NATIONAL

[Weekender] Unique food culture adds flavor

By Lee Hyun-jeong
  • Published : Jul 10, 2015 - 20:49
  • Updated : Jul 10, 2015 - 20:49
As excited children chatter, cyclists swish by and 20-somethings laugh among themselves, a man swiftly hands out chicken delivery leaflets at Banpo Hangang Park in Seoul. 

His leaflet catches the attention of six college students, who were planning to have a picnic at the riverbank.

Picnickers brave the summer heat at a riverside park in Seoul. (The Korea Herald file photo)

After leaving an order with the man, three fried chickens, three seasoned chickens and six cans of beer came just 40 minutes later, along with some free soda pop.

While promoting delivery services is actually banned at Hangang River parks, the scene above is quite a common one.

“Shameful or not, you can say that I come to the Hangang River to eat ... getting the food delivered and eating out here is our way of letting off steam after the weekdays and relaxing,” said a 42 year-old mother of three.
The competition among delivery services, therefore, is steep.

“Even though I know that distributing leaflets is banned, I need to do this because the competition at the Hangang River is tough,” said the 55-year-old leaflet distributor. “All kinds of cuisine are available at the Hangang River as long as it’s deliverable.”

There are no food street vendors at the river. But the type of food that people can get is broad, thanks to the city’s convenient delivery system.
It includes chicken, pizza, Chinese food and more or less any kind of Korean food. 

According to a recent social network service report by big data company Daumsoft, “chicken” was the most mentioned food word alongside “Hangang,” the local word for the river, from 2013 to this year on blogs and Twitter. Until 2012, the No. 1 food for people along the river had been the more-traditional gimbap. 

While the food advertisement leaflets are the most commonly used resources for picnickers, the convenience stores there are also an important outlet. 

But while they are usually run by the same chains, they differ from the convenience stores that you see on the streets.

The entrance is usually adorned with blow-up balls, kites and Frisbees to lure in children. Inside, instead of the staple convenience store items, they are filled with snacks and beers. They also offer ramen, fried chicken, tteokbokki, fish cake skewers and hot dogs. 

“The most popular items are ramen and beer,” said a 61-year-old business owner surnamed Song who runs a convenience store near the Banpo Bridge. 

Customers have the choice of buying instant cup noodles, but they can also order regular ramen to be cooked on the spot, which is boiled and served in bowls made of foil.

While this may be the more affordable and modest way of eating out at the Hangang River, there are some more sophisticated choices for the river-goers as well.

Various high-class restaurants line the river offering nice water views. Most of them are located at the Jamsil, Yeouido, Ttukseom and Banpo Hangang River parks. The menu items range from steak to traditional Korean food.
Some venues are open for weddings. 

At the start of four bridges ― Hannam, Yanghwa, Hanggang and Dokjak ― the Seoul Metropolitan Government also runs high-rise view cafes overlooking the river and the city. 

By Lee Hyun-jeong (rene@heraldcorp.com)