Delicious and Neat, Food on the Street
You’re traveling and you’re getting hungry but there’s so much to see and do so stopping is not an option. What should you do? Grab a granola bar from your bag and keep going? Or is there a better, “on the go” option? We would like to suggest trying the foods from the many street vendors. They are delicious, fast, portable and cheap.
The idea of vendors in the streets selling food, snacks and drinks is nothing new. Nearly every culture around the world has their version of the concept and Korea is no exception. However, as with many things, Korea seems to have found a way to streamline this, too. The carts are usually set up in a way that makes the food easy to see, to pick what you want, to have it heated up (if you want), packaged to go or plated to eat right there before you get back to your day.
How to Eat on Your Feet
When you order, most will assume that you plan to eat it as you walk or possibly save it for later. All of the food will be bagged by type or placed on a skewer. Often, people will decide to simply use a toothpick in place of chopsticks; this is especially true for things like Tteokbokki. The portions and prices will be small but that’s because most of the time these foods are considered just a snack to get you by until you have time to sit down to a full meal. Many of us just see this as a great reason to stop at multiple stalls and try as many different options as our stomachs will allow us to. If you get some Kimbap and Tteokbokki, you should try dipping the kimbap in the sauce of your Tteokbokki!
What Are Some Local Favourites?
Of course not everyone has the same favourites, but two of the most popular street foods are Tteokbokki (떡볶이)and Omuktang (어묵탕). Many of you are already familiar with tteokbokki, a stir-fried rice cake in a sweet and spicy sauce. Most of the time it is eaten from a bowl with either chopsticks, a fork, or a toothpick. However, sometimes you will find it on a skewer. Regardless of how you eat tteokbokki, it’s almost always a win! Omuktang is another type of rice cake, except this one is made with fish. This delicious fish cake is usually served on a skewer with a cup of broth to dip it in. Surprisingly, you will find it as a popular ingredient in many other Korean dishes including the aforementioned tteokbokki.
You will find that the most popular street foods will change with the seasons, especially in the winter. In the winter, sweet hot-cakes like Bungoppang (붕어빵) are easily the top seller. This is a fish-shaped cake most often filled with a sweet red-bean paste and served fresh and hot.
Eat Enough to Explode When You Hit the Road!
A couple of our favourite street foods are a Korean version of Jalapeno poppers called Gochu Twigim (stuffed with pork and minced veggies) and roasted sweet potatoes; a winter favourite (hint: buy 3, eat 1 and put the others in your pockets to warm your hands). One of the many things to love about street food is that since the prices and portions are so small, you can really explore many varieties of foods and flavours as you make your way down the street from one cart to the next. Don’t think of it as pigging out; it’s more like a diversification of flavours! After you have explored the options, let us know what your favourite is, and don’t worry, there is almost always a café close by so you can sit and digest!
If you need a few recommendations to get you started, we suggest you check out Gwangjang traditional street market in Seoul, offering a huge range of Korean delicacies in a big indoor hall. It was the first permanent market in Korea, and one of Seoul’s busiest and bustling markets even till today. You can find the popular street foods mentioned in this article there, as well as a variety of Korean savoury pancakes (jeon), dumplings (mandu) with many different fillings, and you can even try a unique delicacy (if you’re brave enough) – live octopus! Another great place to try Korean street food is at Myeongdong! If you find yourself tired of shopping, spend a little time re-energising with a host of unique street food available in the middle of Myeongdong main street; this includes black bean noodles (jjajangmyeon), scallops seared with its shell, and many fresh juices. And to finish off your night, treat yourself to a delicious helping of red bean paste with strawberries. Finally, our last recommendation is Tongin market. Here, you can exchange money for old coins, and use the coins as a ‘token’ to fill up the different sections of your lunch box (dosirak). You could fill up your lunchbox with just 5000won ($5)!
We would like to thank our Korean friends for their input on this article and for donating the pictures. Also, a huge thanks to you, our readers! Without you, we couldn’t continue to do what we love and share the beauty and wonders of Korea with the world. If you haven’t had the chance, jump over to our blog and main page to see more from us here at InspireMeKorea!
Featured image: ©tongin market, 12.07.2018, inspiremekorea, inspiremekorea.com