A web of once-dormant alleyways of eastern Incheon is now regularly packed with people as the eateries there have come back to life with a range of delicious foods such as honey-drenched fried chicken with hot sauce, cold noodles and grilled fish. The chicken dish is so popular it has helped rejuvenate the area's Sinpo Market.
◆ Honey-Drenched Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce
To meet enormous demand for the honey-drenched fried chicken, restaurants at the market are equipped with facilities that add factory-assembly-line levels of efficiency. Chickens are fried in large cauldrons in front of the restaurants. They are then dressed with mouth-watering sauces, chopped peppers and peanuts, tempting passersby with their aromatic scents.
To make it crispy, the chicken is fried first and then sauce applied, rather than both being done at the same time, and the chopped peppers added later to leave a refreshing taste in the mouth. One restaurateur said the seasonings for the dish contain 30 ingredients, and each chicken is prepared for several days before being fried, making the delectable taste of the dish hard to emulate.
◆ Cold Noodles
Hwapyeong-dong, in the eastern part of the port city, is also known for its naengmyeon, or cold noodles. The dish originated in an area that now belongs to North Korea and was introduced to Incheon after the opening of the port.
Initially sold to hungry stevedores and laborers, it is not only cheap but also served in generous portions for W5,000 or less. Made from buckwheat, the noodles are chewy and the overall taste is refreshing and spicy.
◆ Grilled Fishes
The alleyways chocked full of eateries selling grilled mackerel in eastern Incheon are also worth a visit. Originally home to a brewery, the area turned into a dining street as the fish dish became a popular complement to beer and soju. Patrons tend to prefer it grilled with spicy sauce or simply grilled with salt.
The restaurants use locally-caught mackerel because, even though it can be slightly smaller than those fished in foreign seas, it is softer and smells better due to its freshness.
"The best way to end the day is by having a few drinks with some grilled mackerel here in eastern Incheon. This type of fish is rich in unsaturated fat, meaning it's not only cheap but also good for your health!" said one local owner.