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Seoulful Thanksgiving: A Tale of Food, Family, and Exploration

Seoulful Thanksgiving: A Tale of Food, Family, and Exploration
Bukchon Hanok Village

I’m a guy who loves a traditional American Thanksgiving. Not just because it’s a chance to get together with family, but because I revel in the lavish servings of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy, all of which are followed by the life-nurturing pumpkin pie and whipped cream. Yet, the long weekend that Thanksgiving affords has become an opportunity for us to skip the traditional meal in favor of exploring somewhere new. This year, my kids and I packed up for a follow-up trip to Seoul, South Korea. If you’re a regular reader of TravelPimp, you’ll recall our brief visit to Seoul this past Labor Day. In the words of Hwang Sokyong, “Seoul is a city of paradox, of contrasts, and of constant motion. She is a city that will steal your heart and never let it go.” And so, we found ourselves drawn back to her embrace once again.

Given our delightful discovery of Seoul's diverse food culture on our previous visit, we dedicated this trip to savoring the city's culinary delights and beverages. Alongside indulging in these tastes, we also sprinkled in some shopping, soaked up cultural experiences, and navigated the extensive subway and bus network, with my handy STAYC T-money photocard always at the ready.

Entry requirements were significantly simplified for this trip since COVID-19 testing was no longer necessary. This made the journey to South Korea far more enjoyable, freeing us from the extensive preparations needed for our previous Labor Day trip. Furthermore, opting to stay in the heart of Myeongdong's bustling shopping and dining area ensured that our daily 15,000 steps directly contributed to achieving our food and drink exploration goals.

For your reference, I’ll share a rundown of our food and drink experiences across several evenings, so you can get a taste, too:

  • At Choi Wooyoung Sushi (288 Digital-ro, Guro 3(sam)-dong, Guro-gu), we embarked on our food tour inspired by an episode from Tzuyang, the renowned YouTube Mukbang star. In the hopes of reliving her delightful experience and perhaps tasting some Abalone guts porridge, we visited this conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Unfortunately, the ordering process confused us, and our timing during peak lunch hours didn't help, leading to an experience that fell short of expectations. To our disappointment, the sought-after Abalone porridge was absent from the menus provided, leaving us to select from the offerings on the conveyor belt. Despite these setbacks, the sushi was significantly more affordable than back home and tasted good. I would visit this restaurant again, but preferably at a less busy time.

  • Hwangsaengga Kalguksu (78 Bukchon-ro 5-gil Jongno-gu) is a Michelin Bib Gourmand recognized restaurant located near the Samcheong-ro side of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is very popular so depending on the time you arrive you may have some waiting time. The restaurant specializes in beef bone broth soup with noodles (Kalguksu) and dumplings, and a variety of other dishes that involve one of those specialties. In addition to the Kalguksu and king dumplings, we had the beef brisket (Baeksu) and mushroom hotpot, to round out a meal too abundant for the three of us.

  • Bar Cham (34 Jahamun-ro 7-gil, Tongin-dong, Jongno-gu) has featured on my blog before (find it here), celebrated for once again securing a spot in the Asia Top 50 Bars list. Given its intimate size, securing a reservation is crucial to ensure you experience what makes this bar so noteworthy.

  • One Degree North (8 Hakdong-ro 43-gil, Gangnam-gu) caught our attention through the Michelin Guide, situated in a part of town we aimed to explore on our second day. The location proved a bit elusive, leading us to join the lunchtime rush and endure a wait. However, the wait paid off handsomely. The service inside was impeccable, and the predominantly Singaporean barbecue offerings—duck, pork, and chicken—were outstanding. Reflecting on our adventures, my kids ranked this meal as a highlight among many remarkable experiences during our trip.

  • Baskin Robbins Brown Cheongdam  (327 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu). After our hearty Singaporean barbecue lunch, my kids were keen on the idea of ice cream in Seoul, despite it being November. We ended up at a Baskin Robbins, of all places. Unbeknownst to me, this wasn't just any ordinary outlet—it was an expansive, special store unlike any other Baskin Robbins I've encountered, and a favorite spot forK-pop musicians and K-drama stars. Boasting a selection of one hundred flavors of ice cream and sorbet, alongside a modern café ambiance that offered plenty of cozy spots to sit back and savor our treats, it turned out to be a delightful surprise.

  • Hanmungtigi (Songpa-gu, Sincheon-dong, Olympic-ro, 35길 124 장미 A상가 124호). Discovered through another Tzuyang Mukbang video on YouTube, this restaurant specializes in Beef Tartare, serving sashimi-sized cuts of exceptionally fresh, raw beef. Locating the restaurant was a bit of a challenge, with its entrance being a nondescript door that led down to a basement, reminiscent of a food court with several dining options. Once inside, a sharp left and a walk to the end of the row revealed our destination. The experience surpassed our expectations. The staff was remarkably patient, guiding us through the menu, explaining the purpose of the various fixings, dipping sauces, and salts with intuitive care. The combination of the beef, its accompaniments, and cold beer emerged as one of our most memorable meals of the trip.

  • Myeongdong Kyoja (29 Myeongdong 10-gil Jung-gu). This was the same Michelin dumpling restaurant we visited on our Labor Day trip to Seoul. You can read a bit about it in my previous article, here. It had left a good impression and on our last full day in town we needed more of it.

  • Goobook Mandu (7 Duteopbawi-ro, Yongsan-gu). For our final planned meal of the trip, we once again chose a Michelin-recognized dumpling restaurant, renowned for its water-fried dumplings. Fortuitously, we secured a table just as one became available, moments before a line began to form in the brisk November evening—an unexpectedly popular spot. We indulged in the traditional dumplings that have garnered fame for this establishment (Gubok dumplings), complemented by shrimp dumplings and Xiao Long Bao. Each selection proved delightful. However, the Gubok dumplings stood out so distinctly that they’ve since haunted my dreams. I’d emphatically recommend them to anyone seeking culinary delights.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our evening stroll through Bukchon Hanok Village. The village's picturesque preservation makes it easy to momentarily forget the proximity of the bustling modern city surrounding it. Admittedly, we wandered off course on our way there, which only added to our step count as we eventually made our way to the delightful Hwangsaengga Kalguksu. Hunger sharpened by our exploration of the village's narrow alleys, we found ourselves succumbing to the old adage about shopping on an empty stomach—resulting in us ordering an overabundance of food and a few too many exotic drinks to conclude the evening.

Like every journey, this one was punctuated with many, many visits to coffee shops and perhaps indulging a tad too much at food stalls along the way—yet, every calorie was a testament to the trip's worth. Ultimately, while I missed out on my traditional Thanksgiving feast, the opportunity to spend another holiday with my kids in such a remarkable city is an experience I'm profoundly grateful for.

Allow me to conclude this blog entry with a poem by the esteemed Korean poet Han Youn-un, dedicated to beef bone broth soup. After all, what better way to honor our culinary adventures in Seoul than with words celebrating this soulful dish?

"Kalguksu, kalguksu,

Soft and tender,

Steaming in a bowl.

It's more than food,

It's our heritage,

The soul of our people,

The essence of our land."

Happy Belated Thanksgiving my friends.

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for cash back and discounts – save yourself some money.


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