The Kimchi-ite: 8 Delicious Street Food Dishes Of South Korea


Any trip to Korea is absolutely incomplete without dipping under a steamy street-side tent to eat some mystery food, preferably late at night. Street food is extremely popular in Korea. Not in the same way as Twitter-enabled, grilled-cheese food-trucks that are growing with momentum in the U.S., but instead in a much more homey, down-to-earth way. Some foods have their gimmicks, but most of it is classic Korean food.

Carts like the one seen above are a staple of everyday Korean life. I see close to a dozen on my 20-minute walk to work. Called pojangmacha, or just pocha for short, appropriately meaning “covered wagon,” they are large steel carts with a striped vinyl tarp draped over top, forming a tent, which to me really evokes a carnival feel. There are thousands across Seoul, most of which seem to be manned by a surly middle-aged woman. Some are standing room only, others have seating at plastic tables, many have some beer or soju available to go along with your snack. Some carts serve a variety of foods, but most often carts will specialize in a specific dish such as some of the following:

Teokbokki
Pronounced closer to tuh-po-key, it is easily the most popular street food in Seoul, with the majority of food carts serving it alongside various fried foods of dubious origin. It’s a serving of rice cakes (tteok) and processed sea food (called odeng) in a spicy red sauce. While it does look a bit unappetizing and messy, the soft, gooey texture of the rice cakes goes along great with the spicy sauce.

Kimbap
Think of it as the little brother of sushi rolls, the difference being that Kimbap features less seafood and more vegetables. Often sold from a small table near a subway station or bus stop in the mornings, they make a great, cheap, filling breakfast or lunch.

Grilled squid
Usually extremely cheap, around 1,000 Korean Won (~$0.88), this is possibly the simplest of all Korean street food. The squid is flattened and grilled, then served up with some soy sauce and mayonnaise. Enjoy it sitting down with some friends drinking some beer on the side of the road.

Hotteok
My personal favorite, it’s basically a pancake with a sweet cinnamon, sugary filling. Unfortunately, hotteok is typically only available seasonally during the colder months; it’s the only reason to look forward to Koreas ridiculously freezing winters.

Huge ice cream cones
Even though it’s currently ridiculously cold in the wintertime, I still see people walking around with ice cream cones. Interestingly, almost all ice cream cones sold on the streets of Seoul are comically tall, a good two feet tall.

Turkish kebabs
Shwarma, doner kebab, gyro … many names, one thing: lamb, veggies and a mayo-like sauce wrapped in a pita. Popular all over the world, they are starting to take hold in Korea. They are becoming increasingly popular, especially as late night food in party areas popular with expats, such as Hongdae and Itaewon.

Tornado potatoes
They take a whole potato, turn it into one giant spiral, then fry it. Yeah, it’s basically just one big French fry, but that’s exactly what makes these things so fun.

Corndogs
American county fair food with a little twist, crazy French fries all over it. Look at it! I almost want to eat a stick of just nuggety French fries by themselves.

With temperatures dropping to well below freezing right now in Korea, it’s a bit hard to believe that there are still people willing to eat street food but surprisingly, there are plenty of people everyday willing to stay out in the cold a little longer in order to get their snack on. So when you come to Korea, make note of these foods and track them down – it won’t be too difficult.

Be sure to check out more on Korean culture from the other Kimchi-ite posts here!

[Photo credits: Jonathan Kramer, Flickr user Sung Sook, Flickr user Augapfel]

The Best Street Food In Amsterdam

Tourists don’t come to Amsterdam to eat. The Dutch city of debauchery attracts legions of travelers for other things – like, say, flowers or pretty paintings or twee canals – all of which build up quit an appetite. So one would think the city would have a flourishing street food scene to feed all these munchies-craving visitors. And not just in terms of availability but that some culinary entrepreneur would have realized this potential in the market and offer some seriously creative food (think state fair everything-on-a-stick cuisine or some variety on the theme of comfort food).

I recently found myself in Amsterdam with a sudden case of the munchies. After becoming hungry from … um, looking at so much art (yeah, that’s it), I wandered the city hoping to find something good to eat. I had to walk for a while, scouring the streets, peeking into storefronts, but I eventually found the best spots to quell my hunger.

Here, in no particular order, are best street bites in Amsterdam.Vending Machine Croquettes
One of the best things I ate in the week that I spent in Amsterdam came from a vending machine. Sprinkled throughout the city are shops called FEBO de Lekkerste. The walls are lined with vending machines that contain burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, even ice cream. The best, though, was the croquette filled with veal ragu and a peanut sauce. It was hot and fresh and tasted so good I had to get a second one. And for about $2, why not? I might be over-thinking this but the peanut sauce seemed like a nod to Holland’s colonial past in Indonesia. Whatever the case, I’m still thinking about that croquette.

