A 'pojang-macha' in Seoul
Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Where the Covered Wagons Come Out at NightSeoul is full of street food, and open-air markets and sidewalk stalls abound. But wander the avenues at night, and warm light from under tarps beckons; it's the poh-jahng-mah-chah. Literally meaning "covered/tented wagon," these are an institution of Korean life. A truck or cart will park on a street corner. The sides go up—tarps unroll, lights come on, a scattering of plastic tables and stools appear—and you have instant conviviality with snacks and drinks.
Leave your polished expectations behind, even if the particular pojangmacha is around the corner from an über-chic department store or at the front steps of a bank headquarters skyscraper. This is completely unpretentious; no napkins here—just rolls of toilet paper hanging from the temporary ceiling.
Most don't have English-language menus, but occasionally the delightful mistranslation occurs—my wife's favorite is "chicken butt hole house,"(chicken gizzards!). You can get bottled water and sodas, but beer and soju reign here. Office workers shed their ties on their way home, and loud conversations compete with waving chopsticks.