When the weather gets you down, nothing boosts you up like a bowl of hearty, steamy soup. In South Korea, soup is often served as main dish rather than appetizer. A single-sized soup pot is usually served with steamed rice or noodles and is often quite affordable. Here are some traditional Korean soup that you can easily find in Seoul on a cold day.
Seolleongtang (beef bone soup)
Ever since the war, seolleongtang was responsible for feeding many hungry and poor. The soup bone and beef scraps are boiled together into murky broth. Slices of brisket are served on top. The soup is bland and meant to be seasoned on table by the consumer. Salt, pepper, chopped leek, and chili paste are common condiments. Cabbage and radish kimchi accompany the soup like Batman and Robin.
Sundae Gukbap (Korean sausage soup)
Sundae, pronounced soon-day, refers to traditional Korean sausages. Noodles, vegetable, and seonji (blood jelly) are stuffed in pork intestine to make classic sundae. They are incredibly varied and different regions offer their signature sundae using local ingredients. Steamed sundae is often enjoyed as is, but also served in broth with other scrap meats to make a full meal.
Dakgomtang (shredded chicken soup)
Unlike samgyetang, in which a whole young chicken is served in a single pot, dakgomtang is more affordable and manageable with shredded chicken meat served in heart-warming chicken broth. A real chicken soup for the soul.
Sundubu (soft tofu soup)
It is not easy to find vegetarian option in Korea. Although tofu soup is often made with seafood broth, it is super easy to make a vegan version at home. Brew some veggie broth and season with salt, soy sauce, garlic, and ground chili. Even for meat lovers, a soft tofu hot pot is a great choice for healthier, lighter meal.
Kimchi Chigae (fermented cabbage stew)
They say that kimchi and pork are simply meant to be. The sourness, spiciness of fermented cabbage go well with greasy pork belly. There are several restaurants around Seoul but an old, run-down shack hidden in the back alley of Gwanghwamun square is a popular joint.
Cheonggukjang (fermented soybean soup)
Some Korean foods are notorious for their pungent odour. Cheonggukjang, or fast-fermented soybean paste, looks like dwenjang but is at a whole new level. The smell that seems to be subtle at first lingers on for what seems to be eternity. The nutritional benefits may brave you to give it a try. A tip: don’t wear your best clothes as they will require dry cleaning.
Chueotang (mudfish soup)
The soup made with ground mudfish, or freshwater loach, is local favourite in the province of Jeolla-do. However, the slimy fish was also an easy catch in streams of Seoul and mudfish soup was widely consumed after the war when food was scarce. The big city makes chueotang with whole fish, so watch out for the bones!
Manduguk (dumpling soup)
Handmade dumplings are often paired with sliced rice cakes or noodles to make one big bowl of satisfying soup. An old hanok restaurant in Insadong serves traditional Gaeseong-style dumpling soup, originated from the city in North Korea.