Having lived in Korea for three years, and also lacking the ability to cook, I have enjoyed various foods from numerous places located throughout Korea. That said, there are some places that I keep coming back to, whether it is because of taste, ease, or just a pleasant atmosphere. Today, I would like to introduce you to three restaurants you should check out during your time teaching in Korea. I picked these places in particular because they are chain restaurants, and you should be able to find a location no matter what city you are teaching in.
1. Kimbap CheonGuk
One of the most common, casual, Korean dining experiences starts off with Kimbap Cheonguk. Kimbap CheonGuk translates to Kimbap Heaven. Kimbap is a rice and vegetable mixture wrapped in seaweed, it looks very similar to a California roll. Typically, Kimbap is taken and eaten to go, having it at work or on a picnic in the mountains, Kimbap is perfect for a quick bite. This being Kimbap heaven, there are typically many different flavors and varieties of Kimbap. One of my favorites is Dongaseu Kimbap, which is where they add a cut up fried pork cutlet to the kimbap. It adds for a nice contrast to all of the healthy ingredients.
This eatery has a lot more than Kimpab though. There are many different foods to try here! From soup, to noodles, to fried rice, they have many different Korean foods. A couple of my favorite tend to be Kimchi Chigae: a Korean soup filled with Kimchi and usually pork, Jae-yook Dup-bap: spicy fried pork with rice, and the ever consistent and always good Bibimbap: a variety of vegetables involving an egg, rice, and sauce.
Kimbap Cheonguk, for me, is so good because the food is Korean, healthy, and cheap. A typical meal is very large, but only cost around $5-$6 USD. Also, there are so many different items to choose from, you could eat there every day for a month, and have not tried everything. Finally, it is great to create that consistent relationship with the people who make and serve your food. I frequent the one near my home so often, they ask if I want an egg every time, and they always give me extra kimchi.
2. Isaac Toast
The first time I had Isaac Toast, I was blown away. My first reaction to the idea was that I felt a little unsettled. ‘Honey on toast?’ I thought ‘no way would that be good’, but I tried it despite my reluctance and now it is one of my go-to places for quick comfort food. Isaac Toast serves a number of different sandwiches, all involving some sort of lunch meat, egg, and honey. It is really delicious. What really got me, was the Ham Cheese Special. The Ham Cheese Special is a sandwich consisting of egg, ham, shredded pieces of cabbage, cheese, and honey. The way that the cheese interacted with the honey and egg was absolutely delicious. The best part is the sandwich only costs around $2.50 USD! It’s also neat because they make it right in front of you on a grill.
3. Coco Curry
Before coming to Korea, I had never eaten curry. It is just not eaten where I am from in the US as there are little to no restaurants that serve it. So, when I first was introduced, I fell in a deep love. Since my departure into the life of curry, that love has not wavered. One particularly good curry restaurant is Coco Curry. Coco Curry can be found all around the Seoul area. Obviously their specialty is curry, however it is really great because there are many different options. First choice, is rice or noodles. If you choose rice, you have more options. The rice curry is a lot thicker and comes on a plate. You can choose your meat, vegetables, whether to add an egg, and most importantly you can choose how spicy you want your curry to be. For me, I tend to like spicy food, so I enjoy the level four spiciness. However, level two tends to be most popular with my friends. If you choose the noodle option, you are a lot more limited. The noodle option is a lot less thick, and is more like a soup. They have a lot of different options for the curry with noodles, but you are limited in your meat choice, and don’t get to choose spice level. Both options are great though, and it is a really popular place to go with my friends and coworkers.
As I mentioned previously I picked these three restaurants because not only is the food delicious and affordable, but you can find these restaurants all over Korea. If you have a favorite restaurant in Korea that you think people should check out please leave a comment below.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.