Autumn in Seoul through the eyes of a chef

Updated: Mar 25

To enjoy the city, you must pepper your itinerary with amazing sights and good food. (At least that’s what I think.) Not that you’d find it hard to, especially if you have someone like Chef Kim Sung Il to share his tips for Seoul. Speaking of Chef Kim, why not start (or end) your food journey at La Yeon, where he’s the executive chef? It’s a great way to experience traditional Korean cuisine at its finest. In between, you can try his suggestions below for exploring and tasting your way through Seoul during autumn. You’ll also find out why the season is such a cool time for him.

By the way, autumn in Korea is around September to November, so you can still go. :)

Any time is a good time to visit Seoul. But if you’re thinking in terms of season, you might want to consider autumn. Just ask Chef Kim Sung Il.

Here's Chef Kim

“In Korea, people refer to autumn as the season of ‘high, blue sky and plump horses’,” says the executive chef of La Yeon, the award-winning flagship Korean fine-dining restaurant of The Shilla Seoul.

These photos from The Shilla Seoul will show you why. 😊↓

“It’s the season many grains and fruits become ripe. Farmers harvest their crops and you can enjoy nutritious fruits and vegetables,” he explains. “It’s such a delightful time of year for me as a cook.”

Chef Kim gets to work with his favourite seasonal ingredients too. And they have a few things in common: “They are nutty, flavourful and versatile,” he describes. He names four, and tells us how he uses them and why they have such a special place in his kitchen.

Chef Kim Sung Il's top 4 autumn ingredients 

#1 Chestnuts

“I use chestnuts in a variety of recipes including eungi (a thin starch porridge), ice cream desserts, ice cookies and rice cakes.”

#2 Pine nuts

“They are a staple ingredient in my porridge recipe. Finely ground pine nuts and rice are cooked purely as porridge.”

#3 Walnuts

“I use walnuts mainly in desserts, such as custards and ice cookies.”

#4 Wild pine mushrooms

“This speciality in season is consumed in a short period of time. I use the pine mushrooms in a variety of ways; for example, in raw fish dishes, pot rice and meat garnishes.”

What about his favourite autumn dish then? “That would be the pot rice dish, which is prepared with an array of in-season ingredients,” he reveals.

“For this dish currently on La Yeon’s autumn menu, we cook fine-quality rice and different types of mushrooms in kelp-infused water, and add opossum shrimp and chives.”


Food may come first in Chef Kim’s mind, but he has other reasons for loving autumn in Seoul.

“It is wonderful to see the clear blue skies of Mt Namsan from the Hangang River and the scenery of Seoul aflame with autumn tints,” he admits.

The season also allows him to indulge in his five favourite activities. Let them inspire you to follow in his footsteps, discover a lot more about the city, as well as see it in a different light.

Chef Kim Sung Il's top 5 things to do in Seoul during autumn  

#1 Reading

“I feel relaxed when reading a book in comfort, breathing in the fresh clean air of autumn.”

#2 Travelling

“The autumn scenery of Korea is so charming, like nowhere else. I love hiking Namsan Mountain and travelling on foot to Hanok Villages and other places of interest in Seoul. This is a way for me to enjoy the beauty of autumn colours.”

#3 Road cycling

“Soaking in the autumn scenery while cycling along the riverside path gives me a memorable and relaxing experience.”

#4 Having a picnic

“I like going on picnics to places where I can feel the cool autumn air and enjoy a taste of the season. Haneul Park on Nanjido and Hangang River are great picnic spots.”

#5 Visiting traditional markets

“There are a variety of ingredients available every season in Korea. In autumn, I can see a wider range of ingredients, so I love visiting markets to find newer, fresher ingredients. Gyeongdong Market, Namdaemun Market and Gwangjang Market are three of my favourites.”

La Yeon is at the 23rd floor of The Shilla Seoul, 249, Dongho-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-856; tel: +82 2 2230 3367.