What Your Kids Should Eat in Seoul

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Blazing its own path between big powers, keeping its own food traditions

Sandwiched for centuries between rival powerhouses China and Japan; sometimes peacefully trading with them and at other times occupied and subjugated by one or the other, Korea has fiercely held onto its unique culture and its language, music, design, and food – while adopting and adapting interesting and useful concepts and recipes.

As Korea takes a more prominent role on the world’s stage, and as flight options from North America increase, more and more families are coming to visit – and eat!

While Korean dishes have clear influences from both of its neighbors – such as noodles and dumplings from northern China, and seafood preparations from Japan – its own traditions of pickling and using spices to preserve food have led to flavors and textures unique to Northeast Asia. And the competitive landscape of family restaurants and street food vendors have led to a brisk evolution of new dishes to try.

It’s a given you’ll be served Kimchi on the side at many meals, and every restaurant and food stand has its own family recipe. So let’s look at some of the other dishes your family may enjoy:

   
  
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    Image by   Alvin Smith   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Alvin Smith via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Bulgogi

Do your kids enjoy eating meat? Do they like backyard barbecues? Then they'll be in luck in Korea! These thin strips of beef are marinated in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic and cooked quickly on the grill. Great by itself or in salads and noodle dishes, but some restaurants are even working it into burgers!

   
  
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    Image by   Kevin   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Kevin via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Galbi

Take that same marinade for bulgogi and put pork or beef ribs in it - let it get happy for several hours - and then put them on a charcoal or gas grill to get tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. Some restaurants even have little grills right at your table!

   
  
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    Image by   Chloe Lim   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Chloe Lim via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Dakkochi

Sweet chili-basted chicken skewers! Sized just right for a snack while walking around the markets, and more nutritious than a pack of McNuggets...

   
  
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    Image by   Arnold Gatilao   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Arnold Gatilao via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Pajeon

This eggy plate-sized griddled pancake is packed full of scallions and seafood - kind of like paella but more crunchy-chewy.

   
  
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    Image by   Joamm Tall   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Joamm Tall via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

Nearly every culture has its own dumpling recipe, and they're always a sure kid-pleasing choice. As expected, you can find vegetable- and meat-filled options, but on some menus you'll see a fried dumpling that is actually stuffed with sweet-potato noodles!

   
  
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    Image by   jamiefrater   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by jamiefrater via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Hoeddeok (Hotteok)

Pan-fried pancakes – but filled with peanut, cinnamon, honey and brown sugar. This would be great for an evening dessert, but of course an excellent breakfast for an activity-packed day!

   
  
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    Image by the   Republic of Korea  , CC 2.0 license

Image by the Republic of Korea, CC 2.0 license

Bindaetteok

These are kind of like the Okonomiyaki "pancakes" famous from Osaka, Japan, but these are a little smaller and have more structure to them. They're made from ground mung beans and filled with vegetables (and sometimes pork), onion, and kimchi, then deep fried and salted, and served with a vinegary dipping sauce. You can eat them with a knife and fork, or put a wrapper around them and have them while you walk around a night market. 

   
  
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    Image by   travel oriented   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by travel oriented via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Gyeramppang

The root of this word, "amppang", means bread (and sounds like the Japanese word meaning the same thing) - and "gyer" means egg. The bread is rich and sweet like a brioche, and before the little loaves are baked they slice a cut along the top and crack an egg into it. It's all baked together so you get something like a deconstructed French Toast when you bite into it!

   
  
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    Image by   takaokun   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by takaokun via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Jajangmyeon

In Beijing we recommend the zhajiang mian, a very similar dish with wheat noodles and thick sauce, and when you sound out the names the relationship makes even more sense. But the Korean version has an even thicker, meatier sauce, and some places will make it so dark the noodles disappear! This is great with grilled meat, and considered to be one of Korea's most traditional "home-cooking" meals.

   
  
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    Image by   Ten-ele-ven   via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Ten-ele-ven via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Tteokbokki

They may look like rigatoni pasta, but they're made out of rice flour instead of semolina wheat, and they're not hollow. There's also minced fish added to the dough before it gets boiled. The rice flour makes them chewy, and they're usually served in a bright red spicy sauce. (But it's Korea and everything has a little spice to it.)

