Hemlagat, Swedish home cooking restaurant

Taste International ‘Homemade Food’ in Seoul
When you are traveling in a foreign country, you often become curious about the daily lives of people there. Especially these days when the Coronavirus is forcing us to stay home longer than before, you are tempted to find out what kind of food they eat everyday. So we embarked on a little journey to learn about and taste “homemade food” of various nations. Here are five restaurants serving international home-style cuisines in Seoul.
Swedish Home Food | Hemlagat
Several images pop up in your head when discussing Sweden. Home furnishing brand Ikea, meatballs and mashed potato, the fika culture enjoying a tea time, and the best horror movie of 2019 titled “Midsommar.” Consider adding one more word to the list. It’s ‘Hemlagat.’ In Swedish language, the word means ‘homemade’ and the namesake restaurant specializes in Swedish home-style cooking. Owner-chef Daniel Wikstrand grew up under parents who loved cooking and naturally it became a big part of his life as well. His wife and co-owner Oh Soo-jin opened the restaurant with him in 2014.

Inside Hemlagat


Vildsvinsgryta, boar stew with a flavor of Swedish home cooking

Scandinavian countries, due to their unfriendly climate and natural conditions, used to struggle with a limited food supply. In order to set aside food for the long winter, the Swedes would marinate or smoke fish or meat. Marinated herring, above all, is the signature Swedish dish. Often when marinated herring is discussed, people think of Surströmming, or fermented herring, comparable to Korea’s fermented hongeo(skate)-hoe or Chinese stinky tofu. But the marinated herring consumed most often in Swedish households is not that pungent. “Marinated herring is a holiday food cooked on Christmas(Julbord), Summer Solstice(Midsommar), and other major holidays. Separately, Swedish families use their own recipes to marinate herring and reserve it for special occasions,” said Oh. The restaurant Hemlagat offers six types of marinated herring dishes. ’Silltalrik’ which is like an appetizer, is presented with pieces of marinated herring(using tomato and basil, curry and mayonnaise, and dill mustard and sour cream as a base), home-baked dark bread made of four types of cereals, and boiled eggs. Cut a slice of the egg or dark bread and place an adequate amount of herring on top as if you were making an open sandwich. That’s how the food is usually enjoyed.

Snaps, a popular Swedish beverage. It’s vodka with extra flavor.


Silltalrik, served with six pieces of marinated herring, dark bread and boiled eggs


Put pieces of herring on top of the bread to eat.

Marinated herring always comes with a drink. It’s a Swedish flavored vodka named ‘Snaps.’ “Marinated herring and snaps remind Swedish people of a holiday or a family gathering.” Having a strong flavor and scent, snaps make a great combination with the salty fish. Hemlagat offers over 25 kinds of homemade snaps. Wild animals were also part of the traditional Swedish diet. Most of the hunting seasons were after the fall, meaning a stew made of game meat was loved as a winter food. Hemlagat’s ‘Vildsvinsgryta’ is a red wine-base stew made by boiling boar meat, mushrooms, and various root vegetables together for a long time, which shows the unique color of home food in Scandinavian countries.

Interior accessories that evoke Sweden

Born in Skåne County, the southernmost region in Sweden, Wikstrand cooks food in a southern style. With a self-imposed mission of promoting Swedish food in Korea, he prioritizes ‘traditionality’ and ‘authenticity.’ “We have had many people ask us if we adjusted the Swedish recipes to reflect Korean tastes. Among Korean foods, some match foreigners’ taste buds better than others. We simply selected what we thought were suitable recipes. We didn’t change them. One decision we made was to reduce the salt ratio of our menu. Swedish food is pretty salty. That’s about it.” Oh kindly explained her answer to the question on the food prepared by Chef Wikstrand who puts his heart into making real Swedish food and bread, pickles, and sauce that he prepares every morning contribute to the outcome. The couple hope that the food they serve at Hemlagat will be a reminder of a ‘happy meal’ to their customers. Warm and comforting, the experience at Hemlagat will be similar to that of visiting a Swedish friend for dinner.
Address 35 Sogong-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-2-318-3335
Morococo Cafe

Lamb dish called Tagine at Morococo Cafe, a Moroccan home cooking restaurant

Moroccan Home Food | Morococo Cafe
Moroccan chef Naciri Wahid opened ‘Casablanca Sandwicherie’ specializing in Moroccan-style menu in Haebangchon in 2010. Four years ago, he opened ‘Morococo Cafe’ across from his first restaurant. He launched the second business hoping to further introduce the homemade food of Morocco to Korea. Located in northwestern Africa, Morocco faces the Meditteranean and is close to Europe and Central Asia. Because of the geographical location, the country has seen the formation of a unique culture, and its food culture shows that regional influence as well. Lemons and olive oil, frequently used in Mediterranean countries, and spices from Arab culture are all important in Moroccan cuisine. Morococo Cafe makes its own harissa sauce with red peppers and lemon pickle, a widely-used condiment, hoping to re-create the typical Moroccan flavors in Seoul.
Morococo Cafe

Inside Morococo Cafe

Morococo Cafe

Morocco Over Rice. For the main topping, you can choose from chicken, lamb, shrimp or vegan.

