The world is changing fast, and the world’s food culture has become enormously convenient. The food delivery service in Korea is so well developed that most people can have food delivered to them at almost any time anywhere. Furthermore, traditional markets have started disappearing as modern shopping like online shopping and large scale malls have become more the norm. Even with this situation, Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street has managed to survive modernization and remains an active traditional market visited by many.
Begin with the Aroma of Nostalgia
Before reaching Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street, people should enter Dongdaemun’s food alley. There are lots of street stalls selling between meal snack food like ice-cream and fruit juice and Korean food like hoddeuk, soondae, pajeon, and so on. The stores are still old fashioned with most looking like store designs from the 1980s in Korea. Prices are reasonable, ranking from 1,500 to 3,000 won. Beside the stores, one will encounter a lot of motorcycles parked along the streets. Workers use them to move goods, food, and equipment for stores. Some workers move loads that are far bigger than their bodies by placing the load on their shoulders. Scenes in this market like workers shouldering heavy packs and store signs like Tteurak Coffee & Juice are rarities in today’s modern society, so there one feels or remembers the past.
In the middle of Dongdaemun’s food alley, there is a tiny alley connected to Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street. Soon after stepping into this street, the scent of grilled fish fills your nose. Development of Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street began more than 40 years ago. It all began with one fried-food restaurant that provided grilled fish to its customers. This menu item soon became a main dish on the menu and grilled restaurants started popping up one by one; as a result, the alley is now full of grilled fish scents from its restaurants. Most restaurants tailor to a regular group of customers who have ordered the same meal for more than 10 years. Customers were usually storekeepers from nearby PyoungHwa Market, but as the street became more and more well-known, the number of tourists and other local people started to patronize the restaurants.
Along the street, grilled fish storekeepers call out to passerbys in order to entice them to enter their restaurants and enjoy their food. Many motorcycle drivers can be seen riding on the alley ways delivering food, which is tied to the back of the motorcycle. Leechun Restaurant, Jeonju House, and Songjeong Restaurant are a few of the more well-known restaurants because of reviews on internet blogs; however, the menu and prices do not vary much among restaurants. Mackerel, Largehead hairtail, Saury, and Spanish mackerel are the main grilled fish dishes on the menu at most restaurants. Other items include broiled squid and octopus and so on. The price for grilled fish is about 6,000 to 8,000 won. Each restaurant serves its grilled fish within about five minutes after taking the order. Some restaurants provide free refills of rice along with the meal to ensure each customer leaves satisfied. Generous and cheap service is a bonus to the viewing of cooks grilling fish outside restaurants welcoming customers at the traditional market.
Holding Onto the Past
Although Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street still retains its old design, the actual number of operating restaurants seems to have decreased. Officially, there are about 14 remaining grilled fish restaurants located along the street; however, the reporter was able to watch only 6 or 8 restaurants. Also, there were fewer visitors to the restaurants than the reporter had expected. Still, old attracts. The feel of the market makes people feel warm and a longing for tradition. Although the world has become faster and many modern restaurants and delivery food services have emerged out of convenience, traditional markets’ warmth is worth maintaining. Regional communities should strive to protect them.
For readers who want to visit Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street, it is good to look for PyoungHwa Market located nearby the street. Walking along Dongdaemun’s food alley, take the Jeon Taeil* bridge and across the bridge to PyoungHwa Market.