Monday, February 28, 2011

서울 속의 세계: The world inside Seoul

The Chosun Ilbo article I linked to in my previous post also details various ethnic enclaves in Seoul (complete with a map), most of which I knew about, but some of which I didn't.

Itaewon is home to a Nigeriatown, which points to either a lot of Nigerian tourists or a lot of Nigerians being here illegally, since only 1200 are here officially. There's also a Muslim street in Itaewon.

Hyehwa-dong has a Filipino market on Sundays, and not far away is a Nepali/Indian community by Dongdaemun. From what I've heard, the South Asian presence there is a relic from the days when there was a more active clothing and fabric presence in the area. Today they seem more out of place, since few South Asians live in the area. The best-known restaurant in the area is Everest, though I find it overrated and expensive compared to other Indian/Nepali restaurants in Seoul.

The Mongolian community, along with that of other Central Asian countries, is located by Dongademun Culture and History Park (a soon to be one-stop shop for your historocultural needs!). I once had excellent Russian food at a restaurant clearly run by an Uzbek or Kazakh, though I no longer remember the name or location. I was very impressed with this Uzbek restaurant, where the price, quantity and quality of the lamb and potato I had was impressive.

Now, there's a Vietnamese community very close to my house near Wangsimni station, which I did not know about, and the same goes for a Japanese community by Ichon station. Once again, the Chosun Ilbo distinguishes between a Chinatown at Daerim station (exits 9-12) and a Chinese-Korean community at Garibong market by Namguro station.

I'm very familiar with Garibong market, having been there a few times. It has a closed-shop feel, a place that's made by Chinese-Koreans for Chinese-Koreans. Unlike an Uzbek, Indian or Middle Eastern restaurant, you really won't see ordinary Koreans walking around there. I've grown very fond of a lamb skewer restaurant there, though having been served both times by a waiter who spoke so little Korean that I had to resort to Chinese doesn't make me think of it as a Chinese-Korean community, neither do the boisterous Chinese-speaking guests at the restaurant.

That a lamb skewer restaurant belongs in a Chinese-Korean neighbourhood is an amusing example of how food gets appropriated. Many restaurants in Seoul advertise "Yanbian-style lamb skewers", which is sort of like seeing a poster in Thailand for a Korean take on American-style Chinese food. Lamb skewers are a Central Asian food also found in Xinjiang province in Western China. They've grown popular as a street food all over China. So, it seems that some Koreans from mainland China brought it to Korea, where a Central Asian food turned Chinese is now billed as Chinese-Korean.

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