During my trip to Busan, I fell in love with the part of the city called Nampo-dong (남포동). This is where history comes alive with so many traditional markets still thriving. Markets such as Jagalchi Fish Market, Kangtong Market, and Gukje Market are all crowded with tourists due to their national fame.
My friend and I spent some time walking through the famous Gukje Market. Born out of the age of Korean War, the market has recently gained even more popularity from the film that took its name as a title – Gukje Sijang (국제시장: Ode To My Father). The market begins with streets aligned with food vendors from all around the world. I was surprised to see Turkish kebab vendor and Malaysian noodles vendor both operated by the natives. There are carts selling what looks to me like a new trend of street desserts – skewered strawberries and waffle sandwich with ice cream.
Out of all these junk foods, our pick was traditional street-style tteokbokki – Korean rice cake smothered in spicy gochujang sauce. There were two different versions to choose from: spicy and non-spicy. There are so many foreign tourists in Busan and the vendors were clever enough to make extra pan of tteokbokki that is less spicy. But what is a tteokbokki without spicy sauce? For spicy addicts like myself and my friend the fiery red sauce looked very appetizing.
A single roll of pre-made soondae is added to our tteokbokki by order. Fried dumplings also made a great dipper for thick tteokbokki sauce. The sauce here is very dark in color almost blackish-red. Perhaps a sign that a good quality gochujang was used. The sauce is a best dip for many Korean snacks such as gimbap, soondae, and assorted tempuras.
Now, street foods of Korea may look tasty and interesting but it is also important to understand that there are (of course) sanitary issues with food carts and vendors. There have been cases with street foods causing health problems especially from popular and busy tourist spots such as BIFF Plaza at Gukje Market. Eat with caution!