Guide to Korean Pojangmacha
Today we are going to feature pojangmacha, one of the iconic symbols of Korea’s undying love for food. It’s almost impossible for anyone to not see a pojangmacha in Korea for they are everywhere. Or perhaps you’ve seen some of them already in those Korean movies that you barely understood. Let’s get down to its basics, shall we?
Pojangmacha, or more popularly known as pocha, are outdoor tents that are commonly found along Korean streets and night markets that are set up to accommodate street food and drinking patrons. This Korean term, when translated to English, means covered wagons. Technically speaking, pochas are small eateries that sell a diverse range of Korean street food like kimbap, spicy race cakes, fried rice cake skewers, ice-cream filled waffles, tornado potatoes, and a whole lot more. The characteristics of a pocha almost resemble that of an American food truck if you would like a point of comparison.
There are two types of pocha: those that are set up during the daytime where most of the items being sold are snacks and those that are set up during the evening when most of the drinking sessions happen. The evening pochas are the perfect places to observe how the Koreans down their sojus and makollis, and also to join them for some chill drinking session with some savoury drinking snacks (anjus) on the side. Most of these evening pochas start appearing like mushrooms all throughout the city at around 8 PM or so and would remain in operation even until the wee hours of the morning.
How did the pojangmacha phenomenon start?
Pochas only started appearing in Korea after the country achieved its independence from Japan back in 1945. The set up of pochas back then was very simple – they are just small eateries by the roadside that serve cheap yet filling meals to ordinary workers. Pochas back in the day didn’t have chairs for their patrons because these small eateries were meant to be quick food stops. The owners of these roadside eateries eventually added chairs upon realizing that more and more people preferred to hang out at these eateries longer given the conversations that would usually happen among the patrons. The 1970s saw Korea experiencing a significant economic development, and this period provided the perfect time for pochas to exponentially flourish. The reason for pochas’ increased presence is to meet the demand for cheap yet tasty food, which generally came from the increasing number of workers from various corporations and companies. Pochas just became one of the chillest hang-out spots for a majority of Koreans after going through a long day’s worth of work.
Pojangmacha in modern Korea
There are over 4,000 pochas scattered all throughout Seoul alone. The visibility of pochas throughout the city is widespread considering that the Korean government continues to exert efforts to shut them down because of food and city cleanliness issues. Some of the owners of these pochas also don’t have legal permits to operate. But despite the crackdown efforts and discouraging measures being employed by the Korean government, a lot of locals and foreigners still consider pochas as a colorful part of Korean culture. As many people would say, you haven’t really experienced authentic Korean living until you’ve eaten under one of those colorful outdoor tents.
Have you ever experienced eating pojangmacha food? Tell us all about your experiences!
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