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Korean Street Food Posted by on Jul 26, 2021 in Culture, Food

My Memories of Korean Street Food

When I was a teenager, I remember food hawkers were displayed endlessly near my school. It was a daily temptation because the food from street vendors was genuinely delicious to hungry little humans.
My mom used to scold me if I had 길거리 음식 (gil-guh-ri-eum-sik: street food) on the way home from school. I was always amazed at how she knew about it. Her reasons for scolding me were that street foods ruined my appetite for dinner. Street food might have ruined my appetite for dinners, but I built strong bondage with my friends while sharing 분식 (book-sik: ready-to-eat snacks, particularly made of flour). It remains a lasting nostalgic memory to me.

After I became an adult, I used to hang out with friends in 포장마차 (poh-jang-mah-cha: a Korean style of snack cart). It is a type of street vendor, where you could drink and eat 안주 (ahn-joo: snacks served with alcohol) inside a tarp tent. It can get chilly in wintertime, but the real fun of 포차 (poh-cha: short for 포장마차) was enjoying warm steamy 안주. Some might think 포차 was humble looking, but they served the most delicious food.

 

Image by chulmin1700 on Pixabay

Although, I have recently noticed that most 노점상 (noh-jum-sang: street vendors, hawkers) have disappeared in Seoul. The city of Seoul had been ordered to 철거 (chul-guh: demolish, tear down) most 노점상 due to legal issues related to taxes and aesthetic reasons. It is sad that my nostalgic memories are fading with history.

It is, however, too early to be disappointed, if you want Korean street food. Instead of looking for hawkers, you can visit certain 동네 (dong-nae: neighborhoods) that have a ton of options for street food, such as 명동 (Myeong Dong) or 종로 (Jongno). Food trucks seem to be another alternative near 대학가 (dae-hak-gah: neighborhood near the colleges).

Korean Street Food 101

분식 (book-sik: ready-to-eat snacks, particularly made of flour) literally means ‘flour-based food’, but it doesn’t need to be made of flour only. 분식 is an umbrella term for food that you can casually have from a cheap diner or street vendors.
When I think about Korean snacks, there are two different types of food. One is t the foods that you can find in 분식점 (boon-sik-jum: a small diner that serves cheap food). The other kind is the food you can only find from street stalls from certain neighborhoods.
What To Eat
You are probably familiar with 김밥 (Gim-bap: a Korean dish made from cooked rice and ingredients such as vegetables, fish and meats that are rolled in dried sheets of seaweed). I am not exaggerating if I say that 김밥 is one of the most common, but the most popular food in Korea.

떡볶이 (Ttok-bokki: a Korean dish made of spicy sauce with rice cake) is the most common 분식 food. It is 가래떡 (garae-tteok: a long, cylindrical rice cake made with non-glutinous rice flour) with 고추장 (go-chu-jang: red chili pepper sauce). You can add side dishes like 오뎅 (oh-deng: fish cake), 삶은 계란 (sahm-eun-gye-rahn: hard-boiled eggs), 김말이 (gim-mari: deep-fried glass noodle wrapped in seaweed), 라면사리 (Ramen-sari: cooked instant noodles), etc,. Many Koreans like 떡볶이 because of its 매콤함 (mae-kom-hahm: spiciness). If you can’t eat spicy food, try 궁중떡볶이 (goong-joong-Ttok-bokki) which is a soy sauce-based 떡볶이 dish with 불고기 (Bbul-gogi). You would likely find this dish from a restaurant, not likely from a street vendor.

 

Image by reh0714 on Pixabay

 

순대 (Soon-dae) is a Korean blood sausage. It is made of 선지 (sun-ji: clotted blood from slaughtered cows and pigs) with other ingredients, such as sweet potato noodles and vegetables. The history of this food is longer than you might think. Koreans have been enjoying this mouth-watering food since the 1800s. The recipes of 순대 can be various depending on regions, but 찹쌀순대 (chap-ssal-soon-dae: Korean blood sausage made with sweet rice) is the most common one you would find in Seoul.
The most common way to enjoy 순대 is to season it with salt and pepper, but 순대볶음 (Soon-dae-bokkeum: stir-fried Soondae with vegetables) is another way to enjoy 순대.

In the next post, I will introduce more exciting Korean snacks that you can find on the streets. Stay tuned!

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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.