Asia, Food, Travel

Street Food Chronicles: South Korea

Leave it to Jake to know exactly what he wants when he smells it. He asks no questions about what it is (although, since the little grandma selling it couldn’t speak English, I don’t think asking would have done us any good), just orders and eats. Our plan was to meet a friend for a traditional food market tour, but on the way, he got a little distracted.

Eat First, Ask Later

Eat First, Ask Later

Japchae Hotteok

Japchae Hotteok

We later found out it was a “pancake” made of mung bean filled with sweet potato cellophane noodles. Looks delicious, right? Jake had told me about this food market we’d be going to for awhile. To put it in US terms, imagine an outdoor buffet where you walk to each food station, sit and eat a few bites, then move on to the next. Except in the US, you probably wouldn’t be okay with eating your food with this sitting in front of you…

Woo Pig Sooie?

Woo Pig Sooie?

Pig Feet and Lungs

Pig Feet and Lungs

I was told by my friend and gracious tour guide, Hyoseung, that every stall has a pig’s head to bring good luck. And, it was true, I saw this at nearly every food stall, along with the pigs feet and ears and lungs piled up on top. My thought was, does it bring good luck if it scares away customers? But, then, I happily sat and ate with it staring me down, so I guess I wasn’t too deterred. Hyo, first, walked us through the market, imparting knowledge of different dishes to us, allowing us to see the full range of our selections. I had decided that the “sausages” I was seeing at many of the stalls would be on my Do Not Try list. So, when we sat down (with me coincidentally seated in front of a big pile of the steaming things) at our first booth and she ordered in Korean and was promptly presented with a plate of said sausage, I was all too excited as you can imagine.

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Upon further explanation, I discovered from Hyoseung that they were called Soondae (which can also be spelled sundae, not to be confused with the western version of a delicious ice cream dish we all know and love). They are pig intestine, stuffed with the sweet potato noodles that have been marinated and cooked in pork blood. These are also known as blood sausage.

Blood Sausage with a side of Liver

Blood Sausage with a side of Liver

The powder is mixture of salt and Korean pepper, made to dip the sausages in. You might be wondering at this point, how did you eat this? And to answer that, I got my chopsticks, picked it up, and took a big bite. It was actually really, really good (which I know you’re not believing right now). I ate more of this than I did of anything else. The liver wasn’t bad either, if liver is your thing. Does everyone have an opinion on liver or is it just me?

Anyway, moving on to our second stall, we were greeted with mandu, Jake’s favorite. Mandu are essentially steamed dumplings, stuffed with different fillings. There were piles and piles of them everywhere. The stall we chose had kimchi mandu and gogi (beef) mandu.

Mandu

Mandu

I guess one good thing about these stalls is that you are able to see your food being prepared. Although, that can also be a bad thing, depending on which way you look at it. We kept seeing these pancakes (jeon) stacked everywhere, then we finally came across someone making the batter from scratch.

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These are mung beans, being ground by this implement, falling into a bucket and being fried into savory pancakes. This was our final course of the market, the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae (or soondae, in this case)

Piles of Jeon

Piles of Jeon

The moral of the story: Don’t judge a sausage by it’s casing.

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