The One Thing You Should Buy In Seoul
Sometimes it’s best to start a story at the end. After all, it is a very Chinese thing to start reading a book from the back…
It was my last day in Seoul. I had a few hours left before I was due to catch my flight home. There was still one thing left on my list of things to do, and I was not ready to leave until this was done. I had given my umbrella to my friend as she and her well packed bag made her way home before I did. (I didn’t have enough packing space and I thought I was being clever at the time). As Murphy would have it, it POURED with rain that day.
Armed with a brand new umbrella and renewed determination, I set off, solo, into rainy Myeongndong. I searched high and low, and to my dismay it seemed as if I was just not going to be able to tick the last item off my list.
And then, after much searching, there it was… the elusive street vendor and his little cart perched on the pavement corner. He looked up at me as if he knew that I had searched the whole of Seoul for him. He smiled as if to beckon me closer. He didn’t even need to smile as I just about bolted towards his little cart. I frenziedly rambled off a speech of how I had searched high and low for him and that there was definitely a gap in the market for more carts selling traditional Korean candy. He looked at me, nonplussed, clearly not understanding a word of my verbal tirade, instead, offering up a taste of Kkultarae. Ahhhh there it was. Traditional Korean candy. A heavenly, soft, cotton candy taste, with a chewy nut filling. All was right with the world.
Yes, can you believe it, I had searched high and low for a small parcel of honey strings!!! But, these aren’t just your average candy… These little treats are synonymous with South Korea, a traditional street food and I was determined to find them before I returned home. Tick! Mission Accomplished! Call me Nancy Drew, or whatever name you like, it was SO worth it!
Through artistic stretching movements, the vendor created multiple strings of a honey-maltose mixture, into which nuts and sesame seeds were wrapped. I lost count of how many strings were produced, but as he rapidly stretched the mixture, he proudly rattled off some English numbers in a captivating almost performance art sequence. As I watched, virtually spellbound, a hard block of honey became a stringed masterpiece!
It is said that these little creations symbolize wishes of health, longevity, and fortune toward the consumer. (All of his sweet tasting well wishes were gladly received). I proudly bought a box and packed them into my luggage. Just in time to catch my flight home. Upon arrival, I placed them in the freezer, and look forward to enjoying them on my birthday (a gift to myself. Fortunately I don’t have too long to wait).
And if like me, you want to try this candy, you can find the cart obscurely perched in the Myeongdong area… The search, however, will be well worth it. These little treats are a must buy when in Seoul.