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Travel Photos: Markets and Street Food in Seoul

October 17, 2011

Rabokki, a fusion of tteokbokki rice cakes and ramen noodles, with oemuk fish cakes and a hard-boiled egg.

Dear readers,

I’m sorry I have been absent for nearly 3 weeks, and I hope it doesn’t happen again anytime soon. I have a very good excuse though… I just spent five days in Seoul, South Korea, trying to fit in all the eating (and food-photo-taking) that I could. And it. was. wonderful.

A giant bathtub-sized amount of Kkaktugi (Kimchi made from cubes of Daikon radish) being prepared for distribution.

Ok, five days is not 3 weeks. The real problem here is that I am having trouble finding enough big blocks of time to create new posts. I’m sure it happens to even the most experienced of bloggers, but it’s extra challenging for me since I’m still new at this.*

The point is, right now I am in Japan (!), writing about Korea. And no doubt soon (well after Thanksgiving) I will be back in California, writing about Japan.

Hemul Pajon, a spicy squid and scallion pancake.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the first of several Korean food installments… STREET FOOD! Otherwise known as 분식 (bunshik) or food from 포장마차 (pojang-macha) or food stalls/carts. One of my favorite things about Seoul is that this stuff is everywhere, cheap, and often scrumptiously spicy.

Korean kochu chili peppers, drying in the sun.

Tteokbokki rice cakes in chili sauce with oemuk fish cakes and onions. (Namdaemun market.)

Most of these photos are from 남대문시장 (Namdaemun Market), but there are also a few of Korean take-out “junk food,” and– for something you don’t see everyday– some from a Korean/Irish Catholic church flea market/bake sale as well.

First stop: Namdaemun Market!

This visit to Seoul was the first time I tried 호떡 (ho-tteok), which are baked or fried dough surrounding… well, almost anything! The first ones I tried were filled with sugar and cinnamon, and baked inside cast iron molds:


The other version of ho-tteok I came across were deep-fried and filled with japchae! (A vegetable– and sometimes beef– noodle dish made with dangmyon sweet potato starch noodles and sesame oil; I’m planning to post a japchae recipe soon!)


I’d never heard of stuffing japchae, which is an entrée in itself, inside of fried dough, but of course it tasted great.**

Continuing in the deep-fried category, I saw this 핫바 being prepared: you take a fishcake (or hotdog) then wrap it in more fish paste, then wrap it in a shiso leaf, then deep-fry it on a stick! (Like a version of chikuwa, or oden in Japan, but with spicier variations available and extra chili sauces on hand.) I love these things, but was too full at this point to partake…


Some other common sights in Namdaemun market: Chinese-style steamed buns and creepy jars of medicinal ginseng:


Dried squid and octopus snacks:

Deep-fried potato spirals and drying bundles of fish:


After Namdaemun Market, I also free-sampled my way through several Korean grocery stores. The highlights were these flavored seaweed blends, mixed into rice (vegetable flavor and kimchi flavor pictured):

… and this assortment of pickled things (which only increased my desire to make my own pickled things, especially pickled garlic!).


As I mentioned above, one of my friends took me to an annual Korean/Irish Catholic church flea market/bake sale, which her family always visits to stock up on homemade Irish Soda Bread, scones, and apple pie.


They were also selling various pastes for making Korean stews, like 된장 (doenjang) or 청국장 (cheonggukjang), two kinds of fermented soy bean paste, and various preserved seafood, like mini-shrimp, pickled octopus, and 오징어젓 (ojing-oe jeot), squid pickle:***


This brings me to one of my favorite Korean meals: photos from my evening spent eating “Korean junk food,” as my friend called it. This is the kind of food you can order at a pojang-macha, or street food stall, but we had it delivered: more 떡볶이 (tteokbokki; rice cakes in chili sauce) with a side of 튀김 (twigim; deep fried things). This time we had deep-fried grated vegetable patties (kind of a cross between tempura and pakoras) and deep-fried kimbap, or seaweed-wrapped rolls: like sushi, but actually filled with noodles seasoned with sesame oil rather than with rice. So good.


We also ordered something that I never knew existed before: kimchi kimbap! (Kimchi sushi.) Tiny rolls of rice garnished with black sesame seeds, and filled with pickled radish and cabbage kimchi. Now THIS might be the very first thing I try to reproduce in my own kitchen when I get back to California later this fall; whoever invented it was a genius.

Thank you, Korea.

* Basically, there are about 17 dishes I cooked recently (back in California), but haven’t posted about yet. Some of them– with summer vegetables– will now have to wait until next year, and others of them, well, I think I already mentioned my little problem with measuring things: they were delicious but I didn’t write down the recipes in detail, so I’ll have to make them again one more time before sharing them with you. (The rest, which I did take notes on, are coming soon!)

** I felt a little bit like a Dutch friend of mine who’d had her mind blown when she first came to Southern California and discovered breakfast burritos: it’d never occurred to her that you could stuff an entire breakfast inside a burrito, but she had no complaints about the result.

*** Linguist friends who have taken a Phonology class, you might recognize this word. : )


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