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What to Eat at a Korean Food Cart
Walk down almost any street in Seoul, Korea and you are sure to come across a pojangmacha, or Korean street food cart. Literally translated as “covered wagon,” pojangmacha is a Korean version of fast food. Street vendors usually open around midday and keep up a steady business late into the night. They offer hungry passerby a quick, convenient and inexpensive way to feast on a variety of tasty snacks. With flavors ranging from savory to sweet, salty to spicy, Korean street food is popular with everyone from children to businessmen.
Here is a sample of some common street snacks. Food can either be eaten at the cart or taken away, and good-sized portions generally cost between $2 and $5.
More of a dessert than a meal, hotteok is a kind of filled pancake. Handfuls of dough are stuffed with a sweet filling that usually contains a mixture of brown sugar and either walnuts or peanuts. Other common fillings include honey, cinnamon and sesame seeds. The balls of dough are then flattened into a circular shape and fried on a griddle until they are chewy and firm on the outside and gooey on the inside. Hotteok is served piping hot and is traditionally eaten during the cold winter months.
Odeng is a snack consisting of pressed fish cake boiled in a seasoned broth. It is often thin and ribbon-like in appearance, though thicker, cylindrical versions exist as well. Odeng can be eaten as a soup, but is frequently served skewered on sticks with cups of broth for dipping and drinking on the side. The broth is free, and customers are welcome to drink as much of it as they like. Soy sauce is also provided.
Though the fare differs from one pojangmacha to another, tteokbokki is a fairly standard dish that can be found at most street carts. It is made of chewy, finger-sized rice cakes cooked in a sweet and spicy red pepper sauce. Tteokbokki can be eaten as is, or mixed with other ingredients such as eggs, vegetables, ramen noodles, and odeng.
Another extremely popular Korean street snack is sundae, a type of blood sausage. Like tteokbokki, sundae is standard fare at most street carts. It is made by stuffing pig intestines with a mixture of ingredients including rice, noodles, pork and pig’s blood. The sausage is then steamed, cut into bite size pieces, and dished up with salt for dipping. Sundae is commonly served with slices of steamed liver.
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