Following up my previous post, I want to answer two questions: why do street foods exist and what do they mean for the locals?
For me, street foods exist, because they act as informal broker between an outsider and the local immersion they want to understand. Because of its affordability and accessibility, it isn’t hard for people to try and become invested into a country’s culture. And most of the time, it tastes really good. Street food is like the good ju4nk food your mom would never buy you unless you came home with a good report card or something. Either that or you’d spend your allowance on it to enjoy tasty treats with friends.
Which brings me to my next question– what do street foods mean for locals?
Whenever my mom talks about stories of her childhood or when she was in college, they all seem to revolve around food and, more specifically, street food. Just looking at my mom, you would never guess that she could probably eat more than a pubescent teenage boy. This lady really, truly loves to eat. But she loves Korean street food. The greasy fried fritters sold on the streets, the spicy rice cakes. She knew and still remembers her favorite street food stands, what block and street they are on, when to go for the fresh deep fried goodies, when to go for free extra servings.
In college, she met a friend who could equally consume the same amount of food she could. This friend loved street foods as much as my mom did. After classes, they would head over to their favorite stand and order four bowls of noodles, two each. Now, these are not your standard size bowls, these were massive, filled-to-the-brim big. But they would finish them, drinking every last sip of the broth. And at the end, they would voice their cravings about their favorite deep fried goods and walk a block over until they reached their favorite fried goods stand. And so it goes.
But it seems that stories like these are not uncommon. My aunt often refers to her favorite street food stand as the go-to place for her friends to meet as well. To the younger generation locals, street food stands act as a haven, a place where their parents won’t enter and pester them about schoolwork. A place where they can fill their stomachs, not empty their wallets, and quench their thirst for the gossip of the day. The food remains steady, and the Grandmas serving the food always mean well. It’s like most foods we like to eat, metaphoric and comforting.