One of my favorite foods in South Korea is mandu, Korean dumplings usually filled with kimchi or pork. They can be steamed or fried, and often you can grab some on the go, which is perfect for cold winter days when you're rushing to school. There are some awesome mandu places near my work, but there is an exceptional chain mandu restaurant in Seoul that I always visit when I'm up there. It's called "Bukchon Mandu."
fried, steamed and in meatball form
Historically, Mongolians are said to have brought mandu over to Korea during the 14th century during the Goryeo Dynasty. Most people in the Goryeo Dynasty practiced Buddhism, and did not eat meat. Interestingly, mandu was one of the newly imported dishes that slowly eased religious prohibitions against meat.
Bukchon Mandu is a chain restaurant. They have locations in Insadong, Hongdae, Seoul University, and in many other spots around Seoul. You can order a dumpling sampler plate with a bunch of different kind of dumplings on it, and that is what I order most often. It includes your traditional steamed dumpling, two pork and one kimchi, plus two fried dumplings, which are the greatest dumplings in the world, and a couple meatball type dumplings, all for 8,000 won (around $8 USD). It is truly the perfect plate for a dumpling connoisseur.
the inside of this dumpling fast food place
The inside of the restaurant is very homey, and you share the bar with others to enjoy the dumplings. It is usually crowded, so don't expect too much elbow room! You can also take the dumplings to go and eat outside. This location is right in Insadong, so there are a lot of shopping items to browse while munching on a dumpling.
The menu is in English and Korean, so it is easy to order. You can also just point to the pictures. Along with the dumpling combination platter, they offer an awesome dumpling soup that will really warm you up on a cold day. The soup is actually a popular dish traditionally served on New Year's Day as well, called mandu guk.
Bukchon Dumpling Soup
Or, if it's a hot day, you can always order the cold noodle soup! I used to think cold noodle soup was a terrible idea, but once you find a good place, you realize it can be really refreshing, especially on warm days. I think cold noodle soup is good to eat when you're sick also. It will definitely be one of the many Korean foods I miss when I head home to the U.S.
If you ever see these tantalizing photos of dumplings, don't hesitate to try the combination platter, or just get the fried dumplings, they are the best. To get to the location in Insadong, travel by subway to Anguk (Line 3) and exit 6. Go straight for a minute and then turn left onto the main street of Insadong. Look for an alley with the name "Insadong Gil 9," and you will find it in no time. If you get lost, there are many tourist information guides in Insadong that can help you find it. They wear red and can give you a free map!
After graduating from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Ariel Rosen looked back on the semester she spent traveling around Europe and decided she must explore Asia. Her teaching job with ChungDahm April in Busan allows her to experience South Korea firsthand and with the enthusiasm of all the children she teaches. She is overjoyed to share a class with them and finds herself learning more from them and the bright beach city around her everyday.
Read Ariel’s blog here: http://arieldrosen.wordpress.com/