I love hot dogs. I always have. The very first snacking I remember I did on my own was buying a hot dog when I was a first grader. When I say a hot dog here, it’s a corn dog in US. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s how the name transferred to a far away continent. What do we call American hot dogs in Korea? We call it hot dog, too. No biggie.
Both my parents were working, so I went to the elementary school close to my grandma’s. I would come back from school, get a coin from my grandma, and cheerfully skipped down to the nearby bakery in the neighborhood. They sold pre-packaged hot dogs. Thinking back, it must have been a frozen hot dog, but it didn’t matter then, and it wouldn’t now. The lady at the counter warmed it up in a microwave and handed it to me. Mmmm…delicious! Hot dog was definitely my favorite snack as a kid.
Then there was this “sugar coated” hot dog sold at the snack house near my high school, which was a big hit among students. It’s a regular hot dog with deep fried dough, but if you request, the vendor would deep the hot dog into the bucket of white sugar, pulling it out completely covered with a thin coat of white sugar. Even back then, I didn’t try it. It seemed ridiculous to eat a sweet hot dog – yet, it was quite popular. Some students claimed it was a southern style, which we never figured out if that was true. In any case, I loved their hot dogs, without the sugar coat. It was such a wonderful snack for always hungry teenagers.
And there is this crazy creative kind of hot dog that seems to baffle many foreign visitors. These are sold from street vendors in Korea, called by weird name “man-du-ki.” It’s a hot dog with chunks of fries added to the dough before it goes into deep fry oil. It looks absolutely mouthwatering (or horrifying, depending on your taste), but to be honest, it’s not as delicious as it looks. Yet, the visual is quite striking, so it’s hard to pass it by when you see one. These are more commonly sold around touristic places, and especially if you are on a vacation at the beach, you would definitely want to get one. A few years ago, I went to a beach in Korea with three of my friends who went to school in NY together, saw several carts selling this. We all got one. Even the vegetarian friend got one. She ate the dough and fries, but left out sausage.
Lastly, there are various kinds of hot dog oriented pastries, like sausage buns, that are sold in the bakery. When I was little, there was only one kind, old fashioned sausage bun with fried dough -greasy, but delicious. The parchment paper on which these buns were displayed was always soaked in oil. Later, many kinds of fancier looking sausage buns came out, making the choice ever harder. Mostly they had added cheese, corns, parsley, etc., giving it sort of a pizza flavor. I love them all.
I can keep talking about hot dogs that I had in Korea, but America is the country of hot dogs, so I cannot not mention at least one kind. The best hot dog I had in US would be Nathan’s Famous hot dog at Coney Island.
I’m sure the environment (in this case, the beach, ocean, ocean breeze, view of Luna Park, etc.) must have added something magical to the food, but still, their hot dogs were delicious! Casing was delightfully chewy, sausage was very flavorful and juicy. And how about its perfect combination with chili cheese fries!! But somehow other branches of Nathan’s don’t have the same perfectness, or maybe I feel that way. Almost two hour subway ride from Queens to the end of Brooklyn definitely makes my butt hurt, but I never not go to Coney Island when there is a willing companion. Sadly, that doesn’t happen quite often enough, but that rarity also adds up to the pleasant experience of eating hot dog at Coney Island.
P.S. While I was writing this, I remembered having seen an article on the origin of hot dog vendors of NYC in New York Times a few years ago, and tried to find that article. The article had nice black and white photograph of the hot dog vendors from the past. I searched NYT, and a little too many articles came up solely on the subject of hot dogs. I didn’t find the article I was looking for, but I found a lot of other interesting articles on hot dogs! I’m not enjoying or eating hot dogs as much as I used to, but still, I can confidently say I LOVE hot dogs. My favorite snack and comfort food. Mmmm..