Korean meals are typically served with a wide variety of banchan, or side dishes, like this simple, home-cooked meal of bulgogi (grilled beef marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, onions, garlic and sugar), sautéed baby shrimp and greens, breaded fish and pork, steamed dumplings, steamed white rice, chicken soup and kimchi.
Dongdaemun (East Gate), on the north side of the Han River, is one of the Eight Gates of Seoul originally built at the end of the 14th century as part of a network of walls around the city to defend it against foreign invaders. Today, the area surrounding Dongdaemun is mostly commercial, with shopping centers and traditional markets lined with street food vendors.
Mukja Golmok—literally “Let’s Eat Alley”—is one of Dongdaemun’s famous food streets. The area is packed with vendors selling traditional snacks and food; hungry shoppers can take a seat on the heated benches and have a quick, inexpensive meal.
In Gyeongsang province in the southeast, regional cuisine is influenced by the abundance of fresh seafood from the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and Korea Strait, which separates the country from Japan. The sparsely populated island of Bijindo is one of the 99 islands of Hallyeohaesang National Park. On a clear day, the Japanese island of Tsushima is visible to the southeast.
Ggool bbang, or honey bread, is a popular snack in Tongyeong, in Gyeongsang province. The small city is a two-hour bus ride from the port city of Busan, South Korea’s second-largest metropolis, and offers three ferries daily to Bijindo. Ggool bbang is a round, fried pastry stuffed with sweet red beans and topped with honey and sesame seeds.
Kimbap (“seaweed rice”), the quintessential Korean snack, are reminiscent of sushi rolls. All kimbap contain seaweed and steamed white rice, but the fillings can vary from any combination of fresh or pickled vegetables, fish, meat and eggs. This version contains fresh perilla leaves and avocado, fried egg, steamed spinach, pickled daikon, crabmeat and tuna.
One of the more bizarre Korean street foods is the Tornado Potato or Twist Potato. Cut into spirals, these crunchy potato swirls are deep-fried on a stick and then dipped in onion and cheese powder. This Tornado Potato in Seoul’s Myeongdong—a trendy shopping area west of Dongdaemun—is about a foot and a half long.