5 best Korean street food and where to find them in Hong Kong
16 May 2017
You know your bibimbap and you know your Korean fried chicken. But the world of bunshik, Korean street food, is not so well known outside of South Korea. An indispensable part of any Korean high school student’s diet and the vital drunk-food for ajusshi (older men) after work, bunshik is a necessary part of the Korean experience that while unfamiliar to many, is in fact quite available in Hong Kong.
Odeng @Ssal Bori Ssal
WHAT Odeng is Korean fishcake. Odeng is usually boiled in a sometimes spicy fish and vegetable broth, which is then skewered and served with soy sauce. Most things don’t taste great when they are over-boiled to a point of being entirely too soft. But this isn’t the case with odeng. Picking up a stick of odeng from a huge tank of broth and tasting the incredible tenderness of a fishcake that has sat in the broth for hours is a very nostalgic Korean experience, reminiscent of the cold winter nights in South Korea.
WHERE Quite a few Korean restaurants are serving this in a soup form. Ssal Bori Ssal, Hong Kong’s first makgeolli restaurant opening this May will be serving odeng as part of their Korean street food menu. Their seafood and fishcake soup comes with Korean fishcakes boiled alongside squid, clams and octopus, and with a base of beansprout & mushroom broth. Shop B, Brilliant Court, 78 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2736 8444; facebook.com/ssalborissal
WHAT The Poles and Germans love a good pork knuckle, they cook it for hours until tender. The Chinese make a mean pork knuckle (猪脚) too with a swig of Shaoxing wine and a variety of seasonings. The Koreans have their own version, called jokbal, marinated and steamed with Korean rice wine, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Chewy, meaty and nostalgic, the jokbal is a symbol of university youth and a grandma’s love in South Korea. While the jokbal vendors seem to be vanishing perhaps as a result of traditional market areas disappearing in South Korea in general, jokbal’s popularity is undiminished, and restaurants have been springing up in and around Hong Kong.
WHERE One place to find this is in Hanjan, they slow-cook their pork knuckles for hours with 11 kinds of Korean medicinal herb and serve it with a bed of lettuce & a dollop of ssamjang (a mix of bean paste and pepper paste). Traditionally you have this with some fermented shrimp sauce. The combination of lettuce-jokbal-shrimp sauce is unforgettable. G/F, 4-5 Wo On Lane, Central, 2408 6000; facebook.com/HanjanHK
Pajeon @Angry Oppa
WHAT The jeon is a savoury pancake made with a mixture of rice flour, flour and eggs. This is considered as anju (traditional Korean bar food) rather than street food these days. But they used to be sold on the streets all over before the vendor restrictions, and if you go to the street food centre of Gwangjang market, they still are sold in every street food store left and right. The pajeon is a version of jeon with green onions and sometimes with a variety of added on fillings. The pajeon is fried on a pan till crunchy and served with soy sauce. Other varieties that include seafood or kimchi is also popular.
WHERE Angry Oppa Restaurant & Bar is serving up Pajeon with green onions and seafood and a Kimchijeon with kimchi and prawn sticks. Pajeon is amazing with Korean rice-based alcohol makgeolli. Shop A, G/F, New Landwide Commercial Building, 73 Kimberley Road, T.S.T, 2884 3266; facebook.com/angryoppa
Soondae @Hansung Korean Restaurant
WHAT How does one explain soondae? You’ll find these in nearly every traditional street food stall or snackery in South Korea, rolled up in a circle like a sleeping snake. In its most simple form, soondae is basically pork blood mixed with cellophane noodles, glutinous rice (and often other extra flavourings such as garlic) that is stuffed lovingly into an intestinal casing (although these days the casing is made with wheat). They are then cut into small bite size pieces similar to that of a kimbap. It doesn’t sound so pleasant when explained so scientifically, but all in all, it is a blood sausage with a chewy consistency and a surprisingly bacony taste. Dip it into salt and some red pepper flakes and you’ll soon find yourself addicted to the taste.
WHERE After looking high and low all over Hong Kong, one of the few places you can find a good soondae is at the Hansung Korean Restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui Koreatown. 74-76 Kimberley Road Tsim Sha Tsui, 2375 5055; facebook.com/Han-Sung-Korean-Restaurant-1059268137453263
Tteokbokki @School Food
WHAT It's no coincedence Korean street food is associated with students, it is a culture, a landscape in the streets of South Korea to see dozens of uniform-clad middle or high school students scuttling around a street food vendor plowing through a plate of tteokbokki with faces reddened by its heat and spice. Tteokbokki is one of the Korean street food dishes that are well known in Hong Kong, perhaps from its celebrity status in popular Korean dramas. It’s a dish of ricecakes cooked in a sweet and (sometimes very) spicy sauce made with a base of fish and vegetable broth. Sometimes fishcakes and boiled eggs are added into the equation.
WHERE They serve this in many Korean restaurants in Hong Kong, but a notable one is School Food for their rabokki. Rabokki is basically the same thing as Tteokbokki but with an added element of Ramen noodles. School Food is appropriately named considering the idol status of tteokbokki among young students in South Korea. Shop 1302, 13/F, Times Square, 2480 3666; miradining.com/school-food (several locations)