SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: Once a buzzing street filled with tourists, it is now a silent street with no tourists in sight. It will still take a while before the tourists come back. In the meantime, those restaurants that are still operating have to depend on the locals for business, and it will be safe to say that they will most likely survive this pandemic.
Here are all the food we loved in Myeong-Dong before COVID, and still around in December 2021. Here is the list of places we head to every time we are in the area.
Myeongdong Kyoja has been around since 1966. The family-owned restaurant only has four items on the menu, and they specialize in dumplings and noodles. Being on the Michelin Guide for the past few years, latest in 2021, it was doing a brisk business from tourists before COVID hits. Now, you can see a lot of locals patronizing the place, enjoying the peppery noodle soup and dumplings with their kimchi. Besides the noodles soup, they also serve spicy cold noodles and noodles in Black Bean Soup. Myeongdong Kyoja is a must-eat every time I come to Seoul.
Myeongdong Kyoja's Kalguksu, noodles made by cutting the dough into thin slices with a knife, is cooked and served in superior chicken broth. It also comes with pyramid-shaped Mandus, called Byeonsi Mandu, just like wanton in wanton noodles. The broth and the mandu are what make Kalguksu in Myeongdong Kyoja special.
Another must-order item on the menu is the round mandu. The mandu, shaped like cute little cabbage, is stuffed with finely minced pork. To my understanding, they only use fresh meat from female pigs, slaughtered not more than three or four days ago. I can't tell the difference between male and female pigs, but it is delicious.
And to accompany both dishes, it has to be with Myeongdong Kyoja's Geotjeori-type Kimchi. Myeongdong Kyoja uses a lot of hot pepper and garlic in their kimchi. Their spicy and garlicky kimchi goes very well with their Kalguksu and mandu.
Address: 8 Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
The first time I went to Hadongkwan, the building seemed out of place. Surrounded by many modern buildings lies this old looking cottage. Hadongkwan has been serving this Korean beef soup with rice since 1938. True to its tradition, the soup is served in a rustic-looking brass bowl which is very hot to touch. The broth is made by boiling the beef for many hours, and it is filled with pure beefy flavour. Some people might find the soup too light. This is because it is only lightly seasoning and if you like something saltier, you have to add the soy sauce yourself.
Hadongkwan opens at 7 am each morning, till sold out. This makes it a perfect place for a hot and hearty breakfast.
Address: 12 Myeongdong 9-gil, Myeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Ilbeonji Yangdachang(Myeongdong Branch) 일번지곱창(명동점) specialized in beef intestines, both big intestines and small intestines. It has always been on my craving list since I had beef intestines in Korea a few years back. This is a unique Korean dish that can be grilled in different ways. You can grill either on a charcoal grill or on a hot plate. I prefer the hot plate version as it usually comes with Tteok-bokki (떡볶이), potatoes, mushroom and onion. Everything on the hotplate is cooked in the beef fat rendered from the intestines. Besides the intestines, the potato is the next best thing on this hot plate.
For those who don't like intestines, their Boneless Beef Ribs is absolutely delicious too. Unfortunately, however, this is the only cut of beef they have. So if you don't intend to have the intestines, there are better places other than Ilbeonji Yangdachang.
Address: 2F, 199-64, Euljiro2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
BBQ Myeongdong Star
BBQ Myeongdong Star is part of BBQ Global which has restaurants and stalls in about 30 countries. Therefore, I won't be surprised if you find this brand familiar in your own country. There is only one reason to go to BBQ Myeongdong Star: fried chicken and beer. Over the years, Korean Fried Chicken has become very popular worldwide. It is known to be crispy fried chicken covered in unique wet sauces.
The only problem with BBQ Myeongdong Star is the serving is huge. The cheapest serving is 20,000 won (17 USD/23 SGD) that you can expect to be meant for 2-3 people. With 25 different types of chicken to choose from, you are spoiled for choice. There is something for everyone.
We got the Set C from the set menu, which gave us three types of chickens, shrimp sticks and cheese balls. Initially, we thought we were not going to finish it. However, we loved it so much that we gobbled up everything within 30 mins.
Address: 2 Myeongdong 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul