Korean street food is made in many different ways, including in movable stalls to small kitchens that are tucked into ground floors of old buildings, with much of the cooking spilling out into the street in front of the store. There’s no place to sit and eat at many of these so it still is very much street food, but with a more permanent location. Locals often get take out from these places on a regular basis.
There’s a great place in Namdaemun Market which sells the most delicious steamed buns. There are a few different fillings to choose from, but the absolute best one I had had a delicious pork filling. It was served piping hot and passers by laughed at me as I was doing the whole ‘too hot, but so good’ dance with the first bun. One older gentleman asked us if was good and a couple of others encouraged us to eat well. I think they liked watching us enjoy their local food.
Another type of street food stall can be attached to a sit down restaurant where some items are cooked in areas open to the street and you can just buy food to go, or go inside and sit down. Many of these have very basic interiors. These photos show all sorts of vegetables and meats being fried in a light covering of batter. I did enjoy these, but at some places they were a little greasy for my taste. You can tell how incredibly popular these fritters (Jeon) just by looking at how many these ladies are preparing.
You can also find great food inside some of the markets, with some markets having better reputations than others. Here you usually find a place to sit to eat if you can, although at some places people stand as well. There’s a huge selection of different types of food to try, but you need to be confident and a little adventurous as the ladies are usually busy and don’t have much time to spare if you ask too many questions, plus most are unlikely to speak English.
In Dongdaemun market we opted to try a lady who had a tiny eating space behind her stall, as we felt we would be out of the way of the main crowd. Unable to communicate except by pointing and gestures, the lady finally just gave my daughter a plate and a set of tongs and told her to put what she wanted on the plate.
This was all reheated so that it was piping hot and delivered to our table. The kimchi pancake was really, really good. I also enjoyed the little dumplings (mandu). We of course had some banchan on the table and a beer to drink. Surrounded by working people on lunch break we were totally immersed in the local eating culture. Not a place to sit and linger, many people came and went quite quickly as they hurried back to their daily routines.
While eating all this street food might make you thirsty, don’t despair, vending machine drinks can be found almost everywhere……
Have a great day everyone.
You may also enjoy Part 1, Pojangmacha: Better Known To Some As A Soju Tent, Korea Without The Chili Pepper, and Korean Tea.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elle Marzec.
Looks scrumptious. Did you have any problems with parasites or other stomach issues?
I’ve been to Korea twice and eaten all sorts of things. As long as you use common sense you should be ok, deep fried food can sometimes be the safest if you’re really worried, but we had no problems at all. (Common sense means, if it looks dirty or unsanitary don’t eat there, also if one place has a long line it is probably the best place and safe, cooked food is safer than uncooked food, etc Pretty much how you would judge a food truck in the US.)
I miss Korean street food especially odeng/oemuk. It’s really good especially when the weather is too cold!
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Cold weather makes hotteok taste better too. I too miss the Korean street food.
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