Morococo Cafe

Chermala carrot salad with caramelized plums and toasted almonds

If you visit Morococo Cafe, you should try tagine, which is a classic home-cooked Moroccan dish. “It’s a food you can eat in any region. Not just on a special day but at any time. Moroccans eat it very often,” said the owner-chef. Tagine is served in a vessel called ‘tagine’ which has a cone shape. Moroccan stew cooked by boiling meat, vegetables, and spices together can be divided into two types depending on the kind of meat used as the main ingredient. At Morococo Cafe, ‘Lamb rass el hanout kefta tagine’ and ‘Preserved lemon chicken with green olives’ are available. ‘Chermala carrot salad with caramelized plums and toasted almonds’ featuring carrots marinated in the traditional manner is worth trying. In Morocco, a small side menu of carrot salad can be turned into the main dish if you add toppings and enlarge the size. ‘Morocco over rice’ is a fusion between Moroccan and Korean. To ease Koreans’ entry into Moroccan cuisine, it uses a Moroccan recipe but a bibimbap-inspired plating, putting the chicken, salad, rice, and dressing on one plate.
Morococo Cafe

Pink walls create unique ambience

Morococo Cafe

View of Morococo Cafe

The sourness of lemon pickle, hot taste of harissa sauce, and spiciness of various spices conveyed through the authentic Moroccan cuisine will captivate your palate. Anyone can enjoy Moroccan food as long as they don’t find spices repulsive. The interior design of the cafe featuring pink walls, plant pots, and art frames adopted the traditional Moroccan style, which was influenced by French architecture. In the streets of Haebangchon crowded with people of diverse nationalities, you can pretend like you’re on a vacation at an exotic location, while enjoying a Moroccan homemade food, courtesy of Morococo Cafe.
Address 34 Sinheung-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-2-794-8367

Kuna, Italian home cooking restaurant

Italian Home Food | Kuna
‘Mom’s food is delicious no matter what.’ It is a proposition that worked as a barometer for chef Park Kuna in his traveling and cooking. ‘Kuna’ is an Italian-style restaurant offering homemade meals. While traveling around the world, he collected ideas for his business from small restaurants run by old women in small cities around the countryside. “Mom’s food symbolizes devotion and sincerity. Instead of half-hearted cooking, mothers want to give their children the best food. I’m the same way.” He minimizes the use of factory-produced ingredients and works hard to make food from scratch. His completely open-concept kitchen reveals the cooking process entirely. Business hours end at 10pm on a weekday and 8pm on Sunday because the owner-chef is meticulous about the hygiene of his kitchen. Skeptical about dining restaurants that are expensive and overbearing, he offers high-quality food that is cooked with care at a reasonable price at Kuna.

Inside Kuna. Blue stands out in the interior design.


Cream gnocchi with porcini and four other types of mushrooms. For added flavor, try truffle-infused egg yolks in the center of the table.

Kuna’s signature menu is ‘gnocchi.’ It is a classic homemade pasta dish of Italy using potatoes as the main ingredient. Kuna offers two gnocchi dishes, among which cream gnocchi made with porcini and four other types of mushrooms is popular. Cooked with bacon oil, the pasta is smooth and savory. Gnocchi, the dough of which took Park 300 trials to perfect, is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. To give this a fancy spin, add truffle-infused egg yolks. Carefully pop the yolk, mix it well with the rest, and eat. The rich flavor of gnocchi will be doubled. Another recommended item on the menu is butter-roasted octopus with carrot puree. It takes three steps to cook the octopus — blanching, frying, and roasting with butter. Using only carrots and onions, the puree packs a punch. Park believes that a sauce can either save the dish or kill it. His carrot puree is surprisingly tasty, even from a carrot hater’s point of view.

