Myeongdong is one of the most popular shopping districts (read: tourist attractions) in Seoul. Myeongdong (명동) basically refers to the area between the 3 subway stations: Euljiro 1 ga (Line 2), Euljiro 3 ga (Line 2), and Myeongdong (Line 4). The place is chock full of cosmetics shops, apparel stores, and street-side vendors selling everything from fake Subpreme T-shirts to baked lobsters. I usually start walking from Myeongdong station as the crowd is harder to miss, and the Myeongdong underground shopping area is another attraction onto itself.
Though most people think of Myeongdong as a shopping district, I mostly head there for one and one thing alone: STREET FOOD. It's definitely one of the pricier areas to get street food in Seoul since the main clientele are tourists on *flexible* budget, but the convenience of having everything on one street appeals to my lazy soul.
Below are my personal recommendations of what to eat in Myeongdong, in order of preference. I have yet to try everything there so the list will be updated should I change my mind on any of the items listed ;)
1. Fish cakes (Eomuk/Odeng)
I've eaten so many of these that I lost count of how many sticks I've gone through just this past week. These are perfect for starting off your street food binge in Myeongdong as they're not heavy on the stomach and most of the time will only set you back 1,000-2,000 krw per stick. You can also pour yourself a cup of the hot odeng broth, which, to me, is the best thing you can have in Korea in winter. I've found the fish cakes here to be more expensive than at the average street-side cart but then again the difference is only around 500-1,000 krw (less than a dollar). These are almost always seen bathing in spicy or non-spicy broth, I'd recommend the spicy fish cakes for those who can handle the heat. There are also shops selling the fried version, sometimes with rice cake or sausage stuffed in the middle for that 2-in-1 experience.
2. Fried dumplings (Mandu/gyoza)
I don't care if they're a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean thing. Fried dumplings are perfect for all occasions. This stall charges 5,000 krw for 4 HUGE dumplings, what's not to love?
3. Chicken skewers (Dak-kkochi)
These chicken skewers are most of the time dressed with a soy or gochujang-based sauce. This stall at the end of the street (across from Young plaza) even lets you choose your own sauce with varying spiciness levels. These dak-kkochi give me 80% the satisfaction of pork belly skewers for only half the price. Nothing tastes better than grilled chicken with a sprinkling of economics, right?
Japchae (potato starch noodle salad) is traditionally mixed rather than fried, but the vendors here heat up on the pan prior to serving. These are best shared among friends as a bowl of japchae will fill you up pretty quickly. There are also other shops selling stir fried udon or egg noodles if the slippery texture of these noodles doesn't sit well with you. But really, did you fly all the way to Korea to try udon?
5. Egg bread (Gyeran-ppang)
This egg bread makes the list for being a unique street food local to South Korea rather than for its taste. As you can expect from the name, gyeran-ppang tastes like sunny-side up on a pound cake, which I know doesn't sound too exciting. However the small serving is definitely a major plus and the bread itself was actually quite nice.
6. Sweet & spicy fried chicken (Dakgangjeong)
Fried chicken bits are tossed with rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce, then scooped into a paper cup with some tater tots and topped with ketchup. I find it extremely hard to walk away from these stalls, especially when you've already stopped to take a photo. I usually ask for it without any mustard or ketchup since the sauce itself is already quite salty. Again, this is more of a please-share-with-your-friends-kind-of-food and not very a good option for those travelling alone.
7. Spicy rice cakes (Tteokbokki)
Just because tteokbokki can be found everywhere on the streets of Seoul doesn't mean you shouldn't have it in Myeongdong. I actually like the ones I tried here more than most of the random pop-up stalls I've found elsewhere.
8. Everything that comes on a stick (and less than $7,000 krw)
Besides 15,000 krw grilled lobster, seafood skewers are the most expensive snacks you'll come across on the streets of Myeongdong. My meager college student budget didn't allow me to splurge on a 8$ shrimp stick, but I'm including these anyway since they're not often sold in other parts of Seoul. There are also sausage and fruit skewers that are yummy and easier to walk around with.
9. Glazed sweet potato (Matang)
Sweet potatoes (goguma) in Korea are infinitely tastier than the ones in the States and also more widely consumed. There's only around 1-2 stalls selling glazed sweet potatoes in the whole street of Myeongdong so you'll likely have to circle back if you miss it the first time.
10. Baked cheese
More properly known as the grilled cheese of South Korea, mozzarella cubes are skewered with rice cakes and grilled to perfection. They also drizzle condensed milk on these sticks so I'm quite tempted to consider this a dessert.
Other things you can find in Myeongdong:
Besides those listed above, Myeongdong has a lot MORE to offer.
Another destination you absolutely can not miss while in Myeongdong is the Innisfree Cafe located on the 2nd floor of their flagship store. I'll dedicate a whole blog post to this cafe alone so stay tuned for some of the most gorgeously designed coffee shops you've ever seen.