After the Korean War, street food vendors became popularized. It was a good and relatively cheap way for low-income bracket workers to find a steady job. With the amount of refugees and U.S troops during this time, they were able to serve many customers and made a noticeable impact to those of lower class. At this point, even those without much money could afford meals. Something to note is that their kind type of traditional street food had seasonal switches, so people were able to have different meals every so often. Overtime, influences of other countries have joined the mix of Korean street food, making it a lot more varied today. Some well known food from other countries are takoyaki and churros!
There are a couple places known for their street food vendors, such as Myeongdong and Dongdaemun, but you don’t need to look far to find these nifty set ups. I’d say that street food vendors are easier to find during the night, unless they are established in a storefront of some sort. In Myeongdong, street food tables are set up around 5 pm and run through late hours of the night. I guess the best way i could describe them are like one day pop up shops? They compete with each other for the hottest locations to set up in and take a while to be up and running since it involves a lot of manual labor, unlike a food truck where everything is already set up and easy to move around in.
Some common and popular street food are ddeoboki, which is rice cake, kimbap, something that looks very similar to sushi but have different traditional fillings, dak-kkochi which are chicken skewers and scallion, pancake, tornado potato’s, fruit drinks, and bungeoppang, red bean bread. Some of their more traditional food are eomuk, a fish cake, and hotteok, dough filled with cinnamon. Egg bread is also pretty popular as well. The cost of these items usually vary around 2-5 dollars depending on portion size, making them pretty affordable. There are more upscale street foods though, such as steak skewers and lobster tail. There really is something for everyone. While the food is for eating, some vendors entertain their customers by preparing the dishes in unique ways. There is a market in creating appealing food that is delicious as well.
The type of street food you may find are somewhat limited, but that’s not to say that they aren’t good options. Some common and popular street food are ddeoboki, which is rice cake, kimbap, skewers, pancake, tornado potato’s, fruit drinks, and red bean bread. My personal favorite is the tornado potato- they’re so simple and tasty. Kimbap is a second close contender! I enjoy the variation of fillings you can choose from and is savory compared to the potato, which has a bit more of a sweet taste.
Something I should mention about street food is that cash is king here. Street Food vendors will not accept credit cards, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re in one of the major locations like Myeongdong or Dongdaemun, as there are many currency exchange locations nearby. If you happen to find these street food tents in a more isolated location, then you’re out of luck if you don’t have cash.
I think these places bring such a fun atmosphere to a location and is a great way to eat on the go. Depending on what you get, they can be pretty filling and be considered a meal. I plan on trying everything at least once, so I can’t wait to go back for more.