[Travel+Leisure] Sampling Traditional Korean Foods

See & Do Tours

[Travel+Leisure] Southeast Asia September 2017 Issue


Traditional kimchi 

Interior of Museum Kimchikan

The recent rise in popularity of Korean food has helped introduce the world to not only its wonderful flavours but also its enormous health benefits. Yet, although many are familiar with notable highlights such as kimchi, makgeolli and rice cake, there are few that really know what goes into making them taste the way they do.

To satisfy my curiousity I embarked on a little tour of Seoul to find just what goes into preparing these tasty treats. My first stop was Museum Kimchikan, a modern kimchi museum in the heart of Insadong, one of Seoul’s more notable traditional districts. Opened to the public in 1986 as the capital’s Kimchi Museum, it was later re-branded as its current nameplate, Museum Kimchikan. It has become so well known internationally that CNN selected it as one of the world’s Top 11 Food Museums. The interior looks like what the origin of its name suggests — a ‘chankan’, a place historically set aside for making side dishes. Adorning the walls are pictures that depict the diverse aspects and stories of kimchi, all set to have visitors enjoy an immersive, cultural experience. Of course, the true take away from the visit is a chance to make your own kimchi and sample it with your family.

Address: Museum Kimchikan (35-4 Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul)   


Colorful Korean tteok

Next up is the Tteok Museum at the Institute of Traditional Korean Food. Here on display are various types of rice cakes along with the different methods that go into making these dishes. The museum was originated to preserve traditional kitchen tools and utensils passed down through generations. The floor plan consists of two rooms, one that showcases seasonal rice cakes that are enjoyed during Korea’s holidays and festivities, and the utensils required in making them. I’m guided to the next room, which is like being transported back in time. Here, the rice cakes are shown in a ritualistic setting to help visitors have a peek at the importance of rituals many years ago. There is also a class where visitors can make their own rice cakes using traditional ingredients.

Address: Tteok Museum (71 Donhwamun-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul)


To cap off my tour through time, I finish off at a cozy makgeolli bar along the increasingly popular Sejong Village Food Culture Street. Situated steps away from Gyeongbokgung Station it has become a favourite among students and office workers over the years and has a great selection of makgeolli together with a tasty variety of traditional Korean dishes.


Fresh kimchi and makgeolli at Sejong Village Food Culture Street

It doesn’t take much before I’m feeling comfortable and settling in to the night rather well. I am reminded at just how fascinating and insightful food can be in understanding culture. In the case of Korea, although I’ve only sampled three very unique and enormously satisfying traditional delicacies, I am much more aware at the strict attention to detail and presentation of food in Korean culture. It only makes me want to explore Korean cuisine even further for I sense that I have only scratched the surface of what there is yet to sample.