Tented Street Vendors (Pojangmacha)

Next to Daegu Station

Imagine the opening theme of Cheers, except the lyrics are in Korean.  The characters are Korean too, and they're clinking glasses of Soju instead of wine or beer.  If Gunbae were a sitcom it would surely be set in a Pojangmacha.  Literally "covered wagons" (포장마차), they are more than just a friendly setting with affordable foods; they are cultural icons, home of Korea's drinking traditions.

"I've been here more than 30 years, before that department store," one of the vendors told us, pointing to the Daegu Station complex towering above.  That's also decades before E-marts and Homepluses and online grocery shopping.  A testament to their lasting appeal, her flimsy red tarps have withstood these forces of modernity.  They've also withstood the rise of fancy restaurant chains that imitate the Pojangmacha in name and decor, but not much else.

If the competition wasn't enough, some of these tents also have to contend with government regulations.  They seem trapped in a law-enforcement limbo, technically illegal but leniently enforced, a similar status as the brothels nearby.   

So what's their crime?  They stand accused of being eyesores, unsanitary and illegal (the tents), according to officials who decline to give their names in interviews.  I don't blame them; who would want to be known as spoiler of such a beloved tradition, Commissioner of Buzzkills, constantly being followed by an angry mob of bottle-chucking ajusshis.

But really, an eyesore?  Have they looked at the side of an E-mart recently, those behemoth blocks of sun-dried manure?  A Pojangmacha is dainty by comparison, taking up 1/50th of the space with 99% less of the soul-sucking consumerism.

Unsanitary?  My ass!  I've been frequenting street vendors for the past five years and still live to tell the tale.  Believe it or not, the only time I've been food poisoned in Korea was from pancakes at a western restaurant, a well-known one that shall remain nameless.

Illegal?  Sounds like a circulus in probando if I've ever heard one.

 Anyway, enough ranting.  Here's actual information, presented in ROKin' Daegu's patented OFAL format.

I. Overview
II. Food
III. Atmosphere
IV. Location

The Good
+ A sacred tradition
+ Friendly and humbling atmosphere
+ Popular Anju dishes
+ ...and plenty of Soju
The Bad  
- Not for picky eaters
- Limited side dishes
Best for: Small groups, drinking, drowning sorrows, lifting spirits

Their menu is simple yet strong.  They offer six items, all popular forms of Anju, meaning food to munch on while drinking alcohol.  

  1. 곰장어 (gope-jahng-uh) - Spicy eel
  2. 돼지불고기 (dwae-jee bulgogi) - Grilled pork
  3. 닭갈비 (dalk galbi) - Spicy chicken and veggies
  4. 고갈비 (go galbi) - Fried mackerel 
  5. 닭똥집 (dalk ddong-jeep) - Chicken gizzards
  6. 닭발 (dalk bal) - Chicken feet
[See meat guide for more details]

The four items listen at bottom are 우동 (noodle soup), 소주 (soju), 맥주 (beer), and 음료수 (soft drinks).

An all time favorite is mackerel (고갈비). Spicy marinade is optional.

Cooking up some spicy chicken feet (닭발).

Their finest delicacy, spicy eel (곰장어), gives you stamina like Crazy Horse.

Their most boring dish, grilled pork (돼지불고기), gives you stamina like Lonesome George.

Still hungry?  Fill up on some thick noodle soup (우동).

Side dishes are usually limited to pickled radish.  But if you're lucky the ajummas may dole out some tomatoes, apples or oranges.

As depicted in nearly every episode of a Korean drama ever, Pojangmachas are scenes of a very specific mood.  As the Soju level rises conversations plunge deeper.  Sorrows drown while confessions and reminiscences surface.
Choose your vessel: the relic on the right is the old glass from Jinro (진로), now branded as Chamisul (참이술); and on the left is the modern glass by Cham (참), the local Daegu brand.

There's just something comforting about those rickety stools and tables, something humbling about the plastic walls.  Pojangmachas are where strangers become friends.

