Some Korean eating places exude an essence little changed for decades. Raw fish stalls around the coast, city-centre marketplaces and mountain restaurants are your best options for that traditional feeling.

Korean seafood is a bit of a maze for most foreigners, and much more expensive than other meals, though it’s worth persevering. Some is served raw, while other dishes are boiled up in a spicy soup. Jagalchi market in Busan deserves a special mention, but in small coastal villages – particularly on the islands of the West and South seas – there’s little other industry to speak of; battered fishing flotillas yo-yo in and out with the tide, and you may be able to buy fish literally straight off the boat. This may seem as fresh as seafood can possibly be, but baby octopus is often served live (sannakji; 산낙지), its severed tentacles still squirming as they head down your throat. Be warned: several people die each year when their prey decides to make a last futile stab at survival with its suckers, so you may wish to wait until it has stopped moving, or at least kill the nerves with a few powerful bites. A far simpler choice is hoe deop-bap (회덮밥), a widely available dish similar to bibimbap, but with sliced raw fish in place of egg and meat. A halfway house in excitement terms is jogae-gui (조개구이), a shellfish barbecue – the unfortunate creatures are grilled in front of you, and W35,000 will buy enough of them to fill two people.

Korean markets offer similar opportunities for culinary exploration. Here you’re also likely to spot seafood on sale, along with fruits, vegetables, grilled or boiled meats and an assortment of snacks. Many options have been detailed under “Snack food” above, but one favourite almost unique to the market is sundae (순대), a kind of sausage made with intestinal lining and noodles. Sokcho on the Gangwon coast is the best place to sample this.

Korea’s wonderful national parks feature some splendid eating opportunities surrounding the main entrances. One of the most popular hiker dishes is sanchae bibimbap (산채 비빔밥), a variety of the Korean staple made with roots, shoots and vegetables from the surrounding countryside – knowing that everything is sourced locally somehow makes the dish taste better. Most popular, though, are pajeon (파전); locals may refer to these as “Korean pizza”, but they’re more similar to a savoury pancake. They usually contain strips of spring onion and seafood (haemul pajeon; 해물), though other varieties are available; it’s usually washed down with a bowl or three of dongdongju, a milky rice wine.