Seoul: Food trends

One thing I always like and respect about Seoul is the overwhelming interest toward anything new. There’s almost always a trend happening in some type of industry and while sometimes it’s obvious, others it can be quite tricky to notice. Among the many, I have to say I was most interested in the food trends (surprise, surprise) and one of them (in Seoul) is fusion or “Korean” Mexican. Mexican cuisine has been out for quite some time, first in the hard-to-find alleys in Itaewon and later through bigger names like On the Border, but the trend has evolved into something new. And more Korean.

서울이 좋은 이유 하나. 늘 새로운 곳, 새로운 음식, 새로운 트렌드에 대한 사람들의 관심이 크다는 것. 장단점은 있지만 이 작은 나라에서 세계 다양한 곳의 음식과 옷, 트렌드를 만날 수 있다는건 독일 시골에서 시간 보내는 내게는 그저 무한 감사한 장점. 이번에 느낀 푸드 트렌드 두가지는 한국화된 멕시칸과 전보다는 훨씬 많아진 태국 음식점들.

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Coreanos is actually run by my friend’s friend and so I have to say I had some high expectations and may be a bit biased. (We paid for everything we ate, fyi.) I’ve heard and read a lot about it, and I was glad I had the chance to try it out before I left for Germany. The brand Coreanos started in Austin, Texas in 2010 and like many other famous food chains nowadays, it started out as a food truck. (One of the first “Korean Mexican” food truck chains that started in Korea was actually Grill5taco. I wrote about the whole food truck craze on CNN here) Over the years, it gained popularity with its “Mexican cuisine with Korean in-between,” and opened Coreanos Kitchen right in the middle of Rodeo street in Apgujeong-dong.

코레아노스는 친한 친구의 친구가 운영하는 곳이다. (그렇다고 공짜로 먹은건 하나도 없었음.) 독일에서부터 여기저기서 듣고 보았던 이름이라 이번엔 꼭 가보리라 다짐했던 곳중 하나. 고추장이나 된장소스로 멕시칸 음식을 선보인건 사실 미국의 푸드트럭에서 비롯된 것인데 코레아노스 역시 텍사스에서 시작한 푸드트럭의 메뉴를 따와 만들어진 곳이다. 별미는 쓰리와이즈프라이라는 감자튀김. 프렌치후라이 위에 소스 세개와 닭고기, 쇠고기, 돼지고기의 토핑이 올려진건데…없어질때까지 계속 먹게되는 마성이. U.S. News Travel 에서 선정한 가장 맛있는 프렌치후라이 중 하나로 선정되기도 했다고.

m2Coreanos has been named one of America’s Best French Fries by U.S. News Travel, best food truck in Texas and one of US’ best food trucks by Smithsonian Magazine and Fox News. You can find these articles and news clips on the wall. Their menu is quite extensive and it may take some time to decide what to get. Their Three Wise Fries is amazing. It doesn’t LOOK special, but wow.

m3We also tried the OG Burrito, which is a Galbi shortrib burrito with cabbage slaw, caramelized kimchi, a special ssamjang sauce, sesame oil vinaigrette and fries. What. The galbi is sweeter than I thought it would be, but it works. Very well. You can actually taste the galbi, which is different from other places where you can only taste a hint of the sauce or sweetness.

그외에 갈비부리또와 치킨 퀘사디야도 맛있다. 특히 후자는 바로 만들지 않는 이상 맛이 없는 편인데, 추천을 받아서 먹었는데 따끈따끈하고 맛있었음. 그 외 메뉴는 여기.

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m5We also ordered the Sulam’s cookie pizza, which is basically a giant cookie with ice cream on top. We ordered the chocolate brownie cookie with vanilla ice cream, because what else is there? (They also have Macadamia cookie with strawberry ice cream. Ahem.)

