Seoul's best restaurants for hot and spicy food

Chilli is integral to South Korean cuisine. Here are the hottest spots (pun intended!) where you can find delicious food served with a good kick of heat.

A plate of Korean spicy fried chicken.
  • Erin Craig
  • September 2019

When in Seoul it would be a shame not to dive into Korean cuisine but be warned, as it is built on chilli peppers, you can find yourself suffering from a heatwave. If that sounds great, then enjoy these flaming hot finds. (But if all that chilli is getting a bit much, you can request the non-spicy version of a dish by saying “an maewoyo”).

Rocka Doodle

Nashville hot chicken is right at home in South Korea, a nation already in love with spicy, crispy chicken. Try Rocka Doodle in Itaewon, a restaurant with blistering flavours and a laid-back skater vibe. The spice levels climb from zero to four, peaking with an infusion of the world’s hottest chilli. Add a side of hot cheese fries and this is a meal for the stout-hearted.

Dong Indong

Korean rule of thumb: when in doubt, order the first item on the menu. At Dong Indong, it is the restaurant’s take on galbi jjim, Korean braised short ribs. This version looks a little different to the usual as it comes in a dangerously red, garlic-laden sauce. You’ll get a pitcher of water and a heaping plate of bean sprouts to help balance the heat. A bottle of soju wouldn’t hurt either.

A bowl of galbi jjim, or Korean braised short ribs.
The succulent galbi jjim, or Korean braised short ribs, are a must-try at Dong Indong.

Myungsung Kwan

Shoehorned between a tapas pub and wine bar, this Chinese restaurant is worth the inevitable wait for a table. It used to be a barbershop and still has the spinning candy-cane pole. Don’t miss the burn of the mala xiang guo, a seafood hotpot with Sichuan pepper. A cinnamon-sweetness preludes the numbing tingle of peppercorns that you can try to diffuse with a cocktail – good luck.

Eunjujeong

Kimchi jjigae (or kimchi stew) is the ultimate Korean comfort food and this local institution, tucked away in Bangsan Market neighbourhood, has been dishing it up since 1986. Don’t worry about what to order – there’s only one specialty: kimchi simmered with pork belly, tofu and vegetables. Grab noodles from the vending machine by the door to finish it off.

Kimchi jjigae (or kimchi stew) from Seoul establishment Eunjujeong.
A bowl of Eunjujeon's kimchi jjigae (stew) is the ultimate comfort food.

Taj

This Indian restaurant is a soothing escape from Myeongdong’s crowds. Taj opens in new window is halal, vegan friendly and also completely delicious. The chicken makhani and dal soup are famous. Here, chilli is used to enhance the flavours, not destroy your tastebuds.