Best Street Food in South Korea! Yachae Hotteok (야채호떡)

1024182022~2 (2)The golden rule of street food for foreign visitors to any country is simply “Follow The Crowd.” If locals are lining up, you can be confident that you’ve stumbled upon something delicious. Walking the outer perimeter of Namdaemun Market, we knew we were in for a treat when we happened upon this line:

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Standing at the back of the line, our context clues were rather limited. A large red sign clearly advertised a price of 1000 Won, the USD equivalent of 88 cents. Savory, fried aromas wafted toward us as folks walked by happily holding folded golden brown circles of what looked like… fried dough?

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The circles looked like large fritters, or perhaps large servings of Native American fry bread. After being carefully lifted from sizzling oil, they were brushed with what appeared to be a sweet soy glaze flavored with apples, lemons, dates, and onion. Watching people enjoy their snacks, it became apparent that the fried treats were stuffed with some sort of filling. I saw vegetables and… were those noodles?

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Why yes! But… bread stuffed with noodles? It didn’t sound all that wonderful to my American palate. Wow, was I happy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. This treat, which I later learned is called “Yachae Hotteok” (and translates approximately as “vegetable pancake”) is – hands down – the best food I sampled in Seoul, South Korea.

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Clear, chewy, flavorful noodles were tucked inside the warm shell along with thin strips of carrot, green onion, and other fresh vegetables. No wonder the locals were smiling. These treats were fantastic!

If you’d like to try your hand at preparing Yachae Hotteok at home, I’ve found a few great links for you. Maangchi, a famous Korean cook, has a recipe that looks very approachable. The Smart Local offers another variety which looks fun.

The world is small – have big fun!

 

 

Namdaemun Market

1024181930~2 (2)A short walk from Seoul Station lies Namdaemun, the Great South Gate of Seoul, South Korea. Originally constructed in 1398, Namdaemun was one of eight majestic gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul which surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty. Namdaemun was reconstructed in 1447, and significantly refurbished in 2008 after a devastating fire.

The Great South Gate is interesting. For this food traveler, however, the real intrigue lies just beyond the gate. Walk just a bit further, and you’ll arrive at the marvel that is Namdaemun Market. This center of sensory overload has been Continue reading

Hello, South Korea!

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Beautiful Incheon Airport

I’ll be candid with you, Crowded Earth Kitchen friends – I’m simply giddy about exploring Seoul, South Korea. Approximately ten million people call Seoul home, putting the bustling metropolis of Seoul on par with giants such as New York City. Who knew?

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Chivalry is alive and well on Seoul trains, which can get quite crowded!

It takes 14 hours to fly from Chicago to Seoul, which makes a person pretty darn happy to have their feet back on solid ground!

 While train station snacks may lack for nutrition, they’re interesting and very low cost!

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While Seoul is peaceful now, there are plenty of reminders of the region’s complicated past. The fairly new statue above, situated just outside of Seoul Station, is in the likeness of anti-colonial activist Kang Woo-Kyu. In 1919, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, Kang Woo-Kyu threw a grenade from this very spot in an attempt to assassinate the Japanese Governor-General Makoto Saito. This act of defiance is celebrated annually with the laying of wreaths, and serves as a reminder of the fragility of peace.

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As an American abroad, I certainly never expect to encounter English signage. I did, however, find this sign a bit funny. Notice how “Information” is written in English, yet the actual information is not.  🙂

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The ginko trees in Seoul are spectacular. These trees are so much larger than ginkos I’ve seen in the US, and their color is so beautiful.

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Plastic food displays are popular in Seoul as they are in Tokyo. I’m eager to sample the cuisine! Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll begin exploring Seoul’s amazing outdoor markets and food stalls.

The world is small. Have big fun!

Baked Trout, Tom Sawyer Style!

fish1The munchkins here at Crowded Earth Kitchen recently finished reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Whenever they reach the end of a classic bedtime story such as this, we try to do something fun in keeping with the theme Continue reading

Best Lobster Roll in Salem!

dotty-ray-s-lunchFirst things first. A few hours after arriving in Salem, we ventured into a cute little restaurant right off of the touristy Essex Street pedestrian mall. We were able to escape the bright sun while still enjoying the open air, grabbed a quick bite to eat (grilled cheese with fries) and listened to some really excellent live music.

However…

If we weren’t jet lagged, we might have realized before we asked for a table that restaurants in touristy areas also have touristy prices! We passed on the $25 lobster roll. Seriously – who charges $25 for a lobster roll when you can practically see the ocean from the restaurant kitchen? I digress.

Time to contact my good friends GOOGLE and UBER!

A quick web search for the best local lobster roll and where do Salem locals eat pointed us squarely in one direction – Dotty and Ray’s Restaurant. Located about a mile from The Hawthorne Hotel, Dotty and Ray’s is across the river from the touristy town center in residential Salem, where locals live and eat. Google says it’s a 16 minute walk. Uber says it’s a $4 ride. Take your pick, but GO!

For $12.95 you’ll get a lobster roll that’s so generously portioned and delicious, I dare you not to go back the very next day for more (we did!). Look! Look and imagine how delicious this is!
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Casual, delicious, regional home cooking with great service and very reasonable prices -what more does a hungry tourist need? It was fun to watch the staff visiting with other diners in a familiar way; Dotty and Ray’s is clearly the place to catch up on local news over lunch. Even as outsiders, we were welcomed and enjoyed a bit of conversation with our server. It felt a bit clandestine to be the only tourists in a beloved local establishment, as if we’d discovered something too magical to share.

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Scallop Roll

(Magical… Salem… see what I did there?)

Their scallop roll was amazingly sweet and also generously portioned. We substituted the fries for mashed potatoes, which were buttery and wonderful. If you’re in the Salem area, don’t miss out on lunch at the tucked away gem that is Dotty and Rays.

Stay Tuned for Salem!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re busy unpacking after a festive trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Everyone knows that Salem was the infamous site of the 1692 Witch Trials (those witch hunting Puritans were a kooky bunch!). Fast forward 325 years, and modern Salem offers visitors myriad ways to learn a bit of New England history, breathe in a bit of salty sea air, and be happily well fed.

Very happily well fed!

Over the next few days, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature a few culinary gems from the Northeast. Stay tuned!

Happy traveling, and happy eating! Blessed be!