Pocha – short for pojangmacha – refers to the Korean street food stalls that come alive at night, buzzing with groups of people eating, drinking and socialising. Seoul’s Gwangjang Markets is one of Korea’s largest and most popular markets – and the city’s oldest.
Rows of pojangmacha are frequented by locals and travellers alike, serving up classic street food snacks and dishes. For wife-and-husband duo Irene Lee and Danny Hwang, Gwanjang’s magic was something they wanted to recreate ever since they moved to Sydney in the early 2000s – and what they’ve done at Kwang Jang Pocha, their new eatery in Haymarket.
“Gwangjang is one of the most well-known markets in Korea,” Lee tells Broadsheet. “My husband really wanted to open up a place where friends could gather and drink. We [wanted] Kwang Jang to be similar to the night markets in Korea and be a place where people can have happy memories.”
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Street food staples like blood sausage, braised beef short rib, mung bean pancake, japchae (Korean glass noodles) and fried chicken are served on small plates. Thinly sliced pork belly served with a crispy, spicy chive salad is already a popular order, as is the stir-fried beef brisket with bean sprouts. Cold options, like the fresh cabbage kimchi and spicy cucumber salad, are made fresh daily. The share-style approach has a specific intention behind it.
“I want people to get to know Korean food better. Korean restaurants generally tend to serve large portions at higher costs, but I wanted to give people a more affordable and smaller [option]. This way, they can sample different foods they’ve never tried before and enjoy all their favourites, too.”
Cooking runs in Lee’s family, with her mother Jook Maeng having over 30 years of experience preparing and cooking traditional Korean food, both in Korea and Sydney (where she's lived since 2009). Every one of those years can be tasted at Kwang Jang, where Maeng now helms the kitchen with Hwang.
The drinks menu is diverse, and includes a fruity line-up of soju, makgeolli (rice wine) and Korean beers in tins and on tap. Then there’s the Somac Tower, a “soju bomb tornado”, where soju and beer are spun tableside in a large motorised jug, providing a bit of party-starting theatre to diners.
The neon-lit digs can be found down Darling Square’s popular Steam Mill Lane, where small outdoor tables and red and blue stools – matching the striped flags hanging overhead, the colours of South Korea’s flag – announce you’ve arrived. Inside, a collage of K-pop stars and boozy adverts cover the walls. A string of international flags hang along the glass shopfront, similar to those seen at the Gwangjang Market in Seoul.
“We wanted this place to resemble the night market as much as possible,” Lee says. “I have so many fond memories there, eating my favourite foods and hanging out with friends. I hope I can recreate that same experience here for everyone.”
Kwang Jang Pocha
Shop 4, 3 Steam Mill Lane, Haymarket
0426 561 004