You probably already know all about Chinese-Korean fast food: jjajangmyeon, those thick noodles slathered in unctuous black bean sauce, and fiery jjambbong noodles. They're a go-to quick meal found on any street corner or even delivered right to your door.
But Chinese cuisine has so much more to offer, whether it's Peking duck, red pork belly, a dozen ways to cook scallops, or a plethora of dim sum options (don't get us started on the dumplings). So skip the noodles for now and dig into these delicious mainland dishes—and hey, most of these places also serve jjajangmyeon if you're really craving it.
Where to eat great Chinese food
“It's a hip Chinese restaurant sitting on one of the back alleys of Hannam-dong. You can enjoy their signature dishes of sweet and sour pork, mint shrimp and steamed pork and cold vegetables at an affordable price, and the food here isn’t greasy and doesn't leave you feeling heavy afterwards. It's a nice place to have a drink with your friends, and I tend to go here quite often.”
There are plenty of delicious jjampong and jjajeongmyeon places to go to in yeonnam-dong or yeonhui-dong but the lines are long, the tables are full, and the diners are often drunk and loud, no place to go on a special occasion or with family. Larger and nicer restaurants are fully booked with long waitlists, no thanks to popular cooking shows that have raised chefs to celebrity status. But to jump to a hotel restaurant will put your wallet in danger. Considering all these factors, the Chinese place to go to on a special night is Baljae Restaurant. Recently relocated from near Dosan Park to The K Twin Tower across Gyeongbok Palace, Baljae offers fist-rate traditional Chinese cuisine. The atmosphere is also unlike normal Chinese restaurants in Seoul, classy and modern. Rather than the course menu, try the unique dishes such as XO fried rice and doenjang jjajang that you won’t find anywhere else.
Chinese dim sum chefs at Mongjungheon put their heart into the creation of each bite-sized portion, stuffing thinly rolled dough with filling. There have been attempts to create proper dim sim in Korea since the 1970s, but these attempts were never able to overcome the hegemony of popular Korean-Chinese dishes such as jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) and tangsuyuk (sweet, sour and crispy pork). And as the pan-fried dumplings of Korean-Chinese cuisine came to be widely regarded as something that came free with large orders, dim sum also suffered, as a fellow member of the dumpling family. Things changed in the 2000s as overseas travel became more common. Korean diners who’d fallen in love with the taste of dim sum in Hong Kong found a close match at Mongjungheon in Seoul. Mongjungheon is famous for its delicious shrimp dim sum and its shrimp and scallion dim sum but also has its own signature dish—the Cantonese-style seafood stir-fry. It’s a dish widely acknowledged to be invigorating for the body, filled with various seafoods—including abalone, sea cucumber, shrimp, and octopus—and vegetables, including shiitake and matsutake (pine) mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and asparagus. The interior of Mongjungheon is also striking, recalling the ambiance of an old mansion as might be found in Shanghai or the Guangdong region.