At night, the ajjumas erect their tents in a vacant lot on the south side of Daegu Station (대구역).  Walking out of the main entrance, turn left towards the parking sign and you'll see them.  Note: the subway exits for Daegu Station are on the opposite (north) side of the tracks and department store.

Here's a daytime view (no tents erected) facing towards the southeast corner of Daegu Station, courtesy of Naver's street view mode.  [A pretty cool feature, just go to map.naver.com and click on the little alien-head icon (거리뷰) on the top right toolbar.]

Another landmark is Beongae Market (번개 시장).  The Pojangmachas line the side street leading to the market's entrance.

The Address of Beongae Market is: 대구광역시 중구 태평로1가 1-186
See Naver map

Open: 7~8pm
Close: 2~3am, or when people stop buying Soju.

Are you a fan of eating and drinking at Pojang-macha?  Enjoy a similar setting at other locations throughout Daegu, including:
  1. Bulgogi Tents of Buuk-sung-lo
  2. Seafood Tents of Chileong Market
  3. Gopchang Alley of Anjirang
Know of any other Pojang-macha?  Please share you favorites in the comments below!


  1. If I may say something, I seem to recall having one of my Korean language teachers YEARS tell me that "Cham" soju is not a "local" Daegu brand, but rather a national brand,(in that is is available ALL over the country) pointing out the Daegu was the only major area in the country that did NOT have its own distinctive brand. (like other areas that have varieties that can only be found in those areas) Also, I'm not sure that Cham has "rebranded" so to speak, but rather put out a second soju that we may call "Cham.2.0"..as in a slightly cleaner (and apparently more uppity soju compared to its predecessor) by comparison and attitudes by the locals. I'm not sure, but maybe that would be a good write-up for a future article..one that compares the various regional brands. I personally prefer C1 from the Busan area.A year or two ago..most local emarts had a shelf that was pretty much dedicated to offering at several of the regional brands inclu8ding at least ioine from jeju...though sadly they seem to have done away with that

    1. I'm pretty sure Cham is our local brand. The company is Kumbokju, based in Dalseo-Gu, Daegu. Perhaps some see it as a national brand because Daegu is awesome:)

      Also, for the Soju that rebranded I was referring to Chamisul, not Cham. I know they sound ridiculously similar but Chamisul (Seoul) and Cham (Daegu) are completely different companies [sorry for my shitty description in the caption]. Chamisul is the nation-wide, top-selling Soju. It used to be known by the company name, "Jinro" (when they made those old-school glasses) but now the marketed name is Chamisul.

      Anyway, I actually love C1 as well. Aside from just the excitement of dining in a new area, it seems to be very smooth (they advertise asparagines in their soju, which apparently prevents hangovers). Great idea for a comparison of regional brands! Although I think it would have to just be a list of stats. Taste and quality are so subjective, depending on one's tolerance, current mood, Anju, etc. Usually Chamisul original are harsh to me, but the other day a shot tasted sweet and delicious. Maybe I'm just becoming an alcoholic ;)

    2. Sean is spot on, Cham is the Daegu brand and isn't usually available outside of Gyeongsang-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do. Chamisul is a Seoul brand that is available nationwide. Chamisul has been getting competition from 처음처럼 lately from Lotte. I personally prefer Halla Soju as the best that I've ever had, but that's only available in Jeju-do. By the way, Sean, I love your posts and your blog but I think you should get a new camera. I recently bought a NX-300 from Samsung and it's made a world of difference. I no longer get those bright light flares that I got from my old camera. Check out my Bombay Lounge post to see what I mean: http://dumbindaegu.blogspot.kr/2013/10/nightlife-bombay-lounge.html

    3. Hey DumbOne. Thanks for the feedback. I agree I could use a new camera. But I don't really trust myself to operate such expensive equipment, especially in this line of work. I'm still trying to clear the Soju jam in my little Samsung ST66. I can definitely notice the difference on your blog though. Good work.