One of the most popular street food in South Korea is 떡볶이 (tteokbokki), a spicy snack that consists of soft and chewy 떡 (tteok or rice cake), 오뎅 (odeng or fish cake) and 고추장 (gochujang or sweet red chili paste).
Anywhere in Korea, you will surely find a store or a 포장마차 (pojangmacha or street vendor) that sells this snack, but the best place to enjoy spicy Korean rice cake stew is probably in 신당동 떡볶이 타운 (Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town) where tteokbokki is said to have originated.
Last Monday, my husband and I, together with some friends, visited Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town.
It’s just a few minutes away from Dongdaemun, so if you happen to be in this famous shopping area in Seoul and you want to grab a bite to eat, Tteokbokki Town is the right place for you.
Tteokbokki is not one of my favorite Korean food. Tteok, which is the main ingredient of this snack, is too bland for me, so every time my husband buys tteokbokki, I eat only the egg and odeng. Anywhere I eat tteokbokki, the sauce is the same sweet and spicy taste of gochujang, but I’m glad that I’ve tried the tteokbokki in Sindangdong. There is something about the sauce that tastes different from the ordinary tteokbokki sauce made by pojangmacha. There’s also a lot of flavors to choose from: tteokbokki with 튀김 (deep-fried snacks), tteokbokki with cheese, seafood tteokbokki, chicken tteokbokki, tteokbokki pasta, curry tteokbokki, rabokki which is a combination of tteokbokki and ramyeon, etc.
We ordered “combination” tteokbokki. As you might have guessed, it is a variety of tteokbokki flavors fused into one dish. I enjoyed the dumplings stuffed with potatoes. Even when they were added into the stew, they were still crispy and even more delish!
It is said that Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town was developed in the late 70’s, but according to the owner of 마복림할머니떡볶이 (Mabongnim Halmeoni Tteokbokki), the first tteokbokki restaurant in the town, they have been cooking and selling tteokbokki since 1953 to those visiting Donga theater. In the 80’s, high school students coming from Duksoo Commercial High School and Sunrin Commercial High School (renamed Sunrin Internet High School) flocked the area to have a taste of their favorite street food. Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town was also frequented by baseball fans when Dongdaemun Baseball Stadium was still around.
From the simple tteokbokki made with rice cake and gochujang, different flavors of tteokbokki were later invented.
What tteokbokki do you like the most? Mine is the one that my husband used to make, 해물 떡볶이 (haemul or seafood tteokbokki). I just love seafood! ^^
Here’s how to get to Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town:
Take the subway, line 2 or 6 going to Sindang Station; exit gate 8. After about a hundred-meter walk, you will reach the entrance of Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town. It should be easy to spot the place, because there is a sign that reads 신당동 떡볶이 타운.
Almost every restaurant in Tteokbokki Town has a parking space, so if you go there by car, you can just park in front of the restaurant where you will eat. The restaurant we went to had a parking attendant who was very friendly. He even opened the door of the car for us! ^^
We went to Tteokbokki Town around 1 A.M., but most of the restaurants were still open. Some restaurants are open 24/7.
Oh, and don’t miss the annual Tteokbokki Festival between September and October, filled with fun activities such as tteokbokki making, street performances, singing and dance contests. ^^★