Cycle 3 – Item 134
18 (Fri) May 2012
Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce
at Cart #4
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Hard to believe but nearly a year has passed since the last time that I had ddeokbokki for dinner (see most recently 2.148 Ddeokbokki) and nearly two years for sundae (see most recently 1.238 Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce). Of course, I’ve had one or both as a snack on occasion during that time.
One of the best things about living in Oksu-Dong are the food carts near the subway. Up through the 1980s or so, every neighborhood had at least a few. But then, for some reason, probably starting with efforts to clean up the city in preparation of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the government started cracking down on the vendors, most of whom operated at the time without license or oversight of any kind. Concern over hygiene was a factor, no doubt; back in the day, dishes weren’t washed between customers but merely wiped down with a rag. I’m not sure how the food carts today continue to operate, whether they’re now under regulation or perhaps, as someone once told me, they’re exempted by some kind of grandfathering clause in the law. In any case, the rare places still around now have since been upgraded to an extent, equipped with refrigeration and running water, for example, even though the dishes remain unwashed – instead, the dishes are wrapped in disposable plastic. And the quality of the food is as crappy as ever. But tasty nevertheless. And cheap. And convenient.
In a future post, I’ll provide more details on the food itself. I would’ve done so this time, but my favorite cart was closed (Cart #1), bringing us to the 2nd best of the bunch (Cart #4), whose owner is a renowned grouch and began frowning at me even as I took photos from a distance.
After spending playing catch in the nearby school yard, DJ and I stopped by for a quick snack that turned into dinner. Allowing the kid to eat things like sundae from a food cart is probably not the wisest of parental decisions, not that it’s a good idea for anyone, but I look at street food as an integral and inevitable part of living in Seoul; the sooner he builds immunity, the better.
(See also FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)