Friday, September 28, 2012

Korean street food

South Korea has amazing street food. Those food vendors, ceaselessly laboring away at their stands day and night, in fair weather and foul, were one of the highlights of my time living in Seoul. One of the most popular street dishes is ddeokbokgi: sliced rice cakes, fish cakes, and vegetables in a spicy (sometimes spicy/sweet) red chili sauce (see here for a typical example). Another popular combo is ddeokbokgi with fried mandu (gyoza, potstickers). Order a half-and-half plate, drown those crunchy mandu in that lovely red sauce, and go to town.

Last night's dinner was an attempt at recapturing that crunchy, spicy ddeokbokgi/mandu experience. I regret that the following photo doesn't seem to show any ddeok (the rice cakes themselves), but they're in there. As for the presence of hot dog... I had to try that. There was a vendor in Kangnam who put sliced sausage in with her odaeng (fish cakes), and I recall that being one of my all-time favorite ddeokbokgi experiences.

Speaking of hot dogs: there's another type of street food I enjoyed while living in Seoul: close to Namyeong Station, there was a lady who sold grilled and fried street food from her kiosk, and among her menu items was sosiji (sausage, i.e., hot dog). The franks were spiral-sliced and lovingly coated with a super-sugary chili sauce, then left to cook very slowly for a long time on low heat. This process worked a weird and wonderful bit of alchemy on the meat: the outer layer would become hard and sugary while the inside remained soft and juicy. Each frank cost about a dollar, and right before she served it to you, the vendor would sprinkle it with sesame seeds for that extra bit of tastiness. Eating one of those puppies in the dead of winter was sheer bliss for me.

I'm gonna try making those franks next.


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