11 Best Makgeolli & Food Pairing Experiences in Seoul

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Michelin Guide Seoul brings you the following list of 11 of the best makgeolli and food pairings you can experience in Seoul as recommended by Makgeolli School and Bar & Dining Magazine.

Read more about makgeolli, Korea’s oldest alcoholic beverage.

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  1. Prawn jeon & Unpasteurized Tiger Makgeolli (BHD Brewery)

Oh! Tongyeong (Gangnam-gu Seolleung-ro 158-gil 10, B2)

A combination of lightly battered pan-fried prawn jeon and pink dipping salt is paired with BHD Brewery’s Unpasteurized Tiger Makgeolli. The faint bitterness and subtle sweetness of the makgeolli effectively cuts through the richness and fattiness of the prawns while cleansing the mouth and preparing it for the next bite.

Unpasteurized Tiger Makgeolli: A flavorful and fragrant makgeolli made from fermented raw rice.

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  1. Crispy beef with chili garlic sauce & Gapyeong Pine Makgeolli (Woorisool Brewery)

Subul (Jongno-gu Saemunan-ro 5-gil 31)

This sweet and spicy dish is prepared by marinating tender strips of beef tenderloin in garlic, oyster sauce and sesame oil which are then coated in a mixture of cornstarch and sweet rice flour before being fried to a crisp. The deep-fried beef nuggets are then tossed with chili oil, garlic and dried red chili peppers before being glazed with sweetened soy sauce. With its elegant nuttiness, Gapyeong Pine Nut Makgeolli is the perfect foil for this vibrant Chinese-inspired dish.

Gapyeong Pine Nut Makgeolli: A smooth and easy-to-drink makgeolli made with newly-harvested local rice and local pine nuts.

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  1. Spicy stir-fried gochujang pork belly with fresh perilla leaves & Freshwater Snail Rice Makgeolli (Yangchon Brewery)

Bokdeokbang (Mapo-gu Poeun-ro 8-gil 5)

There is perhaps no other local vegetable that complements pork quite like perilla leaf does. The grassiness of the perilla leaf cuts through the fatty pork belly, leaving the mouth fresh with hints of mint, basil and anise. Sweetened with green plum syrup, the gochujang marinade adds a pleasant kick to each bite of the rich pork meat. The dish is paired with low temperature-brewed Freshwater Snail Rice Makgeolli that has a complex depth of flavor and exquisite smoothness with an unmistakable hint of apples.

Freshwater Snail Rice Makgeolli: Made with newly harvested rice from Nonsan, cultivated organically through the snail farming method.

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  1. Makgeolli-marinated grilled pork shoulder steaks & Neurin Maeul Makgeolli (Baesangmyeon Brewery)

Neurin Maeul Brewery & Pub (Jung-gu Euljiro 5-gil 26, 2F)

Here, the pork shoulder is marinated for exactly 195 minutes in makgeolli which tenderizes and imparts a subtle note of apples to the meat. Neurin Maeul Brewery and Pub offers makgeolli at four different stages of fermentation labeled “spring”, “summer”, fall”, winter”, respectively, each with its unique tasting notes. Keep in mind that the younger the makgeolli, the sweeter it tastes.

Neurin Maeul Makgeolli: Four different stages of fermentation are offered on the menu.

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  1. Bubu pork bossam & Hongcheon-gang Takju (Ye-Sul Brewery)

Bubu 0325 (Gyeonggi-do Goyang-si Ilsandong-gu Mugunghwa-ro 93-gil 29)

To prepare the Bubu pork bossam, Berkshire K pork–prized for its juiciness, flavor and high fat content–is first boiled and then pan-fried to achieve extra firm texture. The pork bossam is served with a tangy tsuyu dressing spiked with garlic and wasabi and garnished with fragrant scallions sautéed in olive oil. The mildly peppery scallions bring out the natural savoriness of the Hongcheongang Takju, a full-bodied dry makgeolli with prominent notes of nuruk.

Hongcheon-gang Takju: With a relatively high alcohol content (12%) and a clean dry flavor, typical of makgeolli made with non-glutinous rice, Hongcheon-gang Takju is a favorite among seasoned drinkers.

