Sit Back, Relax, Watch the Show And Eat a SquidCatch a movie on Jongno, an avenue in downtown Seoul where the movie theaters are clustered, and you can relish the variety of snacks enjoyed by Koreans as they watch a film.
While Westerners enjoy popcorn with butter, more often than not Koreans will indulge in something quite different. Squid.
This strange little sea animal, a member of the cephalopod family, may look peculiar with its eight short arms and two long tentacles with a long tapered body, but ojingeo has been a favorite movie snack for Koreans for decades.
According to each different way of cooking it, squid comes in a variety of flavors. The traditional way to serve squid is to dry it for months until it gets hardened and brownish, then toast it on a flame and dip it in a sauce usually made of mayonnaise and Korean hot pepper sauce.
This hard, dry version is nowadays too hard to chew and fishy-smelling to suit the tastes of the young generation.
So, a softer and more "Westernized" version of squid has been developed. This type is dried for a short period of time and has a moist texture. It is flavored with butter and steamed in a specially designed press machine to make it more crispy.
This whiter, plumper, softer version of Korea's favorite nibble is not restricted to the movie theater. It is now the number one street snack. It goes for between 1,500 won ($1.20) and 2,500 won.
What else is on the menu for film buffs? Another sea animal, jwipo or filefish, fried or roasted, is at the top of the list of nostalgia-inducing munches.
Koreans enjoy various kinds of cooked filefish, the most popular arrive chopped, fried and sold in a paper bag for about 2,000 won.
Recently, people have found more classy way to cook it - roasting it on heated pebbles.
The taste for seafood does not end here. Koreans find dried octopus tentacles (muneobal) quite tasty too, and a new recipe in which it is cooked with butter and milk is quickly gaining popularity.
If it's all getting a bit fishy for you, try fried sweet potatoes cut long and thin (mat-tang), also favorite snacks. Also, street food sellers have started to serve small plates of wild berries (sanddalgi) and cherries at 2,000 won.
But don't worry if you cannot get accustomed to snacking on squid, filefish or wild berries in the movie theater. Most theaters also provide popcorn in various flavors, Pringles and even nachos with cheese, provided to satisfy Western tastes.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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