View of Kuna

“People these days are very sensitive to trends and have a feeler out to see how a restaurant is managed and how its food is made. So I thought if I just tried really hard with sincerity, it would work.” Opened in late May, Kuna is fully booked for two weeks ahead. Without any PR, it was all word of mouth. If you want to visit Kuna for Italian homemade meal, make sure you book a table.
Address 9-16 Yeonmujang 5-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-10-8008-1028

Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery, New Zealand home cooking restaurant

New Zealand Home Food | Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery
If America has hot dogs and Japan onigiri, New Zealand has meat pies. A meat pie is a hand-sized pie containing seasoned meat inside. It can be easily baked at home, but is also available anywhere you go in New Zealand. Bakeries, supermarkets, convenience stores, and even those mini cafes inside gas stations sell meat pies. New Zealanders eat these pies for breakfast or lunch, while driving, and after a hangover. To them, meat pies are near and dear in their everyday lives. So Brad Alexander Holderwood and his wife Lee Ju-sang moved to Korea from New Zealand, they immediately looked for a meat pie shop. “Just like Koreans craving kimchi-jjigae when they are overseas, we searched for meat pies.” However, they couldn’t find a place specializing in New Zealand-style meat pies. (People in the UK and Australia also enjoy meat pies but each country or region has a unique recipe and flavor.) When they decided to open a cafe, they thought of meat pie. “We wanted to make food that expats from New Zealand like us would appreciate.”

Inside Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery

‘Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery,’ run by the Kiwi husband and his Korean wife, presents meat pies using his mother’s recipes. In order to perfectly re-create the homemade pie taste, the couple relies on ingredients imported from New Zealand, including seasoning powder, butter, and cream. As butter is used for pastry, they remove fat from meat as much as possible and follow the mother’s recipe to get rid of meat smell as well. The couple’s meat pie is a reminder of motherly love.

Photos on the wall showing landscapes of New Zealand will catch your eye.


The popular meat pie with beef and cheese

There are two chicken pies and four beef pies at Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery. The bestseller is the pie with beef and cheese filling. Fruity drinks such as lemonade, grapefruit ade, and plum ade are a good match. Lee recommends the combination of beef-and-cheese meat pie and caffe latte. “The meat pie is better with a drink. Caffe latte surprisingly blends well with the meat pie. We picked coffee beans with our pies in mind. Coffee with stronger acidity seems to match well with meat pies.”

Meat pies are New Zealanders’ favorite snack.

Kiwiana Cafe & Bakery is now considered a hangout for those who miss the meat pies from New Zealand, like how the owner couple hoped. Lee thinks she has met all New Zealanders in Seoul since opening the cafe in 2019. More than half of their customers are foreigners, and they all say the meat pies at Kiwiana brings back memories from their homeland. There are of course those who claim they are regulars. Why don’t you get a table at Kiwiana for a warm meat pie and a refreshing lemonade? The heaviness from the beef and cheese filling will keep you full for a while.
Address 11 Apgujeong-ro 32-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-2-515-0439
La Planque

La Planque, French home cooking restaurant

French Home Food | La Planque
Should French food always be beautiful, fancy, and formal? How about French homemade meals? ‘Le Planque’ located on a quiet back alley in Itaewon holds answers to those questions. “I wanted to introduce French food to Koreans in a more friendly manner. French people do not go to upscale restaurants often.” Chef Anton Lombard opened French bistro La Planque based on 10 years of cooking experiences from France, Australia, the UK, and Canada. Here you can enjoy a French home-style meal in a cozy atmosphere.
La Planque

Items brought in from France by the chef fill the inside.

La Planque

Inside La Planque

You may feel like you’re in a small pub in a French rural town, as you walk into La Planque. The space has rustic, cherished vintage items brought from France by the chef in order to create a French local atmosphere. Quite a few of them including the chest, bookcase, and ladle were actually used by his grandmother. She is the one person who inspired him the most to be a cook. He naturally learned about the right attitude of a cook and secret recipes while helping her make food during family gatherings.
The bistro’s signature menu is boeuf(beef) bourguignon. It is one of the classic French dishes enjoyed at Sunday family dinner. It is known to have originated from the farmers’ meal in Bourgogne region famous for wine and beef. Boeuf bourguignon is a beef stew braised in red wine, along with potatoes, onions, carrots, and button mushrooms. It is quite similar to a Korean health food. Potato gratin is also popular, especially for its affordable price. The oven-baked dish uses potatoes and cream as a base and often gets paired with stew or meat dish. Traditional gratin recipes do not use cheese, but for Koreans who like cheese, the chef adds it on top before putting in the oven. “Boeuf bourguignon is good with red wine, and potato gratin with white wine.”
La Planque

Boeuf bourguignon and potato gratin, popular items at La Planque

The owner-chef of La Planque has many fond memories of his grandmother and her heartfelt cooking, and he wants to relay the same kind of inspiration to his customers. “While having a meal at La Planque, I would like them to feel the warmth of food made by their grandmothers.” La Planque opens business at 5pm. It would be a pleasant experience to visit the French bistro with a loved one and share the chef’s hearty, home-style food before ending the day.
Address 26 Itaewon-ro 26-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-70-7719-3010
September 2020 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Photographer:Ahn Garam

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  • September 2020
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
  • Photographer: Ahn Garam
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