Street food is very popular in South Korea for the obvious reasons. It’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s good. There are many areas in Seoul where an entire alley is dedicated to a specific type of food. There will be many food vendors in a row that sell the same dish, all claiming that they are the best in the city. Many, if not all in some areas, boasts signs that read “Featured on So-and-So TV station!”
Competition is fierce for business so finding mediocre food in food alleys like this rare. It’s all about finding WHAT you want to try versus what’s GOOD. And “good” is so subjective that I won’t even tell you what is good and what is not good. The great news is that there are so many options to choose from! You just have to walk around stop by the booths and see what they have.
One of the reasons I love street food in Korea so much is because everything is so fresh. The food alleys tend to be in the heart of major shopping districts. Korea has districts dedicated a certain item that you are looking for. If you are looking to go shopping for clothes, shoes, fabric any everything else, a local can tell you exactly what neighborhood you should head toward. And these shopping districts are HUGE! Just one building out of the twenty building in these areas will make your town’s mall feel so small. And the people hustling in these bustling neighborhoods need to eat, hence the food alleys.
Now, the food alleys are for a full meal when you are famished. What if you just want a little snack? Food carts are found everywhere. Food alleys, outdoor markets, shopping districts, next to the train station, next to Starbucks… you get it.
If you are curious about the more “traditional” cuisine, you might want to head over to the outdoor markets to walk off all that food you just ate. Korea regular grocery stores but many people still prefer to go to these markets if they have the time. Everything just looks fore fresh and I think (don’t quote me on this, I am writing this from memory here) these are more of a farmer’s market. There you can see all the ingredients that are used in home cooked meals that you may not find at a store, like wild roots and plants, and even try different types of Kim Chees (you need to try kim chee… it’s the pride dish of our nation). The one thing I noticed is that many of the vendors are elderly. I hope that their robust children are out on the fields doing all the hard labor!
I would also like to mention that going to these markets and food alleys may not be the best options for the sensitive souls, vegetarians and weak stomachs. Not all of the food on display will be appetizing to the western palate, so unless you are an adventurous eater, I advise to you venture to these parts of Korea with a very open mind. (I put the those pictures in a separate blog, you can check that out here, so that the extreme foodies can have a look.)