If you’re a meat lover and happen to be in Seoul, you simply cannot miss out on trying Hanwoo beef.
Known for its exceptional quality and flavor, Hanwoo beef is a must-try delicacy for anyone visiting South Korea’s capital city.
But with so many restaurants serving Hanwoo beef, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you find the best places to indulge in this mouth-watering meat.
From high-end barbecue houses to local butcher shops, we’ve got you covered. So sit back, relax, and get ready to discover the best spots to eat Hanwoo beef in Seoul.
Where To Eat Hanwoo Beef In Seoul?
1. Majang Meat Market
If you’re looking for an authentic Hanwoo beef experience, head over to Majang Meat Market. Here, you can either buy the meat at a local butcher shop and have it cooked at a nearby restaurant or buy it directly from the restaurant and have it cooked on the spot. We recommend trying both options to fully appreciate the quality of the meat.
Jowoo is a Hanwoo restaurant located near Apgujeong Station. It is run by a famous Korean beef brand listed in the Michelin Guide. The restaurant is known for its exceptional quality and marbling of the meat. If you’re in the area for shopping or medical treatment, Jowoo is a great option for a delicious meal.
3. Byeokje Galbi
Byeokje Galbi is a high-end Korean barbecue house that has been serving top-grade Hanwoo beef since 1986. The restaurant sources its meat from daily auctions and only uses the best one percent of local beef cattle. The signature diamond-cut galbi is a must-try, but be prepared to pay a premium price for this exceptional dining experience.
4. Born and Bred
Located near Majang Meat Market, Born and Bred is a four-storey restaurant that serves immaculate cuts of Hanwoo beef. The restaurant has been listed as one of Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants in 2021 and was awarded a Michelin Plate in 2020 and 2021. For the ultimate Hanwoo experience, head over to Basement 1 for their speakeasy menu, which offers an omakase-style dining experience.
Introduction To Hanwoo Beef
Hanwoo beef is a highly prized type of meat that comes from the native Korean cattle breed known as Hanwoo. The breed has a long history in Korea, dating back to 5000 years ago when it was primarily used as a draft animal for farming and transportation. However, over time, Hanwoo cattle have transitioned into a meat-type cattle breed, and full-scale production of Hanwoo beef has occurred since the 1960s with the rapid growth of the Korean economy.
Hanwoo beef is one of the most economically important species in Korea and is a significant source of nutrition for the Korean people. It is widely regarded as the most cherished food in Korea, and one of the main goals of researchers is to increase the meat quality, quantity, and taste of Hanwoo beef.
Compared to other types of beef, Hanwoo beef has a unique flavor profile due to its fat-to-protein ratio. While highly marbled like premium wagyu beef, Hanwoo has less fat content than wagyu but more than American steaks. This balance of fat and protein results in a tender and flavorful steak that is distinctively “beefy” with unique flavors from the animal’s fat.
The Hanwoo breed is one of four indigenous Korean breeds, with different coat colors such as brown (Hanwoo), black face (Heugu), black (Jeju Black), and tiger color (Chikso). Due to their limited number and religious and political issues in Korea, utilization of Hanwoo cattle as an edible meat had been minimal until recent years.
For those looking to experience the best of Hanwoo beef, there are several high-end restaurants in Seoul that specialize in serving this exceptional meat. From Majang Meat Market to Born and Bred, each restaurant offers a unique dining experience that showcases the quality and flavor of Hanwoo beef.
What Makes Hanwoo Beef Special?
Hanwoo beef is a premium beef that is highly coveted in South Korea. It is known for its high marbling, beefy flavor, and slightly sweet taste, which is a result of an organic mixed grain and grass diet. Hanwoo cattle are raised free-range in the South Korean countryside, and they are one of the four native breeds of Korean cattle. The breeding period is long, with the cattle being fed organic whole grains and grasses, which results in a higher marbling than other cows.
Hanwoo beef is often compared to Wagyu beef, as both breeds rely on a grain diet. However, Hanwoo contains less fat compared to Wagyu, which makes it perfect for someone who wants something less beefy than U.S. beef but not as fatty as Wagyu. The unique fat-to-protein ratio of Hanwoo gives it a distinct taste, as the fat on Hanwoo is just enough to not overpower the taste of beef itself.
In South Korea, Hanwoo beef is the meat of choice and is priced accordingly. It is more expensive than wagyu of comparable quality but not as expensive as Kobe (bred in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture), and it’s double the price of a comparable cut of US or Australian beef. The demand for Hanwoo beef is high, and supply is limited due to South Korea being a small country with limited land for cows to roam.
