The Tailgate Markets

I used to think fresh markets were the best spot to buy good food, but Korea’s giving me second thoughts. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a new king of freshness in town, and he drives a pick-up truck.

The truck vendors are one of these little things I love so much about Korea. It’s a reminder that although I live in a rich and modern country, this place hasn’t lost touch with the essentials. Anywhere you go in Korea, you’ll see these street vendors, peddling fresh produce. And from experience, not only do they sell the freshest food, but it also tends to be the best deal you’ll find, price-wise.

I still love my fresh market, though! I spend hours at my local market each week, browsing for vegetables, sharpening my very blunt Korean skills with the vendors, or having some pajeon and makgeolli in the evening. But it’s clear that the market vendors are, on the whole, resellers and not producers. For one thing, they spend the whole week selling produce, whereas the truck vendors appear at odd times of the day or night.

Mind you, I’m generalizing here; I’ve seen many genuine farmers’ markets in Korea, and there are plenty of trucks who merely resell fruits and vegetables in areas where there is no market nearby. But in our Busan neighborhood, at least, the truck vendors is where it’s at. When you start spotting the trucks overflowing with bright red tomatoes, for instance, you just know it’s tomato season.

Produce isn’t the only thing that’s sold from the back of a truck, either. I’ve seen one guy hawking furniture by the side of his pick-up, and there’s a truck with a chicken rotisserie doing the rounds. On Sunday afternoons, a sushi chef parks his truck up the hill from us, and sells delicious and fresh raw fish in styrofoam boxes. It’s hard to tolerate a supermarket after that!

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."

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