Those who know Korean culture know that Koreans like to eat well and that food is an important part of their lives, perhaps it is the fact of having missed it in the past that has been etched in their memories. In any case, their cuisine hides treasures of products and techniques that give it its specific richness and taste. I would be happy to introduce you to some of them in future articles. Several styles of food are present in Korean cuisine, ranging from Buddhist temples to streets, barbecues and other dishes that can be found in Quebec in Korean restaurants.
The essentials of street cooking
For my part, I have never had any apprehension about sitting at a street kitchen counter in South Korea. I advise you to shop for your “truck” before you sit down, and observe what people already installed eat. It is also important to know that often the ladies who run these small businesses do not speak English at all, so to facilitate your conversation learn a few basic Korean words like igeo “this”, (이것) and point out the foods you want can be useful.
We’re going to tell each other the real business, the Koreans are still surprised to see Westerners taking their seats in front of these counters. I have witnessed some really funny and friendly situations that demonstrate the kindness and generosity of the Koreans.
Odeng, a skewer of fish cake that is cooked in a broth. Often, you are welcomed with a glass of broth as a gift from the owner. It’s delicious! One of my favorite dishes, (it can now be found in some places in Montreal). Koreans often eat this dish to accompany a bottle of soju (Korean rice alcohol).
Mandu is Korean steamed ravioli, the equivalent of Chinese dumplings.
Gimbap, rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed leaves. Some kind of maki.
Dakkochi, with countless chicken skewer stands spread across the country, dakkochi is popular on the go snack among teenagers. Korean spicy chicken skewers are grilled with spring onion, giving a tender, sweet and juicy barbecue flavour. They are served with a variety of sauces, so that guests can control the degree of spiciness.
Bungeoppang, a goldfish-shaped waffle stuffed with red beans, is a real favourite of Korean youth. Crunchy on the outside and sticky on the inside, this snack attracts many tourists and locals with its curious appearance too. Nowadays, Bungeoppang has become much more flexible: in addition to ordinary red bean paste, other options such as cream and custard are available.
Tteokbokki, this authentic snack from the Joseon dynasty is another claiming to be the most famous Korean dish outside Korea. Every tourist prides himself on having one. The braised rice cake dish is spiced with a sweet red pepper sauce, served with fish cakes, boiled eggs and meat and finished with grilled sesame seeds on top. Delicious.
Beondegi, visitors looking for tasty street foods are often frightened by the nasty brown beondegi varnish. Meaning “chrysali” or “pupa” in Korean, the most repulsive and stinking snack in Korea is made with steam and simple seasoning, emitting a rancid smell in the street. It may take a little effort to dig up the carts that sell this snack, but there will probably be one near the amusement park. It is a must for adventurous travellers looking for weird food.
Try the markets in the different cities and in Seoul, don’t miss the one in Dongdaemun where there are plenty of food stands: perfect for taking a small dish on the go!
In some cities, such as Busan, fish dishes are particularly popular in street counters.
When I saw my curious look at what they were eating, two young Korean women, sitting next to me, suggested that I try their dish one day. In a few words of English and Korean, I understood that it was “good for the skin”, “excellent for your health”. My adventurous spirit has let go. So I can tell you that I tasted the chicken feet… not bad to taste, but a feeling of cartilage that I don’t particularly like. Click on this link to learn more about our trip to Uyuni.
However, I had to get at least 10 years younger with this bite!
Enjoy your meal!