새해 복 많이 받으세요, Happy Lunar New Year everyone!!! We are in the midst of our 설날 (Seol-nal) holiday here in Korea. Yesterday marked the first day of the new year on the lunar calendar. As it’s one of the most important holidays of the year many people have flocked to the countryside to spend it with family (myself included).
If you happen to be staying in Seoul for the holiday, it may be the perfect opportunity to explore and take advantage of the less populated city. Personally, I always find the holidays a perfect excuse to binge on tasty Korean street food.
The Myeong-dong street food scene has changed quite a bit since I came to Korea. Though the food vendors would change with the seasons, the food rotation was, more often than not, the same. Now, with traditional Korean street food so readily available all over Seoul, the food vendors have shifted to providing new snack food wether it’s experimental, fusion or adapted from another country.
It’s a new tasty world out there! The food vendors typically set up their carts between 4~5. If you need a little help getting started (or inspired), here are some of my latest conquests:
The fried bananas are what first inspired my little food adventure in Myeong-dong. The bananas are peeled, cut, rolled in batter and then deep-fried. After that, they’re drizzled in condensed milk and chocolate, then topped off with rainbow sprinkles and almond slices. There is no big secret or special ingredient here, just good ole’ fashioned grease. In all seriousness though, they were so good we went back for seconds. Being from Texas, I suppose I’ll always have a soft spot for deep-fried foods, but at ₩3,000 a plate how could I resist?
The grilled clams smelled so good I had to give them a try! First they’re thrown on a grill until they open, then transferred to separate grill where butter is slowly melted over them. After that, each clam is pilled with corn, mozzarella and cheddar cheese and torched until it becomes one oozing shell of deliciousness. The whole process does take a bit of time, these cheesy shellfish are totally worth the wait. My only complaint would be the price. At ₩8,000 a piece it’s a bit steep and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s not something I would buy again unless I had a huge craving for it.
The “baked cheese” is a skewered snack that comes with 4 pieces of 떡 (rice cake) and 4 pieces of mozzarella cheese. Even though it’s called “baked cheese,” it’s more of a grilled cheese since it’s prepared on an oiled griddle. I love rice cake and I love cheese, so the thought of the two together sounded like a little skewer of heaven. Unfortunately, it was a little on the bland side. It’s drizzled with a bit of condensed milk, which helps, but I feel like the flavour of the oil overpowered everything else. It tastes pretty decent fresh off the grill, but once it cools, it’s a bit like oily rubber. These skewers cost ₩3,000 a piece.
Although I was on a mission to try some of the more non-traditional street foods, it’s hard to pass up a good bowl of japchae. Plus, seeing how I had never tried it at Myeong-dong, I gave myself a pass. Japchae typically consists of seasoned stir fried glass noodles mixed with a variety of veggies like carrots, mushrooms and onions. The vendor makes it on a hot slab by the pile. The kind you’d like to dive into and eat your way into a food coma. I’ve had lots of japchae in Korea and it’s legit here. For ₩3,000, you can get yourself a pile of piping hot fresh japchae. Yum!
To wrap up my little food venture, I had to grab a sausage skewer. These aren’t anything new, in fact Myeong-dong is quite famous for them, but it’s become a bit of a habit to grab one if I’m in the area. The sausages are handmade and cooked fresh on a griddle. Each skewer comes with 3 different types of sausages, but 5 in total. You get 2 regular sausages, 2 rice cake sausages and 1 spicy sausage for only ₩3,000. I love the 떡 (rice cake) filled sausages, they’re the best! If you have a hard time with really spicy food, beware of the spicy one that’s usually in the middle… I had to learn the hard way. Other than that, it’s great!