In Korea, they say the best way to fight the summer heat is with more heat! Whether you subscribe to that belief or not, here’s a look at some of the city’s infamous spicy dishes and where you can find them.
Naengmyeon is one of summer’s representative dishes here but an infamously spicy version is found in Jamsil at “H”joo Naengmyeon. What started off as special dish at a pojangmacha became so popular it moved into a restaurant that specializes in this fiery cold noodles. Though it looks unassuming at first glance, mix in the red sauce with the noodles and you’ll soon find yourself sweating from the heat. Another famous restaurant is the “N”san Naengmyeon near Dongmyo Shrine. In addition to the spicy sauce, a mound of chopped cucumbers come atop which will come as a major relief.
The everyday favorite snack dish of tteokbokki is found everywhere but a particularly favorite chain known for its spiciness began in Dongdaemun at “Y”kki Tteokbokki. So spicy is this dish that it’s been featured on many popular online video challenges where foreigners have come and tried to finish the dish. A lesser known place is “H”suneeneh in Yongsan. What began as a small neighborhood street stall has now expanded to accommodate its immense popularity. The tteokbokki can be ordered in the regular version, which is still spicy, or the spicy version which is well known for its major kick.
Jjambbong is a spicy noodle that’s already a favorite of spicy lovers but “S”gildong Maeun Jjambbong in Singildong has grown infamous after featuring on numerous television shows. Utilizing 100% spices from India, there are even restaurant signs pleading customers to not eat the spiciest jjambbong and a status chart that shows how many people have fainted attempting it. In fact, a legend says the small mart next door is the #1 seller of milk in all of Korea for all those who have attempted this challenge.
In Changsindong’s “C”sindong Maeunjokbal, you can try the famous spicy mini jokbal or pig hocks. Not only is it extremely spicy but fans say there is an addictive aspect to it that still brings them back. In Wangsimni “Y”gi KKom Dakbal, is where dakbal or chicken feet lovers flock to, to get their spicy chicken feet fix in. Grilled over charcoal and eaten with a mixed chives mixture to the side, ordering the steamed eggs and rice balls will come in handy to help numb down the fire in between bites.
In Jongno, “Y”rim Nakji is a multiple decades-old restaurant specializing in their spicy nakji or baby octopus. Spicy food lovers say their version here is just a perfect level and guaranteed to have you sweating seconds after the first few bite. The copious amounts of steamed soybean sprouts on the side should help. If you come during lunch hours, you can get a cheaper bibimbap version over rice.
No one normally thinks of donkatsu as a spicy dish but one of Seoul’s best known extremely spicy dish is found in a donkatsu version in Sindaebang’s “O”jeong Donkatsu. You can challenge yourself with the massive king-sized donkatsu, or you can opt for their spicy version nicknamed the “death” donkatsu. They have a time challenge offering varying numbers of free meals with the greatest prize being six months of free meals if you can finish it in 5 minutes. But so spicy is this version that one must not only sign a waiver that exempts the restaurant from any responsibility if a challenger is injured and he or she is also required to bring at least a 500mL sized milk beforehand. Additionally the elderly, children, and those on an empty stomach are forbidden from even trying. Another similar challenge is offered at “U”jjino Curry near Seolleung. If one can consume the spiciest level of curry offered they can have their meal free. This challenge, however, is only offered between 2 and 4PM daily.