Monday, September 5, 2011
Oden…Oden…What is Oden? Four years ago, I didn’t know what an Oden is or what it looked like. My vocabulary of Korean food was limited to Kimchi, Bulgogi, Bibimbap, Samgyupsal, Jajangmyun and Chapchae. I am very familiar about Ginseng too and could probably write three paragraphs about it. Ask me about Korean street food and I would quickly answer Dukbokki.
When I was in Jeju, I bought a waffle from a food tent parked near an arcade. Although it’s hard to guarantee that it’s germ free, still… it’s a yummy snack. I love the creamy butter. My cousins and I also tried this thin yellow brownish cookie cooked by an Ahjussi on a street. It’s cheap and cute. It’s too sweet for me but very attractive because of its cute little designs. But Oden…Nah. Never heard. I was ignorant about it until Autumn of 2008 came. My friend and I were in Everland Theme Park and we were both getting cold – the temperature was about 3 degrees then. It’s close to lunch time and we were a bit tired so we sat on a bench in front of a snack booth looking for something warm and delicious to devour. On other tables, I could see students (It’s a weekday) eating a spiral thing on a stick. It was white and fat. I was curious so I watched them eat. The spiral thingy was served in a cup. I noticed they were following 5 steps to eat it: dip, bite, dip again, bite again and sip whatever it was on the cup. My friend and I were both hungry and curious so we went to the snack booth and we pointed what the students were eating. The pretty lady on the counter said “ah, oden”. We just nod. She took two sticks of “oden”, put each of them on two separate cups and she poured them with a colored liquid that looked like broth. I said Kamsahamnida twice. I have poor Korean vocabulary then. Like two kids, we excitedly went to a table with our order. The cup was very warm on my hands.
Up close, it looked like a fat version of “Isaw” – a Filipino street food made from pig or chicken intestines. I love chicken intestines but my friend doesn’t. So I was asked to eat the “oden” first. (some kind of a friend who wants me to eat it first and see if it’s poisonous…hahaha). I took a sip first and yes it was a broth. I like the way it warmed my throat. Then, I remembered the 5 steps. As a beginner, I was determined to follow the steps…afraid I might not enjoy the food at its best. I took the oden by the stick, dip it again (silly) and bit a small portion …ooohhhh its so soft to the bite and it tasted like……fish! it’s fish cake! I told my friend it’s fish cake so she better eat it soon or I’ll grab her order and eat it too. It tasted so good. I dipped the oden again and took a bigger bite. We liked it very much that we ordered two more sticks. As the day came to an end, we both felt sad. We thought “oden” was available at Everland only – like one of the theme park’s specialty or something. My Korean friend laughed at me for thinking like that. He said, Oden is a Korean street food and available everywhere. Teasing me was his hobby so he didn’t tell me where was that “everywhere”. The following day, my friend and I woke up with bigger eyes…determined to find Oden again. We walked more slowly and we used our senses at their full capacity. After several minutes, we found ourselves in Gangnam subway station. I love subway stations because I enjoy riding the train…I enjoy looking at the stores too…there are stores selling clothes, souvenirs, cosmetics and of course food. While my friend and I were looking at some clothes, our noses caught a familiar smell. We immediately walked out of the store and went to 7-11 which was just next door. And there it was…a steamer full of freshly made oden. Since then, we never had a hard time finding Oden again…Thank God for 7-11, Family Mart and other convenient stores.
So how crazy am I to Oden? I could share to you some of the times I bought this favorite street food of mine…
- At 7-11 in Coex Mall…tired from shopping and looking for a quick snack to recharge myself
- My cousins and I were in Nami Island and we visited a souvenir shop at the exit gate. We noticed a food vendor selling Oden…we decided to buy and try “Nami’s Oden”
- While waiting for our train that would bring us back to Seoul, we went to a convenience store and ate Oden as our “past time” food
- On our way to Apgujeong Rodeo Street, we saw a 7-11 that’s bigger than any other 7-11 stores…it has several pretty tables with parasols and chairs. We discovered that cold coffee goes well with oden…
- Ate a stick after shopping in Myeongdong
- At a 7-11 store in Tokyo (Yay! We were so happy to see Oden in Japan)
Back in Manila, we looked for a Korean restaurant serving Oden. I was so happy when we found one. It’s a fine dining restaurant so it was a shock to know that they have Oden on their menu. The oden was served in a bowl. Although the taste was quite the same, eating it with a fork was not as fun as eating it on a stick. How sad that convenience stores in Manila don’t sell Oden…
Whenever I have friends who would ask me what Oden is…I always answer their question with several questions that go like this: “Have you seen Boys Over Flowers? Do you remember the scene where Gu Junpyo was with Jandi’s father and brother inside a food tent? They ate something white and flabby on a stick right? That’s Oden! Can you remember his facial reaction while eating it? Words are not enough…so just take a bite.