Last week I’ve realized that I go though all the photos from Korea mostly because I want to remember all the beyond delicious food I had there. And while, yes, I lived off the street food the most, and in the interest of saving some funds skipped the barbecue (I regret it every day – if you’re in Korea, get the barbecue, no matter how expensive!), I still crave the taste of the Seoul streets every day.
Okay, that last sentence could be understood two ways, and one of them is a little disconcerting. So I’ll cut myself off right here and present to you all the delicious food I’ve had while roaming the streets of this beautiful city!
1. 떡볶이 – TTeokbokki
Tteokbokki must be first on this list. It was literally the only food I knew about before coming to Korea, and I was very excited to try it.
Well, let me tell you, it was an experience, for sure… Albeit a bit painful experience. My ego suffered, too. You can read all about that in one of my previous posts, just click here. You might be shedding tears from laughing – I sure was shedding tears during that experience but for slightly different reasons.
2. 호떡 – hotteok
Hotteok was probably my all-time favourite street food. I’m not kidding when I say that I could eat it every single say and never have enough. Because of that, it also deserved its own post – and so you can read much more about what hotteok is by clicking right here!
Seriously, it was probably the very very very best sweet thing I tried in Seoul, and I would fly back only to be able to eat it again!
3. 튀김 – tempura
Sea creatures and/or vegetables dipped in batter and deep-fried. It was the perfect quick snack after strolling through Bukchon Hanok Village. Crispy on the outside and fresh-tasting on the inside, this is a great everyday snack.
A big, big plus is that this is very much a mess-free food – you don’t have red sauce or sugar filling drip on your pants, and you don’t get your fingers all sticky.
4. 아이스크림 붕어빵 – ice cream bungeo-ppang
This is a twist on a traditional fish-shaped bread with sweet red bean filling. The mouth of the fish is filled with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate, and otherwise enriched in flavour (and visually, too) with fruits, pocky and other add-ons.
The fish bread itself was filled with sweet paste and even though it was quite cold that day, this piece of art was, well, quite a great treat!
5. 비빔밥 – bibimbap
Loosely translated, this means “mixed rice with different vegetables.” I’ve had bibimbap before – one of my favourite restaurants in the Bay Area makes a pretty good one (as evaluated by one of my Korean friends so I’ll trust his opinion on it), and I come back for it quite often. But to tell the truth, there is a difference between bibimbap in the Bay Area and in Seoul, understandably.
I had to try for myself, and so, when a friend I made on the top of Inwangsan invited me to have a dinner with him, we headed to a hole-in-the-wall place where I’ve tried the best bibimbap I’ve ever had, hands down.
6. this… side dish…?
I don’t know what these are called, but they came together with our bibimbap. It’s probably a completely normal thing to eat but as someone who grew up in a culture where things don’t look at you from your plate, let me tell you, it was a lot of fun to try these.
My companion was laughing at me, with me, and actually looked quite surprised and amazed when I eventually tried and ate this.
They weren’t as spicy as I expected (but maybe that’s because of my tteokbokki mishap the day before) and chewing on the bones wasn’t as bad, either. And it actually tasted quite good.
7. cherry blossom pretzels
Okay, so there probably isn’t anything much exotic on pretzels. If I should take a guess, some kind of pretzel is probably known in most of the world. But as it seems, come spring, the traditional pretzel itself blooms into something new.
This was nearby Ewha Womans University, sitting under a cherry tree that just started to grow its beautiful blossoms. And I must say, the pretzels – sprinkled with soft coconut – did, indeed, taste like cherry blossoms and clouds coloured gentle pink by the setting sun.
8. dark secret inside
Another thing that I have no idea what it’s called, but lemme tell you, you’re in for a surprise with this one! The dough is deep-fried, airy and sweet-ish. But wait, wait a minute – they put ketchup and mustard on it. Okay, strange, but okay. Well, that’s not the end to the surprises – after two bites I realized there was a hot dog inside?!
Well, this snack was a wild, wild ride, but hear me out – as strange as it sounds, it was actually weirdly delicious.
9. sweet breadsticks?
Honestly, I have no idea what these are called. But I’d describe them as very airy fried sweet breadsticks, and they were perfect, sitting in a quiet little street in the chill of the morning, sipping on coffee.
10. the broth
Honestly, I have no clue what it is called, so I’ll just call it THE broth. It is served with tteokbokki and other street food in the plastic tents that start to pop up in the late afternoon on every corner of every street and stay there into the night, providing a little bit of warmth when it gets chilly outside.
Served in a small cup, for someone who knows most nothing about Korean street food (like me), it is easy to mistake this broth for… literally any drink of similar color. Tea? Apple juice? Anything else that looks like this…? However, fear you, foreigner, with low tolerance for spicy food! The liquid in your cup is not sweet, on the contrary: it tastes like a good hearty broth with a (very) spicy twist. I learned the hard way, when trying to save my taste buds from burning to the ground after an especially spicy batch of tteokbokki.