The farmers who raise Hanwoo cattle employ creative methods to ensure the best quality beef. Some farmers mix their feed with pine leaf enzyme (believed to heighten meat quality), while others keep a radio on in the cattle pens. The constant ambient noise of a human voice is believed to ease the cattle’s exposure to people, ensuring the Hanwoo will stay calm and not tense their muscles during transportation or butchering.
Each Hanwoo cow also has its own electronic ID containing information on the animal’s shots and treatment history. South Korea has its own meat grading system based on a combination of marbling and color, with beef judged on the scale of 1++, 1+, 1, 2 or 3 (1++ being the highest). Another grade measures the “percentage of meat available for use,” which is separated into A, B or C. In Hanwoo terms, 1+++ is the Korean equivalent of A5 Wagyu.
Top Restaurants For Hanwoo Beef In Seoul
If you’re a meat lover and looking for the best Hanwoo beef experience in Seoul, you’re in luck. Here are some of the top restaurants that serve exceptional quality Hanwoo beef:
1. Majang Meat Market: This is the perfect place to experience authentic Hanwoo beef. You can either buy the meat at a local butcher shop and have it cooked at a nearby restaurant or buy it directly from the restaurant and have it cooked on the spot. We recommend trying both options to fully appreciate the quality of the meat.
2. Jowoo: Located near Apgujeong Station, Jowoo is a Hanwoo restaurant run by a famous Korean beef brand listed in the Michelin Guide. The restaurant is known for its exceptional quality and marbling of the meat, making it a great option for a delicious meal.
3. Byeokje Galbi: If you’re looking for a high-end Korean barbecue house that serves top-grade Hanwoo beef, then Byeokje Galbi is the place to go. The restaurant only uses the best one percent of local beef cattle, butchered by an expert, and sources its meat from daily auctions. The signature diamond-cut galbi is a must-try, but be prepared to pay a premium price for this exceptional dining experience.
4. Born and Bred: Located near Majang Meat Market, Born and Bred is a four-storey restaurant that serves immaculate cuts of Hanwoo beef. The restaurant has been listed as one of Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants in 2021 and was awarded a Michelin Plate in 2020 and 2021. For the ultimate Hanwoo experience, head over to Basement 1 for their speakeasy menu, which offers an omakase-style dining experience.
These top restaurants offer an exceptional Hanwoo beef dining experience that you won’t forget anytime soon. Whether you’re looking for an authentic market experience or high-end dining, these restaurants are sure to satisfy your craving for delicious Hanwoo beef.
Local Butcher Shops
If you want to fully immerse yourself in the Hanwoo beef experience, consider visiting the local butcher shops at Majang Meat Market. This market is the largest meat market in South Korea and offers a wide variety of cuts and parts of the Hanwoo beef.
By buying the meat at a local butcher shop, you can personally select the meat and determine its quality with your own eyes. This is a worthwhile experience that allows you to fully appreciate the unique marbling and flavor of Hanwoo beef.
Some recommended butcher shops include those located inside Majang Meat Market. You can find a variety of options, so take your time to explore and choose the best one for you.
Another option is to visit Jobakjip, located near Mapo-gu. This restaurant is known for its Hanwoo beef and offers a unique dining experience. You can also buy Hanwoo beef at Born & Bred, a high-end restaurant and butcher shop that was one of the first places to sell meat in Majang Meat Market.
Tips For Enjoying Hanwoo Beef
Now that you know where to find the best Hanwoo beef in Seoul, here are some tips for enjoying this premium meat:
1. Choose the right cut: Hanwoo beef comes in various cuts, such as ribeye, sirloin, and tenderloin. Each cut has a different texture and flavor, so it’s important to choose the one that suits your taste buds. If you’re not sure which cut to go for, ask your server for recommendations.
2. Cook it to your liking: Korean barbecue restaurants usually offer a grill at your table where you can cook your own meat. Make sure to cook the meat to your desired level of doneness. Hanwoo beef is best enjoyed medium-rare to medium, as overcooking it can result in a tough and chewy texture.
3. Savor the flavor: Hanwoo beef is known for its rich, buttery flavor and tender texture. Take your time to savor each bite and appreciate the quality of the meat.
4. Pair it with the right side dishes: Korean barbecue restaurants usually serve a variety of side dishes, such as kimchi, pickled vegetables, and rice. These side dishes complement the flavor of the meat and balance out its richness.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: If you’re not familiar with Hanwoo beef or Korean barbecue etiquette, don’t hesitate to ask your server for guidance. They will be happy to assist you and ensure that you have a pleasant dining experience.