일반적으로 패밀리 레스토랑에서는 디저트를 잘 먹지 않는 편인데… 다소 평범한 브라우니와 바닐라 아이스크림의 조합인데 브라우니를 피자도우처럼 납작하게 만들고 그 위에 토핑처럼 아이스크림을 얹은 모양. 숟가락으로 긁어먹는 시스템인데 긁어먹다보니 뭔가 닭갈비먹고 볶음밥 비벼 먹는 느낌.

m6One thing I liked about Coreanos is that it wasn’t oh so loud, like Vatos, which I’ll be talking about in a bit. I believe Vatos started their business first and made a name for its Koreanized Mexican, but if I had to choose one place, I would probably go to Coreanos.

m7Vatos Urban Tacos’ concept is a bit different. I felt like it was a bit more casual and less Korean (the atmosphere, at least). Perhaps because it started in Itaewon and they wanted a more bar-like feeling? It’s very loud and you may have to wait a while for a table. Nevertheless, it has become a staple when it comes to Koreanized/Americanized Mexican. They’ve been praised by many prominent news outlets, including CNN Travel and 10 Magazine and it also has a branch in Sinsa-dong and express shops in Lotte department stores. This is a personal thing, but I very much appreciate their detailed web page.

이미 많이 유명해진 바토스는 코레아노스보다 시끄럽고 정신없는 분위기. 코레아노스보단 먼저 생겨서 그런지 더 많이 알려져 있고 이태원에 이어 가로수길에도 생겨서 찾기도 방문하기도 편하다. 음식의 종류는 비슷하다.

m8The famous Kimchi Carnitas Fries. I enjoyed the fries, although I thought it was a bit too meaty for my taste. If you want a more casual place with a lot of people around you, more of a “right in the middle of a party” scene, this is the place to be. Plus great food!

개인적으로 두곳 중 한군데만 고르라고 한다면 난 코레아노스를 선택할것 같다. 지인이라서가 아니라 엄연히 분위기와 음식으로만 봤을때. 일단 바토스는 음악도 굉장히 크고 뭔가 큰 파티 한가운데에 던져놓은 느낌이라면 코레아노스는 세련된 패밀리 레스토랑 느낌. 음식은 바토스는 안전한 느낌이라면 코레아노스는 약간 더 엣지가 있는 느낌. 소스도 더 다양하고 토핑도 더 다양하고.

The other trend was Thai. There are so many Thai places now! They used to be hidden in the corners or alleys, but now you can find them everywhere. Among the many, including Buddha’s Belly, Saint Augustin, Sala Thai and Wang Thai, Taste of Thailand was one of the best I have ever tried.

전에는 태국 음식점이 많지 않았는데 지금은 코너마다 있다. Buddha’s BellySaint AugustinSala Thai 그리고 Wang Thai 등등. 그중 이번에 새로 생긴 Taste of Thailand 내가 가본 곳 중 최고.

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m11I personally LOVE Thai and even transformed the rather Thai-shy G into a enthusiast as well. One of my favorite restaurants in Stuttgart is actually a Thai place too.

진짜 다 맛있었다. 전엔 꽤 힘들게 찾아야했던 태국음식점인데 이제는 곳곳마다 있어서 즐거웠(고 부러웠다).

m12Places mentioned:

  • Coreanos (02 547 4427, Gangnam-gu Sinsa-dong 657-11 B1, 갤러리아 로데오거리를 끝까지 걸으면 버츠비 옆.)
  • Vatos Urban Tacos (02 548 8226, Gangnam-gu Sinsa-dong 532-11 3F, 강남구 신사동 532-11 3층)
  • Taste of Thailand (02 790 2722, Yongsan-gu Itaewon 2-dong 671 2F, 용산구 이태원 2동 671번지 2층)
  • Buddha’s Belly (02-796-9330, Yongsan-gu Itaewon 1-dong 457-1 , 용산구 이태원 1동 457-1) classic Thai food. Great food in dark and jazzy? atmosphere.
  • Saint Augustin located in a number of places including Busan and Incheon. Casual and bright. Fusion.
  • Sala Thai located in various locations including Cheongdam, Bundang and even Gimpo Airport. Very traditional Thai, from the food to the interior.
  • Wang Thai (02 749 2746, Yongsan-gu Itaewon-dong 176-2 3F, 용산구 이태원동 176-2 3층) Hotel-like atmosphere, so great for parties. One of the most original, according to a Thai himself.

All photos by rachelsanghee

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