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Seoul: Tteokbokki in Hongdae

Pojangmacha tent restaurant in Hongdae, Seoul

The first evening in Seoul I went for a walk in Hongdae, which is a really cozy area around Hongik University. There are a lot of nice cafes and restaurants, but Hongdae is probably best known for the nightlife, which doesn’t get much better in Seoul. Crowds of students fill the streets every day of the week, and you’ll never have to walk far to find a place to grab a beer.

Around the subway station, there are several clusters of pojangmacha, which are small tents where you can buy food and drinks. The menu usually only includes a few items such as tteokbokki (Korean rice cake), twigim (fried vegetables and seafood) and sundae (blood sausage). I prefer to steer clear of sundae, because blood sausage has never been my thing, but Tteokbokki is one of my favorite Korean snacks. The thick white tteokbokki has this chewy, yummy texture, and comes drenched in a red sauce, which is just as spicy as it looks. The sauce also has slices of eomuk, which is a kind of fish cake, and the more fancy versions have a boiled egg added too.

The small tents rarely have access to running water, so to minimize the need for dish washing, the food is served on plates wrapped in plastic bags. Instead of cutlery, you use small toothpick-like skewers to get the food from the plate to your mouth. Tteokbokki is cheap food and I only paid 2500KRW for my plate, which came with a little bowl of clear soup on the side. It’s the perfect snack to keep you warm on a cold day, and my oh my, it was freezing in Seoul! The last time I was in Seoul was back in 2011, and it was also freezing back then, but I had forgotten how freaking cold it gets over there. I did bring a jacket, but it was not enough to keep me warm. I should have brought a spacesuit instead. I ended up buying 5(!) winter coats in a second-hand store and ate a lot of tteokbokki, of course.

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