Stay Healthy Eating Street Food in Korea!
Tips for enjoying food on the Korean open market.
There are great mini markets, submarkets and street vendors with delicious foods available all around Korea. Seoul is a shining example. There you will find open-air food vendors, closed markets, and mall-style food shops of all shapes and sizes.
Tip 1: Know what’s safe to eat. Safe choices at Korean stalls include hot pot, noodles with black bean sauce, and any type of meat grilled on a stick.Stick with boiled and fully cooked meals. Even if the meat is questionable as to what kind of animal it is, you’ll be assured that is cooked thoroughly all the way through on the barbie and clean for consumption.
*Deep fried dough balls dipped in soy sauce are also good. The emphasis here is on deep fried. There are also a lot of street vendors that have fun, cooked dough snacks; something like our own donuts. If you’re willing to go for the calorie hike they can be quite delicious and filled with all kinds of different pastry stuff.
Tip 2: Avoid questionable foods. Most street vendors have little to no access to running water. This makes things like raw fish, uncooked vegetables, and even cooked seafood a questionable affair. Add to that the fact they are wrapped in seaweed and rice, even with the addition of wasabi and soy sauce red flags are popping up. If your stomach is not used to the local bugs you could be in for a night long on the toilet.
*Taking undercooked ingredients back home to cook can be a great way to stay safe! Food markets are also a great place to pick up cookable ingredients. You don’t need to rely on food vendors for your dinner. Restaurants are not the only places you can get food. Korea still has a culture of open and closed food markets that range from vegetable areas, seafood areas, meat areas, and beyond. This can be a fun shopping adventure for those that want to go back to their hotel room and cook up something fresh.
Tip 3: Fast food off the street. If the idea of food served to you from the vending stall without running water is too scary, Korea has a plethora of cafes for sweets, pastries, and coffees. Much like our local Starbucks, these places have fun quick meals at reasonable prices. As long as you think that $5 coffee is a reasonable price.
*McDonald’s and other fast-food chains are available in Korea. These can bring the comforts of home to the American traveler. At the same time, know that they are for the indigenous population. They have things on the menu that are not available in America and changes in flavors that you may not be used to. Hamburgers and chicken nuggets contain a plethora of the garlic spice in Korea. It might be too much for the American palate. If that’s the case, stick with ramen houses and meats grilled in front of you.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to be a chicken. When visiting a foreign country it’s okay to not be used to the food. Not finishing your plate because you’re not used to it is not a disservice. Sometimes you just have to try different things to find your footing in a new culture’s food. There is no shame in that. It is better that you understand your limits than to push past them and get sick. You want to enjoy your time and they want you to come back. That will not happen if you don’t take care of yourself.
Be safe, travel well.