Herring
From one of the best things I ate to one of the worst. If there’s a typical Dutch street food item, it’s herring. Dutch people line up at stands that dot the center of Amsterdam for herring. If you’re a lover of street food and slimy fish – and, really, who’s not? – then you’re contractually obligated to try this. Hold the fish up by the tail, raise it above your head and commence chewing. Hopefully you’ll like it more than I did. Get it on just about every corner or stop by the Amsterdamsche Vischhandel at 129 Zeedijk St.

Pork Buns
Not far from the Amsterdamsche Vischhandel, is the Chinese restaurant Hoi Tin (at 124 Zeedijk St.). If you’re the type of person who chooses an ethnic restaurant based on the presence of that particular ethnicity eating there, then you’ve found the right spot. In fact, the restaurant itself declares it with a large sign out in front: “THE PLACE WHERE THE CHINESE EAT.” It’s also a great place to get a juicy pork bun for pocket change.

Bitterballen
My second favorite Dutch treat are bitterballen. Thick, round, golf-ball-sized croquettes stuffed with a molten mix of veal or beef ragout spiked with spices like nutmeg and, sometimes, curry. Apparently, bitterballen were inspired by yesterday’s leftover meat dishes in the early 20th century. Today they’re just a damn bite available at most snack shops and pubs around Amsterdam.

Everything Else
I tried the French fries – served with curried ketchup – and they were sufficiently crispy and filling. Other street food options that I didn’t have the stomach space for (or, let’s face it, the interest) included pizza, hot dogs and kebobs. I think on my next visit to Amsterdam, I’ll stick to the vending machines.

[Photo by David Farley]

McDonald’s France promo pairs “baguette” burgers with famous cheeses

french cheeseIn a move that’s either sheer genius or…a sign of the Apocalypse, McDonald’s France is giving their cheeseburgers a serious makeover. From February 15th through March 27th, customers will be able to get their burgers on a baguette, with a choice of four different French cheeses–three of which are prestigious Protected Designation of Origin (PDO; formerly known in France as Appellation d’origine contrôlée, or AOC) products. These cheeses are under strict production guidelines and can only be made within a specific area in their region of origin. Ooh la la!

According to culture: the word on cheese (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor), the cheese selection consists of Cantal, a buttery alpine style; Fourme d’Ambert, a creamy, spicy blue; Saint-Nectaire, an earthy semi-soft number, and “generic” chèvre, aka fresh goat cheese.

The cheesemonger/writer in me is thrilled to see something other than processed orange crap on a hamburger, and in France, I think this concept will fly. I don’t think America is ready for le gourmet burger with cheese yet, but it will be a great day when fast food actually consists of real food.

5 French Phrases to Know When Cheese Tasting

SkyMall Monday: Protein Ketchup

gadling skymall monday protein ketchupThe other day, while relaxing in SkyMall Monday headquarters, I was about to enjoy a juicy hamburger with some french fries when an alarm went off in my brain. I realized that a burger and fries was not a very nutritious meal. Here I am, trying to get in shape for my wedding and I’m denying my body what it really needs. I immediately put the burger down and thought about what I could do differently to ensure that I was eating healthier. This hamburger situation was dire and needed to be corrected. I had to take better care of myself and treat my body with more respect. That’s when it hit me. I had to turn to some real nutrition experts to fix this mealtime dilemma. Surely SkyMall could teach me to eat better. And thanks to our favorite catalog, I ended up having a healthy meal. What did I eat? That very same hamburger and french fries…smothered in Protein Ketchup!You see, the problem isn’t with what you’re eating. The issue is your choice of condiment. Currently, the ketchup that you are eating (probably Heinz since Hunt’s is for losers) has zero grams of protein. ZERO! How do you expect to get any protein if the meaty hamburger that your devouring is smothered in ketchup with zero grams of protein?

Think that condiments don’t need to be a source of protein? Believe that ketchup is just an unhealthy sugar sauce that you don’t need to eat at all? Well, while you’re cleaning mustard stains off of your shirt, we’ll be reading the product description:

With 15 grams of protein, zero fat, and two servings of tomatoes in every “dipper-style” one-ounce cup, Protein Ketchup delivers the taste and mouthfeel you expect, with the nutrition you want.

