korean street food = love

8:38 PM sians 4 Comments

i've always said that food is the most fun and delicious way to learn about a country's culture.

but to get to the heart of it all, street food speaks volumes about the culture and cooking styles of a region. wikipedia shares my sentiment as it explains street food's popularity quite eloquently ::

"ethnic taste, nostalgia, and the opportunity to eat quickly obtained, reasonably priced and flavorful food in a sociable setting"

i couldn't have put it into words any better. flavorful and joyful bite-fulls of korean street food {길거리 음식} at a such an affordable price should be reasons enough to try several. even more reason to with the variety of street snack foods that seoul has to offer. regretfully, i've only tasted a handful of them, but i crave to return to seoul and get myself more of korean street food love :)

here is just a list of my street food loving that i managed to stuff into my belly during my last two trips ^^ 

delimanjoo  {델리만쥬}

i had to do some quick look up what delimanjoo means and realized how they came up with the name :)

delimanjoo = delicious + mandoo (korean style dumpling)
delicious wrapper (they mean the cake-like shell) + filling (cream custard) = dumpling

i have to say these were quite addictive. warm, soft and sweet - perfect for the cold winter evening. the shell was spongy and fluffy, encasing the warm corn custard which was at the right sweetness. i could not just stop at one and was contemplating whether to return to get another bag of these bite size goodies.

i discovered this during my first visit just at the entrance of the myeongdong subway station just as you walk past the ticketing machine. i returned, hoping to get some last september but it wasn't opened possibly because of the undergoing construction to renovate a section of the station so i was a tad disappointed.

bungeoppang {붕어빵}

we happened to be exploring namdaemun market {남데문시장} when we came across this where {px} and {nd} asked if we were interested in getting some for ourselves which i agreed. the name literally translates to 'crucian carp bread/cake'.

inspired by the japanese taiyaki like the one i had in tokyo, the crucian carp shaped waffle was filled with the classic azuki bean paste. this is sold as a snack by open-air food vendors during winter, so if you are ever in korea during the cold winter days - don't forget to look out for it. this was pretty good - although it was a bit too sweet. i think tokyo's taiyaki that i had edged out this bungeoppang mostly due to the texture of the waffle but i enjoyed both of them.

ogam chalba {오감찰바}

my first time at insadong {인사동} was quite the fun experience :) p.s. i will be writing about spots that i have visited in seoul in future posts but in a nutshell insadong is the neighborhood you want to be for traditional souviners. ^^ we stumbled upon this shop and i was intrigued by the japchae {잡채} filled into a glutinous rice pancake.  and also its bulgogi filled counterpart.

so much so that i ordered them both, yes two! - each for 1,000 원. each were fitted into a paper cup to eat from, as i watched some of the oil soaked through the cup. my friends were looking at me funnilly as it was quite a sight when i had my gloves on with one hand holding my camera and the other holding the two ogam chalba while trying to figure out what i could do to take photos of my food! (i gave in and asked a friend to help lol)

between the two, i preferred the one with the japchae. it's rather surprising considering how carb-loaded it was. the sweetness and texture of the noodles as well as the little bits of vegetable worked well with the soft and slightly chewy (in a good way) shell. the bulgogi was different from what i expected since when i think of bulgogi, my mind goes straight to dark sweet soy marinated beef but it was more of a spicy pork stir fry {돼지볶음} filling.

odeng {오뎅}

{px} had cravings for these since we started on our adventure in seoul. more than once, whenever we came across a stall selling odeng or by its native name, eomuk {어묵}, she would go - omg! i want odeng! and it's contagious that i also wanted to get one! it is one of those awesome things to eat during winter.

typically, after you tell the vendor you'd like one, you grab a stick of these fish cakes where it's cooked in a clear soup in a huge pot and then brush some of the spicy sauce (optional but i would recommend it) before enjoying this warm, savory snack. the soup was served in a paper cup, and i sipped it gratefully as the warm liquid trickles down my throat and slowly gave me warmth on a freezing winter day.

tteokbokki {덕볶이}

one of the most popular and highly loved korean snacks sold at food carts or pojangmacha {포장마차} in korean. i've once attempted my own rendition of the classic tteokbokki -- rice cakes with pieces of odengcooked in slightly sweetened and thickened spicy gochujang sauce. i was interested in comparing how i fared against the locals. ^^ this food cart offered plain rice cakes which was a tad chewy and it got really filling after a few bites.  she gave us some of the odeng soup in paper cups as well :) if you are wondering how mine did comparitively, i think i did a rather good job capturing the flavors with my first attempt at cooking tteokbokki.

dalkggochi {닭꼬치}

barbequed chicken on a stick with a sweet sauce is what they call dalkggochi. however, the one in the above pictures was not the one i had cos i was too busy stuffing my face with tteokbokki in the next stall..ㅋㅋㅋㅋ however, i was soo tempted to get one as i saw my friend, {mm} biting piece by piece off the stick. she was so nice to offer some but since we were heading off to dinner, i didn't want to fill myself to the brim on snack food. to be quite honest, i actually wanted to take a bite of {mm}'s cos it looked good but according to her, it wasn't all that great.

