There’s nothing more exhilarating than walking down a crowded street full of food vendors and hungry patrons crowding around carts while stuffing their faces. This scene exemplifies my one of my favorite pastimes: eating.
In the Seoul nightlife, you can’t get away from street food. It’s everywhere. Busan exemplifies a similar food-filled street structure. On my recent trip to South Korea my boyfriend and I had a lot of fun eating at street vendors and had some great food in the process.
Our first night dining on the street brought us to a little tent with a woman selling everything from live sea cucumber to Korean style pancakes. We settled on the Korean pancake, “pajeon,” and a spicy rice cake called “dukbokki.” The pajeon was definitely my favorite out of the two. The rice cakes have a surprising texture to them. From first glance they look soft, what you would expect rigatoni to feel like. In all actuality they have the texture off very stiff and undercooked gnocchi. All in all not bad, but not my favorite.
Another night brought us to a seafood vendor selling fresh, and live,
octopus… among other things (urchin, sea cucumber, etc.) The owner and operator of the cart began preparing the live-octopus meal by digging his hand into the small fish tank he had on his cart and yanking out one of the five octopi in the tank. He then ravenously pulled the head off of the still-moving octopus and chopped it into bite-sized pieces and scooped them onto a Styrofoam plate for us. He also added some chopped garlic, chillies and sesame oil, which surprisingly added a lot of flavor. This wasn’t my first time eating live octopus; but I didn’t learn to appreciate it’s taste, or should I say mobility, until this most recent visit. It was tasty, but requires thorough chewing as it sticks to your throat!
Finally, the best street food we found was fried dough balls stuffed with a sesame seed, sunflower seed and brown sugar mixture. There’s really nothing more to say about it other than it was fantastic and tasted like heaven. It also only cost 60 cents. My only regret: Not buying two.
We also had some delicious food not found at street vendors. There were a lot of restaurants serving up what I considered to be Japanese and Korean fusion. One excellent example of this was Kimchi Udon, which consists of two of my favorite things: kimchi and noodles. The broth reminded me of kimchi jjigae, a Korean stew made of kimchi.
And, of course… Korean barbecue, the best thing on the whole trip. We ordered pork belly (samgyeopsal) both times we ate barbecue. It is a fatty layer of meat, somewhat resembling american bacon but subtracting the salt content. We had a grill directly on the table, and were in charge of cooking it ourselves… although the wait staff ever-so-kindly helped us with the cooking process. After the pork was grilled we dipped it into a spicy chili sauce and wrapped it up in Korean lettuce with onions, roasted garlic, mushrooms, cabbage… and any of the other 10 dishes they put on the table. So delicious, so affordable… I dream of Korean barbecue when I’m back in the U.S.