23 January 2024

Taste Korea's street food culture at Jangdokdae

| Lucy Ridge
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Yoonhee and Michael stand outside their food truck.

Yoonhee Jang (L) and Michael Oliver (R) run the food truck together. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Married couple Yoonhee Jang and Michael Oliver are the team behind the Jangdokdae food truck parked in Turner.

Yoonhee explained that Jangdokdae comes from the traditional way of storing fermented Korean foods.

“Jangdok is the name of the large pot used to make kimchi, soy sauce, bean paste, gochujang; lots of fermented food. In winter, we dig them into the ground, and then we put the kimchi inside. After winter, we can eat it. It’s like an old kind of fridge,” she told Region.

“So Jangdokdae is where you keep the pots. But now everyone in Korea lives in apartments, so they have a separate kimchi fridge instead!”

Round takeaway container with noodles and vegetables and a box with fried chicken.

Japchae noodles are made from sweet potato. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The pair run the food truck and sell traditional Korean street foods. They started selling japchae (sweet potato) noodles a few years ago at local markets. They have now expanded their menu to include Korean fried chicken, bibimpap and tteokbokki (thick rice cakes served in a sweet and spicy sauce).

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I visited and tried several dishes on the menu. First of all, I had to order the gimmari: it’s one of my favourite Korean snacks, and I don’t often see it on local menus. Small pieces of japchae noodles are wrapped in seaweed, then fried in a thin, crispy batter and served with a sweet sesame dipping sauce. They’re absolutely delicious.

The tteokbokki is also very good. The sauce has a bit of a kick to it and the rice cakes are chewy and moreish. This one has apparently been a big seller for the pair, with many customers asking for the recipe to recreate the dish at home!

Jangdokdae Korean Food Truck under a tree with picnic table.

Jangdokdae Korean Food Truck is parked outside the Croatian Club in Turner. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

I opt for bulgogi beef in my japchae, but it also has heaps of vegetables. Yoonhee explained that Korean food contains a lot of vegetables but usually also has some meat or seafood elements. To cater to vegetarian and vegan customers, they have adapted some classic meals to be vegan-friendly.

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A popular dish here is Korean fried chicken. The batter is crispy, light and not oily, while the meat is beautifully moist. Choose between five different sauces, and be sure to ask for some of Yoonhee’s homemade kimchi on the side. Kimchi is a huge part of Korean culture, and while cabbage is the most common type, there are many more varieties.

“There are about 200 kinds of kimchi. You can use any vegetable to make kimchi. Even though Korea is a small country, most of it is mountains, so between different areas, you get totally different tastes of kimchi,” Yoonhee explained.

A large takeaway box of Korean fried chicken with shiny sauce coating.

The Korean Fried Chicken at Jangdokdae comes with a choice of sauce. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The food truck opens early for coffees and egg and bacon rolls, which you can ask for ‘Korean-style’, which gets you a vegetable omelette instead of a fried egg.

You can eat your food at the outdoor tables under the trees in front of the Croatian Club or takeaway.

While some of their loyal customers are egging them on to open a restaurant, the couple are happy with the scale and flexibility of the food truck for now. Yoonhee is looking forward to expanding her kimchi sales to include more wholesale customers and bulk orders (I might just need to buy myself a kimchi fridge!)

Four tubs of spicy looking kimchi.

Yoonhee sells large containers of kimchi you can take home. Photo: Jangdokdae Korean Food.

Jangdokdae Korean Food is located at 68 McCaughey Street, Turner, outside the Croatian Club. They are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 7 am for coffee and serve lunch until 2 pm. Dinner is between 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm. Follow Jangdokdae on Instagram.

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