so i made up for it when i went to myeongdong {명동} and got myself one. i actually liked it. slightly sweet and very messy to eat (fear for my favorite white coat), the dark meat was moist alternating with slightly undercooked pieces of vegetable. regardless it was a nice small treat before dinner :)

tornado potato {회오리감자}

invented and originated in south korea, this trendy street food caught my attention in a heartbeat. it tickled my curiosity causing me to stop and look. actually, it didn’t take much to stop me on my tracks - considering it was a whole potato, cut into a long swirl that wrapped around a stick, all fried up and crispy. yup, i got a weakness for that.

freshly fried in a huge pot of hot oil, the stick of fried swirled potato goodness were sprinkled with a mixture of spices a mix of salty and smoky with a subtle hint of sweetness.

i was a bit bummed out that the crispiness was inconsistent throughout. even so, i really enjoyed it. so much so that i managed to finish the whole stick on my own despite it being a tad too greasy for my liking. i did offer to {mm} but she would only take a couple of bites :( i would do this again but probably share it with a willing friend next time ㅋㅋㅋㅋ.

they have another variation where there is a sausage on a stick which is then made more glorious with a crown of this tornado potato if you wanna get some meat loving with the carbs ^^

kkultarae {꿀타래}

there were so many of these petite food carts selling these korean court cakes that i found myself drawn to one. and i seemed to have found the right person to go to cos he was really friendly and tried to entertain us with jokes as we watched his demonstration :) he was manning the booth alone that we'd have to pay and get our change on our own from the tray of money while he continued making these tasty sweet treats. haha. it was a rather interesting experience. ㅋㅋㅋ

i never knew how tedious nor delicate these desserts were. these korean court cakes are made out of 16,384 fine strands of honey and maltose and filled with a mixture of ground peanuts, almonds, sesame, etc.

wait..16,000 honey strands...like what?! hooowww??

in principle, thick, firm honey is stretched, like you would noodles, and pulled into strands, dipped heavily in cornstarch to keep them separated. it's probably the reason why it was a little dry when you pop one into the mouth, but the shell of fine honey strands melts as soon as it hits the tongue, lending a sweetness to counter the nuttiness of the filling.

the vendor recommended to keep these in the fridge so it was cool enough for the honey strands to last in your mouth for a few seconds. he also recommended that it's best paired with tea. :) these are quite popular and while i found mine at myeongdong, i've seen these at insadong and namdaemun market.

myeongdong chicken kebab {명동치킨케밥}

nestled in the midst of the bustling crowd on myeongdong streets, this street food vendor had a little crowd of its own, gathering around the cart. not quite the usual korean street snacks you'd expect, this was a fusion dish with inspiration from turkey - the doner kebab. i was looking for a quick dinner take out when i came across this and was interested to see how they'd infuse the korean influence into this.

the chicken pieces stacked on a stick were roasted on a vertical spit while warm tortilla were spread across the table topped with shredded white cabbage, honey mustard and spicy gochujang sauce, just waiting for shavings of roasted chicken to complete the wraps.

these were surprisingly good. i wouldn't really call it distinctly a korean dish but the freshness of the raw, crisp shredded cabbage with the moist roasted chicken, which had a subtle char flavor (in a nice way) coupled with the sweet and spicy sauces were a treat for the taste buds. call it turkey-mexican-korean fusion if you will but these wraps were tasty :)

hotteok {호떡}

this korean pancake is another popular street food which is usually a treat during the winter season. made out of wheat flour, milk, sugar and yeast, these stiff dough were filled with a sweet mixture of brown sugar, honey, nuts and cinnamon. it is then pressed flat on a greased griddle with a stainless steel circle and wooden handle and it turns golden brown.

i actually found this at the end of summer during my second trip to korea while i was exploring insadong. i really liked it -- which is why when i was there again two days later when i returned with my friend {lst}, i recommended her to get one too! when i first had it, it was funny cos when i got back to my homestay and tried explaining to her and my homestay mom what it was, the name sounded very similar to hot dog so they got all confused.

warm from the griddle, the grease soaked through the paper cup. textually slightly chewy coupled with fluffy, it was satisfying and sweet with occasional crunch of  nuts and sugar with a subtle hit of cinnamon. yum! man i'd like one of these now > <"

seoul is a collection of street food fairs where each neighborhood shares a variety of their korean dishes in a modest way yet never skimping on flavors. here are a few more that i managed to capture on pictures but was not able to taste because my belly just could not take anymore food!

there is so much love filled in each bite of these treats; one of those experiences that  should not be missed if you are ever in the city. there is so much more that i have yet to try - so much so that i can't wait for my next korean street food expedition  :)

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


Aka said...

Nice post!

I also treasured some places to find out the delicacy of Korean street foods and you reviewed them so well.

Nice to read your post ^^

Anonymous said...

Highly informative and delightful to read. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have become a big fan of Korean TV and Movies. Especially the Melodramas. I watch them from Denver using the drama fever. Your blog has answered so many questions regarding the street food I have seen while watching my favorite shows. Have you given or received Piggy Back rides after visiting those Soju drinking and food stalls? Designed any Kimchi Flowers lately?

Alamanda said...

I hope I can come and join with you to Korea someday. Thaks for the sharing ^^