Hands down. The food. Never mind that we are having our second wedding ceremony on July 18th and I have to fit back into another wedding dress. Never mind that in Korea an American size 0 is the average size among women. We are only in Korea for five more weeks and we are going to make the most of it. By eating, of course.
Welcome to the land of endless cuisine, where restaurants are usually open 24/7, street food is some of the most delicious fare out there, and the majority of restaurants deliver right to your door (all you have to do is keep your pajamas on, order through an app, and a guy on a motorcycle weaving through crazy traffic comes to you with the most delicious fried chicken – or Chinese food, or cold noodles, or bulgogi, or _______ – you’ve ever tasted).
The first thing my husband asked me when we landed in Korea was, “What do you want to eat?” Of course I had already created a list of top 3 things we absolutely had to eat right away. So here begins our foodie adventures in the Motherland…
First stop – Anyang Central Market (안냥 시장). Anyang (located about a half hour south of Seoul…without traffic of course) is the city my husband grew up in, so he knows the good street eats like the back of his hand. The Central Market has become one of my favorite spots. They sell everything from live octopus to fresh produce, from blankets and comforters to shoes, from freshly made ddukboki (떡볶이) to soondae (순대; Korean blood sausage…yeah, haven’t gotten myself to try that one yet).
Tucked away in a little corner is this magical, delicious kimbap (김밥) shop. The lady wearing the hat (picture below) has been running this little joint for 10+ years and during lunch time, this place always has the longest line. Freshly made before your eyes, brushed with sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds, and at only about $1 per roll, you better believe this is the best kimbap in all of Anyang…perhaps all of South Korea.
This is when a picture just cannot capture the deliciousness that is at hand.
South Korea is also very famous for their fried chicken tossed in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce (양념치킨). Even if you don’t like chicken, I promise you will change your mind upon just one bite. Almost every other street food stand advertises fried chicken (and they’re all pretty good!), but the one at the end of Anyang Central Market is just pure magic. Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking about it again.
Just enough breading (I think they use a different kind of flour because it’s nothing like the breading on fried chicken in the States)…tender, juicy chicken bites…the perfect balance of sweet and spicy sauce that slightly sticks to your fingers just enough to where it’s easier to lick your fingers than wipe them on a napkin…absolute perfection.
That was just day one. A couple days later, we crossed off the third item on my list – gamjatang (감자탕). This is a slightly spicy soup made of pork on the bone, potatoes, onions, vegetables, sesame seeds, and several other key ingredients I don’t know how to translate into English. Basically, all you have to do is feast your eyes on the picture below…
But the best part always comes last in Korean cuisine. The servers take the reduced broth and leftovers, saute in some kimchi and green onions, add some white rice, mix it up with some dried, seasoned seaweed and Korean chives, and then flatten it out in the stone pot so that it cooks slightly golden brown at the bottom. It’s basically leftovers evolved into fried rice. Whoever invented that was a culinary genius.
So there you have it. Here’s all the evidence that I’ve been eating my heart out since I arrived. The good thing is, we’ve been walking around like crazy taking the public transit to adventure through Anyang and Seoul. But, I’ll save those stories for the next post!
Happy eating! 🙂