If Coney Island witnessed the birth of the hot dog, Seoul in South Korea saw subsequent generations mutate into a an entirely new genus of animal. An animal coated in a skin of batter and french fries then presented deep-fried on a stick.
After first witnessing this monstrosity on Newley Purnell‘s site, I thought that chasing it down would be difficult. That it would be the type of food that only demented South Korean carnies sold for a scant few days of a State Fair until their consumers ended up in the waiting queue for a heart bypass. The taste is about as obvious as it looks: greasy but still crispy fries glued to a hotdog with a thick, neutral batter.
It turns out that Seoul is packed full of artisan hot dog vendors. Vendors wrap them in bacon, mashed potato, corn batter or what looked to be seaweed then invariably deep fry them. I spotted three french fry-coated hotdog vendors in the narrow alleys of Myeong-dong alone and a few more in the neighbouring Namdaemun Market.
I blame this mutation on the Korean War. When meat was scarce in the years during and after the war, Koreans made do with whatever they could scavenge from the surplus from the US armed forces bases – Spam and hotdogs. To make these items edible for Koreans, the locals mixed them together with the paste gochujang in a makeshift stew named “Budae jjigae” (부대찌개) – literally “base stew”. Over the subsequent fifty years, the locals have grown to love the processed meat-flavored soup and it now graces franchise restaurant menus, the only difference being that the stew now contains actual meat along with the mechanically-separated variety.
There seems to be no particular rules to making the stew, insofar that you need gochujang and hotdogs to start, and then whatever seems to be lying about the average Korean kitchen to continue: kimchi, frozen dumplings, greens, ramen, rice cake, actual meat. 50 years of hotdog flavoured broth has to do strange things to your palate and drive you towards experimenting with hotdogs in an obscene and deep-fried manner.