At one convergence of halls at Seoul's Kwang Jang Market, there is jostling over mung beans. Not the raw ingredient but an enormous crisp pancake made of them. Called 'bindaetteok' or 'nokdujeon', it is reminiscent of Japan's 'okonomiyaki' in terms of size and capacity to satisfy, though is less rich and heavy. This market, on a busy intersection in Seoul's Jongno district, houses a dozen or so stalls specialising in this snack and that's what all the jostling is about - deciding on one's vendor, identifying seated customers about to take their last bite and hovering strategically behind them. And because this is a crunchy golden brown thing, there is an added sense of urgency, even desperation about getting into position at the counter.
From that counter, as the anticipation reaches climax, I occupy myself with the mechanics of the tiny work space these pancakes are being cranked out of. Split mung beans exactly like those found in dry goods stalls all around Hanoi are soaked and then ground through a motorised stone mill, out the bottom of which an ooze of pale batter is caught in plastic basins. Bean sprouts, spring onions and thinly sliced kimchi is added to the batter. Large discs almost the size of dinner plates, half an inch thick, are formed on a necessarily oily grill and not quite deep fried.
By the time they reach my section of the counter, cut into quarters on aluminium foil covered trays, they look as good as deep fried, however. A vinegary soy sauce with white onion wedges makes up the liquid component of the dish.
I dip. I bite. It crunches. It gratifies.