Friday, September 23, 2011

Korean Street Food

I was especially happy to see the food trucks lining the streets in and around Penn when I first arrived here as a freshman because I love food trucks. The food is cheap, convenient, and usually pretty tasty. Korea is one country with a huge street food culture. Korean street food is usually sold at stands or carts, not trucks, and served as snacks, not meals. There is a huge variety of these snack foods, but the most standard street food stand would be ddeok bok yi, uh-mook, and twi-gim. Ddeok-bok-yi is possibly the most popular among spicy-food-loving Koreans: it is a dish of chewy rice cakes, thin slices of uh-mook, and boiled eggs smothered in hot, spicy sauce whose prime ingredient is red pepper paste. Uh-mook sold on food carts is white fish pureed into a paste, steamed, then stuck on skewers. Such a food cart would have the uh-mook on the skewers bathing in broth so the fish cakes would stay warm and chewy. There are usually ddeok (rice cake) skewers among the uh-mook skewers as well. Customers are free to scoop the broth into paper cups to sip, even if they eating something other than uh-mook. Twi-gim is fried batter-dipped vegetable (such as potato, yam, and pepper) or meat; most food carts only carry a variety of vegetable twi-gim. A popular way of eating it is with the ddeok-bok-yi sauce: Koreans really like their food hot!

Although those three kinds are probably the most famous street foods, soon-dae (pig or cow intestines chopped and rolled into a sausage-like form), jjin-bbaang (moist, steamed round bread filled with sweet bean paste, vegetables, or meats), and hotteok (pancake-like dough filled with sticky sweet sauce) and many, many others remain popular. These street foods may vary slightly in terms of size, shape, fillings, and/or strength of the flavor across the country. For example, the city of Busan is famous for their uh-mookk with various fillings.

For a quick fix, I may run to Koreana to eat the Korean favorite, ddeok-bok-yi. Even though “street food” made in restaurants or at home may taste good, it will always taste better eaten standing in front of the food cart while the rest of the world busies itself about, blurred by the steam rising from the cup with the uh-mook broth I have in my hands.

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