Cycle 3 – Item 164
17 (Sun) June 2012
from Cart #1
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Among the 5 food carts clustered near Oksu station (see also 3.134 Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce), my favorite is the one located at the base of exit 4. For purposes of distinguishing between them on GMTD – none of them are named – I’ll refer to it as Cart #1. The food is great, the facilities are (relatively) clean, and the owners are nice. The only problem is that they’re frequently closed for no apparent reason (rumor has it that the wife has some ailment that sometimes prevents her from working.)
Food carts of this type feature the same menu, more or less. The holy trinity of Korean street food, representing a perfect harmony of three distinct tastes, three distinct textures, include (i) spicy/chewy ddeokbokki (rice cakes) (2,000 won) + (ii) earthy/crumbly sundae (blood sausage) (3,000 won) + (iii) savory/crispy twigim (deep-fried items) (3,000 won for 3). A fourth standard item is odeng (fish cakes) (500 won each).
I like everything with ddeokbokki sauce, even though I don’t really like ddeokbokki itself all that much. I sometimes order ddeokbokki just for the sauce. Fortunately, in Oksu-Dong, the proprietors are very generous, so they’ll always provide sauce with an order of sundae or twigim if requested, often tossing in a few free rice cakes for good measure. A few years ago, a brick & mortar restaurant opened down the street that served these same dishes but refused to give free ddeokbokki sauce – it went out of business real quick.
Relating to the hygiene issue discussed in my prior post, I’ve always been a bit uneasy about twigim and odeng. Twigim offerings are laid out uncovered in the open, right along the counter where customers sit and eat and talk, inadvertently or advertently spitting/spraying on the displayed food from time to time. The pieces are deep-fried again in hot oil upon order, which probably kills most of the germs, but still. As for the self-service odeng, it’s eaten straight off bamboo skewers that may or may not be sufficiently washed between uses. And the soy sauce for the odeng, back in the day, it used to come in a free-for-all dipping jar, which has since been supplemented with a ladle and individual sauce dishes, but I still see people on occasion diving right in. Hep-K heaven.
The following is a translation of the absurdly surreal exchange that transpired between me, another customer, and her companion, as I was waiting to get my order after taking the photos.
Her: Good food?
Her: This place has good food.
Me: I know.
Her: This place is famous.
Me: I know.
Her: So why would you need to write about it?
Me: No need. I just do it.
Me: Because English is easier for me.
Her: But you said you’re not a foreigner.
(See also FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)