Do you have other foods to suggest? Great family-friendly and accessible restaurants to recommend? Please comment below, or drop us a note on Twitter at @weninchina!

Image of Seoul by Carmine.shot via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Many people have much to say about food:

http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/best-korean-dishes/index.html

https://migrationology.com/south-korean-food-dishes/

https://www.willflyforfood.net/2018/01/02/korean-food-guide-44-things-to-eat-in-seoul-south-korea-and-where-to-try-them/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Seoul_dishes

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/south-korea/articles/14-mouth-watering-south-korean-foods-to-try/

https://sethlui.com/must-eat-food-seoul-korea/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/nov/28/seoul-south-korea-food-guide-dishes

http://www.thisisinsider.com/foods-to-eat-in-south-korea-2016-7

https://www.tripsavvy.com/food-you-need-to-try-in-seoul-south-korea-4143247

https://lajollamom.com/seoul-food-guide/

And check these weninchina articles and resources:

Wordsearch activity page - What Your Kids Should Eat - Seoul

Airport Guide – Seoul Incheon

3 Easy Ways to Save Money on Family Meals in Asia

Our “Seoul” folder on Pinterest

Our “Asian Food Inspiration” folder on Pinterest

 

What Your Kids Should Eat in Tokyo

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Everyday foods in this city are anything but ordinary

From feudal times onward, all roads in Japan led to imperial Edo – modern-day Tokyo – and these roads delivered food, travelers, and recipes from throughout the archipelago.

While Osaka and its Kansai region is considered the “foodie capital” of Japan, and each province proudly touts its unique cuisine, Tokyo is where all of the nation’s dining influences and traditions come together to compete for attention on the biggest possible stage. The spirit of “Iron Chef” lives in every neighborhood, and that creates exciting and flavorful choices for your family to try!

With so many great options, any list is going to be incomplete, but here are ten inexpensive dishes, available everywhere, to start with:

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Ramen

You’re probably familiar with those five-for-a-dollar packets of dried squiggly ramen; for Generation X it was a staple during college. It’s inexpensive food in Japan, too, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good food. The ramen revolution that started in Tokyo has spread around the world, so this is the best place to get a taste. There are simple ramen stands and cafes in every major train station and shopping district – or look for the chain restaurants Ippuden, Ichiran, Korakuen, Tenka Ippin, and RaiRaiTei.

 Image by  istolethetv  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by istolethetv via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Udon

While ramen noodles are thin, udon noodles are thick and chewy; the complex broth is as important as the noodle for ramen, while udon is cooked in a simple broth and often isn’t even served with it. The toppings for udon are not as complicated, either. (Of course, this simplicity means chefs can make bold experiments, and different regions of the country have their own unique combinations!) It’s a beloved staple that can also be found everywhere – chain restaurants to look for include Mugimaru, Tsurumaru, Marugame Seimen, and Rakugama Seimenjo, as well as independent cafes in every neighborhood.

 Image by  Arnold Gatilao  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Arnold Gatilao via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Curry Pan

Curries in Japan are sweeter and mellower than in Indian, Thai, and other southeast Asian dishes, with little to no chili heat. This hand-held treat takes a nice curry stew, usually with vegetables and beef, puts it inside a hollow bread tube, and fries it so the outside is crisp and chewy, but not greasy. It’s a favorite for outdoor markets, especially in cooler weather, but you can find it year-round at bakeries, specialist shops, and depachika markets all over the city.

 Image by  verygreen  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by verygreen via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Gyoza

This is the Japanese take on the original Chinese jiaozi dumpling (you may also know them as “potstickers”.) In the Japanese version, the fillings are chopped more finely, the wrapper is thinner, and the frying-steaming cooking method makes the skins more crispy. As in China, the variety of fillings is endless, as are the choices of dipping sauces. Every major neighborhood has dozens of small restaurants specializing in gyoza. In the Ikebukuro district of northwest Tokyo, the Namjatown amusement park even has a “gyoza stadium”-themed food court!

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Tonkatsu

It’s so much better than a fried pork chop: the breading is panko crumbs instead of flour, the cut is boneless and consistently free of sinew or fatty lumps, and the texture is light and juicy instead of greasy and dry. It’s usually an option for a bowl of ramen, udon, or curry, but you’ll also find it as a sandwich filling at your nearby konbini!

