Seoul Small-Group Korean Night Food Tour
--Amy M. Gardner
We have taken many food tours over the years, usually through Culinary Backstreets, which works with local guides to offer tours in cities all over the world. They don’t offer one in Seoul, so I decided to see if I could find one that might be comparable, since it’s fair to say that none of us were experts in Korean food beforehand.
Since Keith’s mom traveled with us for the Asia part of our trip, I looked into doing a private tour for the three of us; Sometimes we’ve found that the cost for a private tour for three can be comparable to three people joining a group tour, but the differential was so high that I registered us for the “small-group Korean night food tour” through Viator for about $88 per person.
Despite the fact that we didn’t book a private tour, when we arrived at O’ngo Food Communications’ office/cooking school, we discovered that the group was just the three of us and our excellent guide, Kay. Kay doesn’t have the culinary background some of our food guides have had, but he spoke excellent English and was very willing to answer our (many) questions about his life in Seoul and Korean food and culture.
The tour itself was less extensive (and shorter) than most of the other (all day) food tours we’ve taken, but it was also less expensive, and exactly as advertised, with four stops in the Jongno-gu, Nagwon-dong, and Jongno areas – one for Korean BBQ, one for Toppoki, one for chicken and one dessert where we had a Korean version of shave ice and ice cream (Bingsu). At each spot, we were offered some sort of typical alcoholic beverage to go with the food.
The tour helped us learn about Korean food, try some dishes we hadn’t had before, and learn from Kay about his life in Seoul. The one thing we did miss from this tour versus some others we’ve taken before, was learning about the people who make the food. Although we met the owners of two of the stops, in retrospect we should’ve asked them more questions so we could’ve learned more from them the way we usually do on other food tours.
While the food itself was excellent, an unexpected highlight was at the end of the walk, when Kay took us to a building where we could see great views of Seoul. We had already been to the touristy N. Seoul Tower, but he took us to a new sky deck open to the public which was so much better. It was quiet, it was free, there was a much-appreciated breeze on a hot and humid night, and it was a great way to cap off what had already been a great experience. (If you want to visit yourself – and you should! – go to Makercity Sewoon and take the elevator to the 9th floor.)
Although we booked through Viator, you can book directly through O’ngo. They offer several options for food tours, in addition to cooking classes. If you have a free night in Seoul, I recommend it.