I’ve been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time in South Korea over the past few years, and often find myself missing its food when I’m home. Luckily, Edmonton has a growing number of Korean restaurants, bars and grocery stores, so finding those familiar flavours to satisfy my sudden cravings has been growing easier.
One of the newest spots in that growing group of restaurants is Gangnam Street Food, an homage to Korea’s street food culture. It’s located in the K-mall shopping plaza on 34th Avenue near 92nd Street, where its neighbours are a handful of other Korean restaurants, a Korean grocery store and other businesses.
When I stepped inside on a recent Saturday afternoon, K-pop ringing through the speakers, I felt like I had been plucked from Edmonton’s cold streets and dropped on a busy Seoul intersection, where street food vendors are a common sight.
Gangnam Street Food is set up like a fast-casual spot, with the emphasis truly on no-frills items like fried noodles, fried chicken and deep fried hot dogs (did I mention there’s a lot of fried foods on the menu?). There’s nothing fancy about it but it all packs a punch and is, as far as I can tell, a one-of-a-kind destination when it comes to Korean food in Edmonton.
The menu is displayed on large boards behind the counter, where a friendly staff member quickly greeted us and waited patiently as we tried to narrow down our choices.
Next to the counter there’s a big selection of soft drinks, including Korean favourites like Milkis ($1.99), which reminds me of a Creamsicle in beverage form, and Chilsun Cider ($1.99), a Sprite-like drink. There’s also a large selection of candy and ramen to choose from, and a variety of Asian candies to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The interior is small but big enough for 24 seats spread between tables and a counter. During our lunchtime visit it was consistently busy, with tables filling up with hungry families and groups of friends who quickly scarfed down some snacks before heading on their way.
It wasn’t long before our food was ready and our number was called. There’s no table service at Gangnam Street Food so diners have to collect their tray of items from the counter. Don’t forget to stop at the condiment station, where you can load up your picks with spicy mayo, hot sauce, sweet mayo, mustard and more. Honestly, the various sauces were half the fun, and different combinations can produce some quality bites.
We first dug into the dduk bok mandu ($5.50), four plump fried dumplings drenched in a spicy red sauce that is traditionally served on chewy rice cakes and ubiquitous on the streets of Seoul. The combination was delicious, but the dumplings could have used less sauce as they grew soggy and a tad oily. They were nonetheless tasty, filled with chopped onions and kimchi, and a handful quickly hit the spot.
The fried boneless chicken ($6.50) was carefully breaded and nicely fried, remaining crunchy despite being smothered in a sticky, spicy sauce. For boneless pieces — which I tend to avoid — the chicken was very good quality, and the portion was generous for the price.
Gangnam Street Food offered a few different kinds of kimbap, the traditional Korean rice roll wrapped with the seaweed on the outside. My personal favourite is the tuna kimbap ($8.50), which was another generous portion, a fat roll of tuna and mayo mixture stuffed with the traditional kimbap ingredients: egg, ham, fish cake, and cucumber. It was both tasty and filling, and between this and our two previous items, our appetites were quickly growing satisfied. The only thing missing was a small side of kimchi, but I suppose a street food spot can’t be faulted for keeping it simple.
Next up was easily the star of our meal: the Korean-style hot dog ($6.50). Now if you’ve never had the pleasure of trying one, imagine a corn dog on steroids, then get yourself to Gangnam Street Food to taste the real deal. The sausage is impaled with a stick and breaded with a thick, crispy and flaky breading.
We went for the mozzarella version, in which the sausage is wrapped in a thick slice of cheese before it’s breaded and deep fried, leaving every bite equal parts melty cheesy goodness and satisfying crunch. It reminded me of a hot dog grilled cheese, and I mean that in the best way possible. Topped with some spicy mayo and mustard, this hot dog was easily the most interesting item we tried, and is probably hard to find anywhere else in the city.
The rest of the menu is equally flavourful and economical, and new items have appeared since my visit just a few weeks ago. My only gripe throughout our visit was the massive amount of disposable plates and cups being used, especially given the large kitchen visible through the service window. Paper makes sense for takeout, and keeps with the street food theme, but with dine-in seats and a sprawling back of house, some reusable plates could go a long way. That being said, I’ll be back to Gangnam Street Food the next time a Seoul food craving hits.
Gangnam Street Food
Location: 9261 34 Ave. NW #15
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day
Lunch for two: Varies widely, $18-$34
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