Saturday, November 26, 2011

Street Food in Seoul

 I wasn't quite prepared to find the street food scene in Seoul to be this bustling in my short trip to Korea. While still in no means comparable to say, street food in Taiwan, Korean street food is great in it's own right!

Given that's in winter season now in Korea, much of the street food you find will be piping hot or chilli based. Hotteok (호떡) is one of the most common and popular street foods you can find, and is essentially a cinnamon sugar filled pancake (background) either fried / baked similar to a naan, or deep fried in oil like dough fritters. Waffles are also surprisingly common, probably due to the winter season, and are usually filled with sweet potato paste. The baked hotteok maintained one of my personal favourites throughout the trip, warm , light, crispy and sweet and usually only 1000 won (~$1.10) each!

 Hotteoks come in various fillings, and peanut / sugar mixture is also rather common, the heat from deep frying helps melt the sugar filling into a caramel-ly, sweet sticky syrup (but also bastardly hot when escaping the pancake). Fried ones of course taste that much better for clogging your arteries and staining your mouth with oil :(

 Not sure which came first, the Japanese Yakitori or the Korean Dakkochi (닭꼬치), chicken skewers - both are awesome in their own right. At 2000 won (~$2.20) per, generous hunks of meat and leeks and grilled over fire till charred and juicy - while Yakitori favours a sweeter Teriyaki / BBQ sauce, the Dakkochi favours the red pepper sauce, though at most stalls, the red pepper sauce is actually more sweet than spicy.

 You will also find your plethora of sausages, fish cakes, seaweed wrapped stuff or stuff wrapped around rice cakes. Tteok (), are korean rice cakes quite unlike other rice cakes you've eaten because they're SO IRRITATINGLY HARD AND CHEWY. I guess it's an acquired texture, but it doesn't have much flavour by itself so no matter what sauce it's soaked it, it loses all flavour after a few chews.

 The aforementioned Dakkochi comes in ultra long sticks as well at just 2500 won (~$2.80) - just be warned if the guy speaks English and asks you how hot you want it, stick to mild!

The renowned Tornado Potato makes an appearance, though I don't quite see the fascination behind these! Some times you can even find sausages inside the tornado of chips.

 Deep fried stuff galore! Now if you're really yearning for a heart bypass surgery, don't pass up this Corn Dog (핫도그) - which in case you think your eyes are deceiving you - has french fries in the fucking batter. So yes, hot dog -> corn bread -> french fries -> on a stick. With ketchup. Not only is this a mess to eat at 2000 won (~$2.20), it's also wonderfully delicious as the piping oil keeps you warm at night.

 Similar to Taiyaki, Bungeoppang (붕어빵) is a fish shaped pastry baked in a waffle iron and often contains either red beans or custard. Whereas Taiyaki are usually made from pancake batter and thus soft and fluffy, Bungeoppang are usually made from waffle batter, which gives that crispy, fragrant shell. Yum! And wondrously cheap, 1000 won (~$1.10) usually gets you 3.

 While not exactly street food, another popular snack / quick eat is the well known Chungmu Gimbap (충무김밥) which you can usually find in small eateries like this.

 Shops like these only sell this one dish, and sell them well and FAST. Rice or Gimbap only acts as the fillers, as you wolf down the spicy preserved vegetables (usually Daikon or Danmuji 단무지 in Korean) and the fermented baby octopus. Sweet, salty, spicy and carbs all rolled into a simple dish that can be shared or eaten yourself as a whole meal.

 There's tons and tons more street food to be discovered in Seoul and if you aren't afraid to just grab, pay, and eat your way through the often dingy stalls of the night markets, there's a veritable feast to be had around every corner. Impressed!

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