Food has always been a big part of my travels. It is, after all, the best way to connect with a place and its people. Food is Culture.
And in Korea, street food is part of its culture. The food scene in Seoul is deliciously varied and steeped in tradition. And its streets will fill you in on its true flavors. Ubiquitous food stalls and kiosks are the best places to eat on the go in a city that needs fuel to get going. Food is quick, hot and cheap in a Po Jang Macha, as locals call them.
Our adventure started with a dish of Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake) demonstrated first to us by a chef at O’ngo Food Communication’s kitchen in Jongno-gu. A food tour we joined to experience Seoul through our belly. I tried many times to replicate this Korean pancake in my kitchen but could never get the crunch. Now I know. A pinch or two of baking soda will do the trick.
On hindsight, hard as it may be, I shouldn’t have gorged on that favorite dish of mine because the rest of the tour had us weaving through good eats after good eats around Insadong.
First stop was the Nakwon Market. Definitely not a Gwangjang (the market of all Seoul markets) but it caters to the neighbourhood and it doesn’t get as local as this.
It is here where I had my first taste of baechu geotjeori, which translates to Napa cabbage lightly salted.
It doesn’t have the oomph of the classic kimchi, but it is mildly salty and sweet making it more rounded. Its crispy texture is refreshingly addicting that leaves me craving for it to this day.
A kimchi made to be eaten fresh without fermentation,
it is made daily by this lady who also makes an outstanding Gimbap, a dish that I was never compelled to try (because I thought it is an inferior version of the Japanese sushi, quite the contrary) but have since become a convert.
Gimbap: Rice rolls stuff with cucumber, crab sticks, turnip and wrapped in seaweed then brushed with a bit of roasted sesame oil.
Her stall is packed with locals, and you can guess why.
A few street foods later,
Bungeoppang: It’s a waffle with either a red bean paste (azuki) or a cream filling (similar to a Bavarian) shaped and sealed in a bungeo (carp) like cast iron mold. Crispy edges with a soft sweet middle.
Gyenranppang: On the same stall you’ll most likely find this chicken egg bread or simply egg bread. A version of the bungeoppang. The dough is topped with an egg and cooked in a mini oven.
Beondegi: Seasoned silkworm pupae steamed or boiled and eaten as a snack. Chewy in texture, taste is ok, but the smell is a bit off. Overall, ok to try once.
we found ourselves in Bukchon Son Mandu.
Oh the deep-fried pork dumpling is to die for.
A combination of pork, scallions and glass noodles on a dumpling that is fried to a perfect crisp. We were back the following day for a full meal.
We then capped the tour with more food. A sumptuous BBQ lunch.
Left to wander on our own, we found more street food that fancied our eyes more that our stomachs but still gave in to the lure.
Ggultarae or Dragon Beard Candy: These guys do a great show, attracting many audiences. They start with a block of fermented honey and a bowl of cornstarch (chanting as they work) that is stretched until it turns into fine soft strings. It is then stuffed with hazelnuts, walnuts or peanuts. Yummy!
Spotted, not in Insadong but in Bukchon (on my next post), is this heavenly sweet potato that Korea is so known for.
Bukchon Son Mandu 42-5, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea (Insadong)