Insadong district, Seoul
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Ginger and Pumpkin Taffy? Just say Yeot."Yeot...what?" The closest approximation in English for one of Korea's favorite street-sweets might be "taffy." It ranges from sticky-soft all the way to jaw-breaker-hard. Traditional vendors announce their confectionery presence by loudly and rhythmically clanging the chisel-shears needed to divvy up the gooey mass into sellable sections.
Malt syrup from various grains can be transformed into yeot; the giant amber slab I saw on this cart was ginger-flavored, and the other offering was made from pumpkin, a specialty of Ulleung-do island, Korea's windswept volcanic outpost in the Sea of Japan.
As a child I would listen to my mother talk about the sound of these taffy sellers passing in the streets. Years later, how fun to introduce my wife to the actual taste on the streets of Seoul! Here in the Insa-dong district, the city's old and young elbow their way among visitors. Souvenir stalls may beckon, but the timeless tastes of home are even more tempting. Locals along with tourists keep Insa-dong alive year-round.
To pronounce "yeot:" think "yum," then just put a "T" on the end.
To get here: subway line 3, exit Anguk station, or line 5, exit Jongno 3-ga station. This is one of the best spots in Seoul for gifts—from high-end antiques and esoteric teas to posters of K-pop stars, this is the place.