July 14, 2008

life in general: korean street food in seoul

I was in Seoul in South Korea for two days last month (3-5 June '08) and on the night of 4 June went alone to a textile market area named 'Gwangjang' late in the night. The 24-second video that I share below is of the food stall in a bylane inside the market where I had my dinner. I went here because this place was among the few whose food reviews I read on the internet and it was the closest to the hotel where I was staying.

video


I also wrote something on Korean street food in the magazine I work for. Here is what I wrote:

Korean street food

Can you imagine a Gujjubhai liking any food other than the typical Indian fare? Hard to believe but food from South Korea is liked by some Gujaratis who happen to travel there for work or sight-seeing. "I am a strict vegetarian but when I visit my maternal grandparents I do not feel restricted on the food front because the choices are decent and suits our taste buds," says Pratik Yogi, 20-year old son of a Gujarati father and a Korean mother who live in Bombay.

Korean food is not about Kimchi as many travel guides might have you believe. For a country that is less than half of India's size, the variety of food – veg or non-veg, steamed or fried, spicy or non-spicy – is just amazing.

The street food in Seoul is representative of this similar to Indian cities' street food. If you are in Seoul do not miss the numerous food stalls on the streets and bylanes cutting across two textile markets near Cheonggycheon stream, Gwangjang and Dongdaemun. Here, you get everything.

"My favourite snack food of all is Dduck-bbocki (dduck means rice cake, and bbocki means fried)," says Yujin Whang, a young Korean woman who works as an independent professional translator for companies. These are long cylindrical rice cake pieces cooked in thick red gravy by adding chilli paste, brown sugar and other condiments. "It's like a national obsession especially for young women in Korea and very cheap too," says Yujin. "It's full of carbs but I don't care."

Like Indians, Koreans are spoilt for fried snacks as well and these are made well such that they are not easy to resist just like you can't resist an Indian alu tikki served on Delhi's mean streets. In non-veg dishes you can splurge on daksanjeok that are boneless chicken fillets skewered (like kebabs in India) with a vegetable (such as leek) and marinated with a sauce that is both sweet and spicy at the same time. Fish paste sausages and bacon sausages are also skewered and served.

For vegetarians, there is the mung bean pancake and bungeo pang that is a carp cake crispy on the outside and with red beans filling inside. There is also the corn cobs, available steamed or grilled.

Small eateries are a great feature of Korean city life. You can have a bowl of rice with almost any side dish, veg or non-veg. Ask Dyland, a Malaysian-Chinese, currently based in Hong Kong and who worked in Seoul from 2003 to 2005 and blogged on http://fatman-seoul.blogspot.com. "I enjoy a good jae-yuk boggeum bap, which is spicy stir-fried pork," he told BW in an email. "There is also soon-dubu jiggae (spicy tofu stew) and dwenjang jiggae (spicy fermented soy bean paste stew) and I love all of these and more."

Do we say any more?

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