There was so much food I wanted to eat in Seoul, but one week just wasn’t enough. There was the dduk I wanted to eat from the nice old ladies in the subway station (1 styrofoam tray for KR ₩1,000/US $00.84!), more street ddukboki, jajangmyun (자장면, noodles with black bean sauce), sweet potato fries, more samgyupsal (삼겹살, pork belly)… the list goes on and on. Fortunately, there was one thing on my to-eat list I made sure to eat before take-off to Beijing: my favorite, gobchang (곱창, small intestines). Well, not exactly but close enough, I ate daechang (대창, large intestines).
When Joo Hyun and Soo Hyun said we were going to go eat daechang, I was excited, but also apprehensive. The thing with large intestines is that it’s usually funkier than small intestines, and I mean funkier in a bad way. A little irony funk is nice, but too much and you need another bottle of soju to make it enjoyable. That’s been my experience so far in New York at least. However, when we got to Yeontabal (연타발), immediately I knew it was going to be different. First of all, the restaurant is strictly charcoal (숯불, sootbul). Meat always tastes better when it’s cooked on charcoal as opposed to a gas grill. Second, all the meat brought to the table was fresh. You could tell just from looking at it. But of course, even with the best intentions, food can be royally f*cked up. Happily though, with the help of Joo Hyun, I can report to the contrary. MORE »
When I went to Korea this year, one of things I insisted on eating was sannakji (산낙지, live octopus). I’d never had it. Years and years ago, I went with my family to a seaside restaurant on the Korean coast and I remember people eating sannakji all around us. I wanted to try it, but we ended up not ordering it because my little cousins (who by the way are not so little anymore and have somehow graduated from college) were going through a phase where they refused to eat anything except spam. Instead, we ate fish jigae (stew) and had the restaurant fry up some spam for the kids (if you can believe it, my aunt always carried a can in her purse).
So this time in Korea, as an adult who could set her own agenda and eat whatever she pleased, I told Joo Hyun and Soo Hyun we had to go eat sannakji. I’m pretty sure they weren’t too excited. Not because it’s weird, but because live octopus is one of those gimmicky foods Americans want to eat when they visit Korea. (It’s like, “Yeah, I’m in the Korea, let’s go eat something bizarre… LIVE OCTOPUS!!!”) Well, unfortunately for them, I am American, so off we went one night in search of sannakji. David oddly insisted on staying in at the hotel. MORE »
I first heard about Hyoja-dong Yetnal Ddukbokki (Translation: Old-fashioned Ddukbokki from Hyoja-dong) when Robyn posted about it a few months ago on Serious Eats. I’ve eaten a lot of ddukbokki, but never the stir-fried kind. When I was little, I used to fry up dduk with sugar, creating sugary crunchy logs, but I never thought to make savory versions. This was all new to me. So as soon as I got to Korea, I asked Joo Hyun about it. She said she never had it, but Soo Hyun had, and she was told it was greasy, but good. Mmmm, that was all I needed to hear. The next day, while David was out visiting a friend, I went on a search for fried ddukbokki. MORE »
Samgyetang (삼계탕) is a chicken soup made with whole young chicken stuffed with sticky rice, ginseng, and jujubes. Served in a hot steaming stone pot, one would think samgyetang would be a perfect wintertime soup. However, samgyetang is meant to be eaten in the summer. It sounds crazy, but there’s a method to this Korean madness. In the hottest days of summer, when you’re tired and drained of energy from the heat, samgeytang is said to replenish all the nutrients lost in your body, and also cool you down. When you’re body is filled with hot ginseng soup, you naturally feel cooler outside as you sweat up a storm. Strange, but it works.
While in Korea, Joo Hyun kept insisting we had to eat samgyetang, but each time, I resisted. All the times in America when I’ve eaten samgyetang, it’s been unbelievably filling. And since we were always full from street snacking, I thought it would push me over the edge. But after much coaxing by our lovely “guide,” one day, David and I went to try the samgyetang (KR ₩13,000/US $11.28) at Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌 삼계탕), and good god, it changed the way I think of samgyetang forever. Always trust the locals, especially if one of them is named Joo Hyun. MORE »
Korean people love to snack. It’s a snacking culture. You eat not because you’re hungry, but your mouth is bored. Walking around in Seoul, there’s a vendor or two on every street. (Remember the bbopki post?) I love it! The most popular, and most well-known, street food is probably ddukbokki (떡복기, rice cakes in a spicy sauce), but I’ll be posting about that next time. This post will concentrate on some of my other favorite street snacks: roasted chestnuts, hodduk (호떡, sweet pancakes), jeepoh (쥐포, dried file fish), and gohguma mattang (고구마맛탕, candied sweet potatoes), oh my! MORE »