi-do
Story and photo by Charlotte Hammond
Naengmyeon is a dish nearly as polarizing as the Korean summer, you either relish it or grimace upon its arrival. Those who embrace naengmyeon’s swirled noodle island steeped in an icy swimming pool of vinegary broth know its refreshing power.
Sikdangs all over offer it as a seasonal special, but if you’re a naengmyeon partisan it’s worthwhile to seek out the good stuff.
Bongpiyang is one such family of restaurants specializing in naengmyeon and fine domestic beef. Bongpiyang’s mul naengmyeon broth is a masterful blend of beef stock and vinegar, their noodles — you can order 80 percent or 100 percent buckwheat — are dense and earthy with lovely flecks of black in their muddy color. Their bibim naengmyeon is a less-rich option, the sauce much denser and spicier than a sikdang rendering. Be prepared to sacrifice sikdang prices for the quality upgrade. Price per bowl is between 12,000 and 16,000 won.
Want More Spicy Ribs?
Myeong-dong Shin Shin
95-1 Myeong-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu
Story and photo by Yoo Jin Oh
"You sure? Number three is really spicy,” she asked, quickly glancing at my admittedly very pale boyfriend, whilst taking our orders for level three spicy galbi jjim (mae-un galbi jjim 매운갈비찜). Tucked away in a basement in Myeong-dong, ShinShin (신신) is renowned for its spicy galbi jjim, ranging from spice level one (moderate) to five (suicidal). Unlike other specialty spicy food restaurants that leave only the sensation of your tongue burning, the beef galbi jjim here has a balanced mix of flavors, and the owners are generous with vegetables and beef. There are two sizes available, medium (35,000 won) for 2-3 persons and large (45,000 won) for 4-5 people. Don’t fill up completely, as you can always ask for fried rice (1,000 won per bowl) to be made with the leftover sauce. They are also famous for their bulgogi (25,000 won for 300g). It's the perfect place to sweat out your stress or simply enjoy watching your friends fight through the tears with each bite.
Rainy Day Jeon and Makgeolli
Weonjo Mapo Halmeoni Bindaetteok
256-12 Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu
Story and photo by Joe McPherson
Jeon and makgeolli are the perfect friends for a steamy rainy day. The sound of the pancakes sizzling mimics the tempest outside. It always brings me back to the Korean countryside. There is the popular Gwangjang Market for bindaetteok (mung bean pancake), which is fine if you like suffocating crowds. I’m more partial to the jeon market outside Gongdeok Station, between exits five and six. They have most anything you want in pancake and fried form. I’d bet they’d deep fry your phone if you left it lying around. You can buy what you want a la carte or just go upstairs to the traditional pub. Get the jeon variety plate (modeum jeon 모듬전) or the tempura variety plate (modeum twigim 모듬튀김). They serve something different each time, so it’s like a treasure chest of greasy yummies. Match that with a fizzy makkolli rice beer. They have a nice variety. Faves are the chestnut (al bam 알밤) and the pine nut (jat 잣) flavors. Or just get an ice-crusted bowl of dong dong ju 동동주 (rustic rice beer). I’ve eaten here on stormy days, and I can’t think of a better place.