 Image by  MuddyRavine  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by MuddyRavine via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Taiyaki

This is a fun, warm snack made with waffle batter and cooked in a special mold to make it look like a fish. It’s usually filled with a sweet azuki bean paste (that tastes very much like chocolate) and is served fresh. You’ll see these at stands in outdoor markets and festivals as well as on the main shopping streets, especially during colder weather.

 Image by  Yutaka Seki  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Yutaka Seki via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Omu-rice

In Japan, this is definitely on the kids’ menu: a scrambled-egg omlette folded over a filling of fluffy fried rice, and drizzled with ketchup. It’s one of the first dishes kids learn how to cook (whether that’s when they are children, or when they finally move out into their own place depends on the person…), and is a cultural symbol of “comfort food.” Of course, there are fancy and upscale versions, but the basic is the favorite. You can find this on the menu at many sit-down restaurants and cafes.

 Image by  Nullumayulife  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Nullumayulife via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Onigiri

This staple of picnics and lunches is most often found in the refrigerator case at convenience stores and supermarkets, but it’s been a popular on-the-go snack since the 11th Century. It’s a simple ball of chewy white rice with a filling in the middle (usually a salty vegetable or meat), wrapped in edible nori (seaweed).

 Image by  Daderot  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 1.0 license (public domain)

Image by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons, CC 1.0 license (public domain)

Crepes

Dessert crepe stands can be found in all the major shopping streets; just follow your nose. They’re made fresh for you, and all the fillings are fresh. They use less sugar and butter than French crepes, but they are bigger! Most stands have dozens of filling choices, even including ice cream!

 Image by  Honou  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Honou via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Mochi Ice Cream

While many Japanese dessert favorites are either quite old, or adapted from European recipes, this tasty treat was only invented in the 1990s! Its edible mochi skin (cooked rice pounded into a sticky dough) is wrapped around a two-bite scoop of ice cream or gelato. Flavors range from plain vanilla or strawberry, to traditional red bean and yam, to deluxe coffee or plum wine. Look for these at dessert cafes or in convenience stores and depachika.

 

Do you have other foods to suggest? Great family-friendly and accessible restaurants to recommend? Please comment below, or drop us a note on Twitter at @weninchina!

 

Many people have much to say about food:

https://www.gpsmycity.com/articles/100-12-must-try-traditional-japanese-foods-in-tokyo.html

http://www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/restaurant/localfood.html

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/10-uniquely-japanese-dishes-to-try-in-tokyo/

https://migrationology.com/tokyo-travel-guide-for-food-lovers/

https://travel.rakuten.com/campaign/ranking/cuisine/tokyo/

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/10-sensational-stops-for-japanese-food-ramen-udon-sushi-in-shinjuku-tokyo.html

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3075.html

https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2014/07/food-culture-in-tokyo.html?__ngt__=TT0ddb01c55004ac1e4aec9bah48bPHPQN-87fkkrWORrR

http://aroimakmak.com/15-must-eat-food-in-tokyo-japan/

https://www.ninjafoodtours.com/tokyo-food-guide/

http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/japan-foods-must-have/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_cuisine

 

http://www.theworldisabook.com/2794/eating-in-tokyo-with-kids/

https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2015/02/8-Restaurants-in-Tokyo-for-Kids.html?__ngt__=TT0d6cd650d005ac1e4aec45Ct4qUY2H5s9tgTA45FPnSB

https://mylittlenomads.com/eating-restaurants-in-tokyo-japan

https://www.anepiceducation.com/must-eat-food-in-japan-for-kids/

 

And check these weninchina articles and resources:

Impressions of… Tokyo – Harajuku

Impressions of… Tokyo – Meiji Jingu

Airport Guide – Tokyo Narita

Airport Guide - Tokyo Haneda

Fun, Cheap & Free Family Travel Activities in Tokyo

3 Easy Ways to Save Money on Family Meals in Asia

Fun Activities Wordsearch - What Your Kids Should Eat in Tokyo

 

Book Review – Tokyo on Foot

Our “Tokyo” folder on Pinterest

Our “Asian Food Inspiration” folder on Pinterest