Exploring Trendy Hongdae (홍대)

After taking a short nap in the apartment, I met up with my Korean friend for lunch at the trendy Hongik University district (Hongdae/홍대 as it’s more commonly known). Obviously it’s not my first time in Hongdae, but wow, so much has changed since the last I stepped foot there. Now there are Tourist Police booths in the area too, more convenient for visitors to ask for help if needed. What hasn’t changed a bit is the streets are still bustling with people, especially the young (& young at heart haha), even on a Friday late morning.

Thanks to my friend who did an online search for recommended Dak Galbi (닭갈비, marinated stir-fried chicken on hot plate) in the area, I had a delightful first lunch in Seoul at Sin Mi Gyeong Traditional Roast Chicken (신미경 홍대 닭갈비). Nearest exit from Hongdae Station (Line 2) is exit 9, and the restaurant is located between Gopchang Street & A Land Building (open 1100 to 2300 hrs daily).

Sin mi gyeong cheese fondue dak galbi

View from the restaurant on level 2

Different views of Sin Mi Gyeong restaurant

Initially I had reservations about ordering the Cheese Fondue Dak Galbi (치즈퐁듀닭갈비), because the normal Dak Galbi is already very filling by usual standards. So I couldn’t imagine how bloated I would get with the addition of (fatty) cheese! But since online reviews were saying it’s the best selling dish & everyone around us was also eating that dish, we decided to go for it. If you notice in the top photo of the above collage, 2 types of cheese were given, together with lettuce leaves for us to wrap the chicken, as well as some kimchi/ radish side dishes like any typical Korean meal.

According to the website, the restaurant was established since 1996. Only 99.2% natural cheese & 100% domestically produced, fresh unfrozen chicken stock is being used. Chilli pepper & sesame oil for the Gojujang sauce are personally bought & parched together in Chuncheon before bringing them into Seoul. The dak galbi is only prepared when customer makes an order, so it will take some time before the food can be served at the table.

No regrets after ordering this best-selling dish though (KRW 13,000, about S$15.50 for 1 person/ 210g serving), because it was indeed 맛있었어요 (delicious)! The cheese used was so fragrant & smooth it “glided” into our stomachs. As for the marinated chicken, it was tender and very tasty, blending very well with the smooth cheese. It must be because of their commitment to bring only the best quality food to customers! I already felt full before we could finish the whole dish, but it’s really worth the calories! 🙂

After a sumptuous lunch, we took a stroll down the street, browsing some shops along the way & feeling the vibrancy of the streets. Saw a Gong Cha bubble tea outlet & my friend commented it’s quite popular in Korea now. Pricing is similar to Singapore’s though. Knowing that I have a penchant for Korean strawberries, my friend brought me to A Twosome Place (투썸플레이스) for some Iced Strawberry Latte (KRW 5,300, about S$6.30) as it’s the strawberry season now & she mentioned this was one of the better cafes with the strawberry special menu. Very refreshing drink to wash down all the chicken meat we had haha…

We also happened to watch an open-air performance by a local indie band called 10 cm. The 2-man band’s performance seemed to be quite well-received by the audience. I didn’t know who they were but later learnt that their latest single “봄이 좋냐” (Do You Love Spring?) is a hit in Korea. An appropriate title for the season! The band name is also quite catchy & a Google search told me it came about because it refers to height difference of the two core members. What a name! 😛

10cm's Hongdae performance

The following week, I revisited Hongdae via Hapjeong Station (Line 2 & 6, exit 5) with my classmate from Sogang University days for a dinner reunion. At night, the area is filled with numerous pubs for people getting together with friends over drinks. As I wasn’t really familiar with the numerous restaurants there, we just entered a restaurant randomly that serves Bo-ssam (보쌈). In case you don’t already know, Bo-ssam is a pork belly dish boiled in spices, & the meat will be wrapped in lettuce leaves together with the usual Korean side dishes before eating.

Bossam and Pork spine soup

Bo-ssam & Pork Spine Soup (감자탕)

I was busy catching up with my classmate since we hadn’t met since graduation, which was almost 11 years ago! So pardon me, I forgot to take photo of the restaurant or note down its name. But I remember it’s a small restaurant on level 2 opposite Trick Eye Museum. The staff recommended us to take the Bo-ssam & Pork Spine Soup set for 2 persons (KRW 30,000, about S$35.80) but gosh, the serving was too much for 2 ladies to finish…. Both dishes were very good, & I loved the spicy soup. Probably same for my friend so we managed to finish the Pork Spine Soup but had problems finishing all the Bo-ssam.

It was the first time I ate Bo-ssam (because I usually don’t take pork belly) & Soondae (순대, blood sausage made by boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines stuffed with various ingredients like dangmyeon). Surprisingly I kind of like the taste & the tender meat. The Soondae also tasted quite nice when wrapped in lettuce leave with Kimchi & Gochujang. But it was clearly an overestimation of how much food we could stuff into our stomachs haha.

It was a pity I didn’t have enough time to roam the youthful streets of Hongdae more thoroughly this round. But it’s alright, I still got to enjoy the trendy district through food & a free performance by a popular indie band! 😉

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