Korean food is “in” and tour operators have a range of interesting
options for travelers wanting to immerse themselves culturally in
this trendy and delicious cuisine.
Though few visitors to Korea will want their entire vacation to
revolve around food, many might take a cooking class or cooking
lecture as part of their experience of the country. Many of these
programs are commissionable to travel agents.
Absolute Asia’s luxurious eight-day “Cultural and Culinary
Traditions of South Korea” tour serves up a hearty helping of food
experiences. The tour, which is commissionable, features hands-on
cooking classes, demonstrations at culinary academies in Seoul and
visits to fresh-produce markets. On the first full day of the tour,
clients are taken to a morning cooking class in Seoul, then on an
afternoon city tour, an evening buffet and a traditional
performance. Day four includes a drive to the cultural capital of
Kyongju, with visits en route to a Korean folk village, Homan
Museum and Chonju National Museum.
All told, there are three cooking classes during the eight days.
The first-class version of the tour, which has no minimum group
size and does not include airfare from the U.S., is $3,540; the
luxury version is $4,010.
Absolute Asia sales manager Lane Nevares said many clients
choose to mix a few parts of the culinary tour into customized
itineraries. “For a destination like Korea, people aren’t going to
fly to Seoul just to do cooking classes for three or four days and
fly home,” Nevares said. “It’s part and parcel of a whole
experience that people are looking for.”
Also commisionable, and an easy addition to itineraries for
clients at any budget level, are visits to Yoo’s Family House. In
this traditional Korean home located near Sam Chong Park in Seoul,
four generations of the Yoo family welcome visitors and introduce
them to cultural and culinary traditions. The “A” visit starts with
a complete “dado” traditional tea ceremony, and includes dressing
in traditional costumes and instruction in etiquette and tea
preparation. After that, there is a lesson on the making of the
most famous Korean delicacy, the pickled spicy cabbage called
kimchi. Next are folk games, followed by a meal. Finally, the
5½-hour experience winds up with an instructional lesson in
calligraphy. It costs $60 per person.
The Yoo family also offers a la carte classes in kimchi cooking
(one hour, $38), tea ceremony (90 minutes, $25) and calligraphy (90
minutes, $25). Christy Yoo, a family member, also runs a
Seoul-based tour agency and has worked extensively with agents from
Europe and Australia, but not many yet from the United States.
For clients who already have a love of Korean food, consider
booking a trip to coincide with the Gwangju Kimchi Festival, held
annually in the southwestern “City of Art.” Also, clients might
enjoy the annual Food Korea international food show, held in
November, where the latest and best Korean delicacies are on
A client may not go to Korea for the food, but any trip there
that doesn’t include trying the local fare is an opportunity
The Korean National Tourism Organization recently completed a
survey of tourists’ five favorite Korean foods with information on
where to try the best versions in Seoul. Here are the results.
1. Galbi: The word means “rib” in Korean and it’s a dish
featuring beef or pork ribs cut into chunks, then served broiled or
grilled. Suwon City, near Seoul, is famous for its galbi
restaurants. In Seoul, Pyeongsan Garden restaurant is known for its
galbi. (720-4, Daerim-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu; Tel: 02-845-6666)
2. Bulgogi: Thinly sliced beef or pork marinated in soy sauce,
green onions, garlic, sesame and sesame oil, served grilled. Try
Choujeong restaurant, which has views of the Hangang River. (125
Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu; Tel: 02-2201-8585)
3. Bimbimbap: A dish with minced meat, vegetables, eggs, sesame
oil and hot bean paste mixed with rice. It is served everywhere and
the ingredients vary by region.
4. Dolsot Bibimbap: A variation of bibimbap, it is served in a
heated stone pot, which works to retain the heat inside the dish
while it is being eaten. The pots are hot enough to sizzle. Many
tour groups dig into it at Cheongsachorong, a restaurant that
specializes in Korean table d’hote and features Korean folk dancing
from 7 - 7:30 nightly. (738-34 Hannam 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul;
5. Mandu: A Korean-style dumpling with minced meat, tofu, kimchi
and vegetables wrapped in a thin flour skin. Mandu is widely
available throughout Korea.