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Posted on: Thursday, 28 June 2012

Vintage Meets Korean Food on Long Street

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Galbi Restaurant

Bean There outside Galbi

Vintage Meets Korean Food on Long Street: Long Street is no stranger to a hip and happening lifestyle in Cape Town. Other than the slight possibility of a mugging late at night (and even then the muggers are rather friendly – some even give you back your sim cards before making off with your phone), Long Street – day or night – is where it’s at when you visit Cape Town.

Capetonians hang out here, which is testimony to the street’s vibrancy. The younger, trendy set are most likely to curb crawl at some stage of their weekend. Which was why I find myself at 210 on Long Street on a Saturday morning.

My rather younger sister-in-law is staying with us. She’s also had a rather bad experience a couple of nights earlier down one of the rather dingy side alleys with a group of friends, who had to part with their wallets and Blackberries – get back on the horse and all of that…

She’s the only one sensible enough to have left her cell in the car. Which means that all day long her phone has been going as she acts as the go-between her friends and concerned friends and parents. Consequently she experiences most of 210 with her hand to her ear.

There’s a rather vibrant Vintage market on the go, combined with a necessary stop in at Hemporium where we buy our shampoo (although invariably we end up selecting at least one item of clothing as well – their hemp t-shirts and skirts have this way of insinuating themselves into my wardrobe, or at least the wardrobe that I wish I had).

The prices are not bad, considering that their clothing lasts well past next season (which is more than I can say for the average Chinese item of clothing, no matter the price tag).

210 on Long, the green and brown coloured mall (if you’re in the habit of looking upwards upon entering) is known as the ‘sustainable shopping mall’. A percentage of all that is on offer in the stores here is eco-friendly, organic, recycled or Fairtrade, and the mall incorporated as much sustainable building material as it could during its conversion when it opened in 2009.

And whilst it’s not a big mall, the energy here, particularly on a Saturday morning when the already narrow thoroughfare is lined with clothing rails filled with the kind of clothing I remember throwing out of my grandfather’s coffers in the eighties, is lively and filled with colour.

Incense lingers in the intersection of the mall where the toilets double-up as dressing rooms, and people wriggle into items of clothing in front of mirrors – if you can handle the Jik laden atmosphere of the cleaner’s bucket (obviously the eco-friendly tag stops at cleaning products).


Vintage Market

Photographs — Left: Vintage outside Hemporium / Middle:  Pretty skirts / Right: The market busies up

Battered old suitcases -the type that you’d be lucky to find in a derelict second-hand shop- litter the area beneath clothing rails, whilst shoes, hats and scarves hang on just about every available surface.

Only a couple of the shops are open. Hemporium and The Love Craft Experiment. But at the top of the little flight of steps at the back of the mall is a coffee stand where Bean There Fairtrade coffee is on sale. From out of the restaurant behind the stall exudes the sound of exuberant drumming.

Galbi serves Korean fusion food.  I raise my eyebrows when Coenraad Groenewald, who is about as non-Korean as you can get, first mentions the theme of his restaurant to me.

He’s either had a couple of very strong cups of coffee this morning, or he’s very excited about today, as he can barely keep still enough to explain that he’s promoting Korean food from his restaurant as a Youth Day event.

Conrad, as he’s quick to tell you to call him (easier for us English speaking people, I assume, although it might be force of habit after teaching English in south Korea for three years) is delighted with the way the morning is going.

I make my way into the restaurant’s inner sanctum where a traditional south Korean group of musicians is busy performing. They’re a family – mother, father and two sons – all of whom beat a different type of drum at a different rhythm, whilst singing. Their bodies are clothed in a gown of sorts and on their heads an obscure flower-like headdress.

We’ve walked into the heart of the Kimchi Festival at Galbi restaurant. It takes us a while to figure out what’s happening, above the rhythm of the drums and the unusual sounds of the live music, which has my son mesmerised, whilst a south Korean media journalist shoots footage and rather stridently does a report-back to his video camera, once the music is over.

Galbi, which directly translates as ‘rib’, is the mother city’s only Korean barbeque restaurant. It’s a Korea-meets-South-Africa melting pot of braai and Korean style cooking. You roast local style meat and vegetables over a grid in front of you, which is apparently the way south Koreans eat – on benches on either side of long wooden tables, across from one another, shoulder to shoulder.

Alongside the meat comes an assortment of Korean side dishes like Kimchi – a spicy fermented Chinese cabbage – and Sigumchi – blanched spinach tossed with garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds.



Photographs — Left: Preparing Kimchi / Right: A musical family

I know nothing about this at the time of the festival. Today the restaurant’s tables are all pushed up against the walls on which an assortment of traditional south-Korean dishes are cooking. Serving them is a group of south Koreans that I learn live and work in South Africa, but are here to promote their food and culture.

Hand written signs indicate the food on sale, and you’re encouraged, given that it’s lunch time, to buy something to eat. Just where you’ll actually sit to eat the food is a bit of hit and miss.

We finally find a bench close to the front door where we take turns tasting Pajeon – a Korean savoury pancake made with green onions and a combination of wheat and rice flour. It’s rather greasy and a little more like a cross between a pancake and a pizza (with onion and without the cheese) but the flavour is delicious.

Ddukbokki, our second choice, is spicy rice cake that looks more like viennas served in tomato sauce, but actually it’s rice cake in the shape of short viennas served in a spicy sauce – too hot for me to handle. Ddukbokki is a popular street food in south Korea, sold on carts, and kids on their way back from school buy this as a snack.

We down our tasty food with something called a Cucumber SojuCrush, without the fermented rice-based Korean alcohol that’s supposed to accompany the drink. But it’s still incredible – the cucumber extract, mint leaves, lime juice and freshly pressed pineapple a combination that tastes at once curious and wonderful.

After what qualifies as no less than a lesson in Korean food and music, we venture out through the vintage throngs and into the melting pot that is Long Street.

210 on Long’s Vintage markets are every Sunday, although stall owners admit to it occuring rather haphazardly.
Galbi Restaurant is at 210 on Long or through their alley entrance on Bloem Street.

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Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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