The problem has always been that we’ve wanted a more protein-rich ketchup but haven’t been willing to sacrifice the mouthfeel. Well, our day has come.

Why have a family-sized bottle of protein-less ketchup when you can stock your cupboard with dozens of one-ounce cups of protein-rich condiment ready to fuel your body and fill your garbage with excessive amounts of waste?

Now you can eat all of the burgers, fries and ice cream sundaes that you want so long as you coat them in some rich, properly mouthfeeling Protein Ketchup. It’s guiltless eating that’s sugary sweet. Enjoy!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Fine dining in Antwerp

fine dining in AntwerpFor such a small country, Belgium certainly has contributed to world cuisine. French fries, for example, are actually Belgian, making that whole “freedom fries” movement back in 2003 even stupider than it appeared. They also gave us Belgian waffles, although over here they’re called “Brussels waffles” after the capital. And let’s not forget about Belgian chocolate!

I’ve been exploring Antwerp, a wealthy city with hardworking inhabitants who like to splash out on fine food. Here are four restaurants worth a visit. Office casual attire is the rule here. Entrees range from about 15-25 euros ($20-28) except at Flamant Dining, where they’re a bit more.

My first night I dined at Brasserie Appelmans. This restaurant and absinthe bar only a few steps from the cathedral in the heart of historic Antwerp is popular with both tourists and locals. It’s strange to go from the Gothic spires and 17th century facades outside to modern minimalism inside. Through dim lighting you see a split-level plan with little décor besides mirrors, exposed brick and woodwork, and candlelit black tables.

For a starter I had an incredibly rich tomato soup with fresh cream and meatballs. It was almost filling enough for a main, but I managed a big bowl of Antwerp stew with veal prepared with Grimbergen Dubbel beer and served with thick-cut Belgian fries and salad of white cabbage, celery, and cherry tomatoes. After a long day’s walking and with the winter chill setting in for the evening, it certainly hit the spot.In keeping with the décor of the restaurant, the absinthe bar is dim and chic. It looks very popular and they had a large variety of absinthes but I didn’t partake. I can get absinthe at home in Spain and it’s not the thing to drink alone, certainly not alone in public. Both the restaurant and bar are busy by 7pm, as are many places here. Living in Spain I find Belgians to be early eaters!

Another fine restaurant is Felixpakhuis. Located next to the redeveloped docklands and the famous Mas Museum, it has a spacious and bright interior that gets quite loud as it fills up. Again bare wood and minimal decoration is the rule, although this time the colors are light instead of dark. For starters I ordered pumpkin soup with scallops followed by the Coc au vin. Both were well done and I appreciated the more casual atmosphere than you get in many high-end Belgian restaurants. While service was good at all the places in this post, the waitstaff at Felixpakhuis were the friendliest and quickest of them all. Make this your stop after seeing the Mas.

For those seeking the high end, try Flamant Dining, a restaurant on the first floor of the equally exclusive Les Nuits hotel. This is not a place you’ll stumble upon; locals have to tell you about it. It has a more intimate feel than the others, with a roaring fireplace and fine but minimal décor. I started with crispy goat cheese in a pig’s cheek spring roll with sweet red onion cream. For the main I had Australian filet pur grain fed with a pepper sauce, green salad, and Pont Neuf potatoes. Both were cooked to perfection, the pig’s cheek dissolving sweetly in my mouth. I found the pepper sauce a bit strong and overbearing on the excellent filet, but scraping a bit off solved this.

Another well-known and popular place is the Dome, which is a restaurant, a bistro, and bakery all within sight of each other. I had lunch at the bistro, a less formal and quicker option than the actual restaurant. A long aquarium took up one wall and windows took up much of the rest of the space, so between the fish and the Art Nouveau mansions outside I had plenty to look at during my meal. The chef brought out a series of small portions, including mackerel with mustard vinegar, scallops with pumpkin sauce and salad, spicy calamari (perhaps too spicy for some), and swordfish a la plancha with butter sauce. I’m a land lubber and rarely order seafood, yet I thoroughly enjoyed and finished everything. The restaurant, where you eat under a large neoclassical dome, is more formal and is hugely popular with the locals. The bread from the bakery is excellent.

The only criticism I have of Belgian cuisine from my limited experience on two trips to the country is that it’s too heavy. My appetizers were always too filling, yet too tasty not to finish. I saw very few small or light appetizers listed on menus, and when the hearty main course was set before me, all thoughts of dessert disappeared. Considering that many desserts included Belgian chocolate, this shows just how stuffed I was!

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Masterpieces in Silver!

This trip was partially funded by Tourism Antwerp and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.