Grilled fish (mostly mackerel, 고등어) is a very popular dish in Korea. It is popular so many restaurants have it as an option, especially in the touristy area of Seoul. However, one thing to note about Korean restaurants in Korea is that most authentic and good ones are very specialized. They don’t usually have a menu composed of all kinds of different foods, but specialize in a single topic. So if you want to find the best grilled fish, you go to a restaurant where the primary topic of their menu is grilled fish related items. Also, there is usually a spot where many restaurants all congregate and specialize in grilled fish. It is strange how that works since you’d think grilled fish restaurants would open far away from each other, but for some reason, many of these places are right near each other.
One such well-known grilled fish place in Seoul is Honam Jip (호남집). It is near Dongdaemun (동대문, east gate) at the busy marketplace there (specifically, Dongdaemun subway station stop exit 8). Be prepared for one of the best tasting mackerel (with rice and accompaniments of course). Do not worry if your partner is a vegetarian and/or not into fish. There are other things on the menu, but if you don’t taste the grilled fish, you are missing out.
When I go back to visit Korea and my parents, I mostly see Korea from a point of view of someone who grew up there. It is true that I stand out in Korea as someone not from there, not because I speak with an accent, because I don’t (thanks to my parents). Korea is a society of conformity. There is always a certain way people dress or a certain manner that they behave. Having lived so many years of my life away, I no longer conform and stand out in the way I dress or the way I arrange my hair. I am a Korean who does not belong in Korea. Even so, I don’t quite look at Korea with a foreigner’s eyes. I was born there and raised there, so the spirit of the land has been infused inside me no matter how much I’ve changed and how many years have passed.
It was therefore quite refreshing to be able to see Korea through a foreigner’s eyes when I first traveled there with my husband. We created a book together after our first journey. You can preview the full book here: https://www.blurb.com/books/1699259-korea.
Our schedule was quite full as my parents were rather ambitious about showing my husband as many sites of Korea as possible. And sometimes even the weather collaborated with our whirlwind tour by sending us a typhoon (tropical storm) while we were on the island of Jeju.
Korea through a foreigner’s eyes was different, full of history, wonder, idiosyncratic customs, intricacy, delicacy, full of flavors and excitement. My husband asked me once: “Can you imagine what it would feel to grow up in a place that has thousands of years of history?” My answer to that was a simple “Yes” of course, with a smile.