The skinny on punshik

Lindsay and I went and had some punshik to do research for an article I did for her newsletter, “Get in Gwangju.” I thought for you eaters out there (and you know who you are) you might be interested in what I found. The following is my short little piece I wrote for my Editor-in-Chief…

It was a cold Korean night. Clouds of steam wafted through the air carrying interesting smells to which I have only recently grown accustomed. Two aging brown hands poked two large plates of food through the steam toward me.

“E chun won,” said the pojangmacha (street vendor). Along with the Korean clientele that I huddled close to for warmth, I shoveled the food into my mouth before the night air stole its heat.

Walking down the streets of Gwangju, it’s almost impossible not to run into a vendor serving punshik. Punshik literally means flour-based food, but the term is used to describe any type of street food.

It took me five months before I inducted myself into this street food fraternity, but I have been plotting a punshik binge for a while. My suggestion? If you want to eat cheap, quickly, and Korean, eat punshik.

Here are a few things you can find on the streets of Gwangju.

· Tteokbokki: I once watched my Korean co-teachers eat this stuff for breakfast. It is rice cakes served in spicy red pepper paste. You usually get a boiled egg with this and a full stomach. Cost: ₩ 1,000 about 1 US dollar.

· Tangsuyuk: A Chinese dish that can be found at the bigger food vendors. Essentially, this is fried pork served in sweet and sour sauce. Cost: ₩1,000.

· Odeng: This is a Korean staple that you can find all over town. Look for the squiggly brown meat on a stick. This is processed seafood cakes in broth. Most of the time you get apaper cup of broth to drink while eating. Be careful. It’s hot! Cost: ₩500 about $0.50.

· Dakkochi: Vendors slow cook this chicken on a stick over coals. I tried a non-spicy barbeque sauce, but I am sure you can find some that will make you wish there was some maektchu nearby. Cost: ₩1,000.

· Soyongtule tong kamja: The vendor fries these potato slices on a stick. You can then can dip them into a cheese or barbeque powder. Very nice. Cost: ₩1,000.

· Bungeoppang: This goldfish-bread is a fish-shaped pastry that is usually filled with sweet red bean paste and then baked in a fish-shaped mold. It is very chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Cost: 3 or 4 for ₩1,000.