15 (Sat) November 2010
Ojingeo Twigim + Ddeokbokki
from unnamed food cart
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Korea-
Twigim (튀김) is a Korean dish. More of a broad food category of items that are battered and deep-fried, most commonly hashed veggies, sweet potatoes, mandu, shrimp, squid (ojingeo). The term literally means “deep-fried.”
Especially popular at food carts on the street. After deep-frying, the items are typically cut into bite-sized pieces and dipped in soy sauce or mixed with ddeokbokki sauce. Most carts charge around 2,000 won for three of any item, a price that’s held for over a decade, though I strongly suspect this will rise everywhere soon enough.
I’ve always been a bit hesitant about the twigim at these carts, which invariably lay out the already once deep-fried goodies in piles right along the counter, very rarely covered by anything, right in front of where diners are eating and talking and spraying their spit over the food, right in the open air for flies and dust and all manner of urban contaminants to get right at them. Granted, the food is re-deep-fried upon order, which would hopefully kill anything unsanitary, but still.
On this occasion, I asked the proprietor of the cart to leave the squid intact, thinking the whole pieces would make for a better photo. She looked at me strangely and asked, “How are you going to eat them? They’re too big.” Not bothering to explain about photographic aesthetics, I simply replied, “I have scissors, too.” She said, “Well, I’m sure you do, but why would you not want me to cut them for you right now?” This went on for awhile. In the end, looking at the photo, I’m not sure if it was really worth the trouble.