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  1. Chamnamul salad and pork bulgogi & Sobaeksan Makgeolli (Daegang Brewery)

Namsangol Sanchaejip (Jung-gu Sopa-ro 93)

Sobaeksan Makgeolli, with its trademark yoghurt-like tartness and a smooth nuttiness, is a great match for Namsangol Sanchaejip’s pork bulgogi which is marinated in ground fruit and soy sauce and then pan grilled over high heat. The smoky pork bulgogi is served with a fragrant chamnamul salad lightly dressed with green plum gochujang and sesame oil.

Sobaeksan Makgeolli: An old-fashioned makgeolli fermented in an 80-year-old hangari (earthenware vessel used for brewing makgeolli).

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  1. Chargrilled soy sauce-marinated pork neck & Baekryun Misty Makgeolli (Shinpyeong Brewery)

Chez Maak (Gangnam-gu Gangnamdaero 442, 2F)

Soy sauce marinated pork neck is first pan fried and then grilled over charcoal to impart a wonderfully smoky aroma. The light yet creamy Baekryun Misty Makgeolli counterbalances the richness of the pork while the mild sweetness of the beverage enhances the tartness of the pickled vegetables as well as chives that have been dressed with yuzu soy sauce.

Baekryun Misty Makgeolli: Made with premium Haenaru rice from Dangjin in Cheongcheongnamdo Province, Misty is a light-tasting makgeolli with a creamy texture.

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  1. Bean sprout pancake & Haechang Makgeolli (Haechang Brewery)

NurukNamu (Jongno-gu Insadong 6-gil 13)

A crispy and savory pancake made with a generous heaping of bean sprouts—an effective cure for hangovers–are topped with thinly sliced raw onions and almonds. The ensuing result is bite after bite of crispy crunchy nuttiness. The full-bodied Haechang makgeolli pleasantly counterbalances the lightness of the bean sprout pancake.

Haechang Makgeolli: The delicate sweetness from glutinous rice and the dryness from non-glutinous rice are balanced well in this makgeolli from one of the oldest breweries in Korea dating back to 1927.

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  1. Grilled John Dory (White Bear Makgeolli Bar & Brewery) & Unpasteurized Omija Makgeolli (Mungyeong Brewery)

White Bear Makgeolli Bar & Brewery (Gangnam-gu Apgujeong-ro 48-gil 39)

John Dory is considered a delicacy in Korea, especially in Seoul. Sourced from Busan, the fish is seasoned simply with salt and grilled whole. The fish is paired with the dark pink Unpasteurized Omija Makgeolli which offers a vibrant medley of tartness and sweetness – also great as an aperitif.

Unpasteurized Omija Makgeolli: Makgeolli with a beautiful complexity loved by all generations

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  1. Aged kimchi pancake & Geunjeongsanseong Makgeolli (Geumjeongsanseong Brewery)

Hidden Alley (Mapo-gu Donggyo-ro 34-gil 12)

Aged kimchi leaves are rinsed, lightly dredged with flour, dipped in a six-grain batter and pan-fried until golden brown. The crispy batter helps the kimchi retain its crunchy texture even when cooked. The tartness of the aged kimchi neutralizes the unmistakable acidity of makgeolli while bringing out the earthy, slightly musty scent of nuruk.

Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli: A full-bodied makgeolli with an elegant tartness made with traditional nuruk native to Geumjeongsanseong village in Busan.

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11. Taebaek Mountain kimchi and warm tofu & Eunjagol Takbaegi (Euncheok Brewery)

Pureunbyeol Jumak (Jongno-gu Insa-dong 16-gil 17-1)

This simple dish of tofu and kimchi is as classic as it gets when it comes to pairing food with makgeolli. Fresh handmade tofu, delivered daily from Jeongseon in Gangwondo Province, are lightly poached until just warmed through and served with kimchi sourced from Taebaeksan Mountain. This humble but delicious dish is the perfect match for Eunjagol Takbaegi, a vibrant makgeolli with plenty of natural carbonation.

Eunjagol Takbaegi: A mildly sweet and refreshing effervescent makgeolli.