One of the things Asia is generally good for is street food, whether it’s the local stuff we’re used to in Malaysia (and Singapore to a degree), or the slightly more exotic things in Bangkok that involved insects. Anyone who watches Korean dramas would have definitely seen many a scene of people eating street food while hitting shot after shot of soju, and we were naturally keen to try the food too.
In Gwangjang market, we actually had a dinner a few hours beforehand already, but were keen to have a bite or two here. Lacking proper homework, we decided to do the safest thing and to go for the stores that had the most people. There was a pancake stall which was absolutely packed with happy looking people, so we took a seat there too.
Luckily, the waitress knew some Mandarin, so ordering food was reasonably easy. However, we struggled terribly before we found out she spoke Mandarin, even with the two kind girls on the next table trying to help with their limited English. Anyway, they only had two types of pancakes: mung bean (bindaeduk) or with minced meat.
The pancakes arrived sizzling hot off the griddle. Personally, I preferred the minced meat version, which had a bit of minced pork with the ground beans and had a texture slightly reminiscent of hash-browns. Both were very good though, especially with a bottle of makgeoli or fermented rice liquor.
All this for just KRW9,000 too. I felt like we were robbing her!
Sadly by this time, it was about 10 pm and it looked like a lot of places were closed. I was really keen to try ddeokbokki and gimbap so we just decided to sample at another random store.
Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, we got double the amount we wanted to (I only wanted 1 portion each) and we couldn’t finish it. Also, the ddeokbokki was in really huge chunks and was too chewy, while the gimbap (or Korean sushi), which was essentially a futomaki, had a bitter tinge to it (probably from the sesame oil).
This cost us KRW15,000 and needless to say, we felt more than a bit cheated as this cost more than the pancakes, but was nowhere near as tasty.
Add: 6-1 Yeji-dong, Jongno-gu
Directions: Subway Line 1, Jongno 5(oh)-ga Station, exit 10.
On the fourth night, the PigPig and I decided to walk over to Namdaemun market from our base in Myeongdong.
It was actually a pretty short walk, only 5-10 minutes or so at my slightly brisk pace. Even so, it was about 11 pm when we reached, and after learning our mistakes from the previous night market, we carefully cased the area before choosing a reasonably popular looking stall that had more patrons than others.
Limited by language, I only knew of two things I wanted to try. One of which is haemul pajeon, which is seafood pancake. It was similar to the one mentioned earlier, but this version wasn’t as nice as it didn’t feel so “fresh off the griddle” as it had undoubtedly been sitting there for a while, but admittedly it isn’t a specialist pancake store.
The other is gopchang, which are basically grilled intestines. Now, I’m fairly used to eating this, but I appreciate that for some readers this is hardly appetizing; TomEatJenCooks offers a real good read on his experience. Anyway, our version here came with loads of vegetables (mainly onions and cabbage from what I could make out) and glass noodles. The little pieces of intestines were really nice and chewy, and were definitely well cleaned beforehand.
Washed down with a bottle of soju and makgeoli, we paid KRW23,000 which was a bit more expensive than I expected for street food, but then the portion size was really big. The kind lady even threw in a complimentary couple of ddeokbokki and a bowl of soup with some fishcakes for us.
On the last night, we stumbled upon a street of hawkers just north of the Euljiro-1-ga station. Being particularly greedy, we decided to stop by for some munchies. Sadly, I haven’t learnt any new words or dishes from the previous night, so we had the same two dishes. The gopchang here was much spicier though, and didn’t have the glass noodles. We also had a bottle of beer, and I can’t remember how much it cost but was in the region of KRW30,000 or so.
We also had a couple of bites from random vendors while walking around Myeong-dong too. We saw lots of people walking around with this skewer of spiral potato, which we had eaten before in Taipei. However, this was slightly different as the edges were rimmed with a cheesy powder, which gave it a little extra special something.
Another random munch was of a grilled squid. It was quite interesting as she first grilled it, then pressed it through a machine to give it the papery thin squid. It’s slightly different from the normal stuff we get in Malaysia as it had a distinct sweetness to it, probably from a marinade.
To finish off the random street vendors, while walking around Euhwha University, feeling a bit peckish I tried this meat skewer. It was not bad, with a slightly sweet sauce, and the meat was quite tender. The owner also indicated that I could eat the ddeokbokki.
- Makgeoli goes well with seemingly everything!
- I wish I knew of more street food to eat. The only things we definitely knew we wanted to try was the ddeokbokki, gimbap, gopchang, and jeon. But I’m sure there are loads of other things too. Next time.
- If you’ve eaten the rice cakes in other things like Mukshidonna for example, then there’s not much point trying the street food version, as it’s just the rice cake in a spicy sweet sticky sauce.