棒棒鸡 – Bàng Bàng Jī
Sichuan’s most tender chicken in an incredibly flavorful spicy sauce.
One day I was exploring a tacky tourist shop in Chengdu, where I’m currently living. I came across a pack of playing cards that featured a different Sichuan specialty dish on each card. A big part of the reason why I moved to Chengdu was because I fell in love with Sichuan food after frequenting an authentic Sichaun restaurant back when I lived in Vietnam. I bought the cards and vowed to try every dish – all 54 of them.
While Hong Kong is generally raved about, it’s not typically a backpacker stop, mainly because it’s too damn expensive. I’ve seen a lot of lists putting it in the top five most expensive places to live in the world. Even worse, it’s the 2nd most expensive place to drink beer in the world.
Oh my god! Why would anyone even want to go to such a hellish place?
The absolute number one thing we were looking forward to in South Korea was the food.
It did not disappoint.
We were introduced to new dishes we had never had before, and some old dishes that we had eaten bastardized versions of.
This post consists of photos (some of which lack quality because they were taken on my phone – or maybe because I was all like “screw these photos, I just wanna eat this!”), videos, and information that will help you find the perfect meal in South Korea.
Note: This list has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to hide our McDonald’s shame.
Give me some time and I’ll be linking to a How To Successfully Attend a Festival in China article right here.
But for now, I’ll admit that my attendance at the Longquan Peach Blossom Festival was a short-lived one. The mass of people that shuffled along the uneven paths, the noise that blared from horrendous sound systems, and the foolish purchases that were being made all around me — it’s not my style.
But perhaps it’s yours?
If you’re interested in attending the yearly festival, I’d love to tell you everything I know. I must warn you however, you might not like what you find.
Busan’s Jagalchi Market (자갈치시장), the largest fish market in South Korea, has taken up two very different places in my memory. The first one is a very positive place, where the memories of incredible lunches, lively atmospheres, excitement and intrigue all sit. The second place is dark. It’s usually avoided at all costs. This memory is based on the 8 or so rats that we saw scrounging through a pile of garbage (watch the video til the end).
I hate rats. When we go to a country for the first time, we always keep a rat count. Vietnam took the title during our first trip to Southeast Asia with 5 rats in 22 days (a rat every 4.4 days). But, in the matter of 10 seconds, South Korea managed to make Vietnam look like the outskirts of Alberta with a total of 9 rats in 12 days – a rat every 1.33 days.
That being said, this article is about fish, not rats, so I’m going to focus on the positive memories of Jagalchi Market. But know, as I write this with my feet off the floor, that those rats are haunting my memories.
I’ll admit, I’m a little confused about Korea’s market scene. Gwangjang Market (광장시장) is located in what I believe is the oldest market building in Korea. It opened in 1905, when it was called Dongdaemun Market, which was the name of an older market that was destroyed in the Korean War and rebuilt in 1959. Meanwhile, Namdaemun Market was around since like 1414, but the Japanese took control of it and it was eventually burnt to the ground… a few times. Gwangjang actually was created because of the Japanese take-over of Namdaemun Market. Several Korean investors and business men didn’t like the fact that their largest market was controlled by the Japanese, so they spent a whopping 100,000 Won (like $88) and bought some land to build what is now the 10 acre Gwangjang Market.
Directly to the east of the Sichuan Gymnasium metro stop is a short stretch of road that is a haven for electronic shoppers. While ‘Computer City’ is the name of just one of the many giant electronic department stores (likely the first one) on the street, the block itself is often referred to as Computer City. It’s the place to go for electronic shopping in Chengdu. If you’re looking for a computer, camera, tablet, speakers, smartphone, security device, office furniture, or almost any type of electronic accessory – there’s probably a vendor in Computer City that has what you’re looking for.
Officially, the Xinnanmen Bus Station is the Chengdu Tourist Bus Center, but most locals will know it by its Chinese name Xīnnánmén qì chē zhàn. The majority of their buses go to tourist sites. If you’re looking to hike (Mount Qingcheng), ski (Xiling Snow Mountain), or take in some culture (Leshan Giant Buddha) you’re likely to leave from Xinnanmen.
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Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. DO IT. DO IT.