The simple satisfaction of a deep-fried corn dog dunked in yellow mustard at fairgrounds is essential Americana. So much so that the traditional snack has gone relatively unchanged for decades.
But luckily for Pittsburgh, a Korean food truck is specializing in an emerging new international twist on the delicious street food.
The BoonSeek opened in October 2020 and has become a bit of a sensation since, especially among college students. When I visited The BoonSeek food truck outside of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland, there was a line stretching down the block, even in the frigid cold.
The truck offers Korean-style corn dogs — which it calls korndogs — as well as gimbap, bulgogi mandoo, and Korean fried chicken.
I ordered the Boonseeker, a Korean-style corn dog which contains half mozzarella cheese and half mild sausage. What’s great about the Boonseeker is that the top half is filled with melty, mild, and rich cheese. After finishing that, I was craving a bit more savoriness, and it was fulfilled by the bottom half of the corn dog’s mild and filling sausage.
But the real reason to eat a Korean-style corn dog is the crunch. The dough is different from a typical American corn dog, which is made of cornmeal. The Korean batter is typically made with rice flour or yeasted flour. The BoonSeek uses yeasted flour in their dough, which gives the dough a beignet-like consistency. It’s soft, and pleasantly chewy, but with a loud and satisfying crunch.
The whole thing is also dusted in sugar and covered in hot mustard and ketchup, though part of me was hoping for a sauce with a bit more spice. (Sometimes the food truck will place french fries in the batter for extra texture and novelty.) The Boonseeker is the perfect size: not too massive, but not too small. And for $5, the price is also right and clearly acceptable to students on budgets. BoonSeek also offers an all-sausage or all-cheese version.
The whole thing is such a delightful twist on the corn dog. For moments, I thought maybe it was too sweet, only to be greeted by a little bit of mustard, cheese, or sausage to balance it out. It’s something that seems habit forming, and I overheard students in line mentioning just that.
In addition to my Boonseeker, I ordered the Kim-Bob gimbap, a mixture of tofu, egg, carrot, spinach, pickled radish, soy sauce, and sesame oil, covered in a layer of cooked rice and seaweed paper. The Kim-Bob is sliced in layers, and served similar to rolled sushi. Everything tasted fresh, and the flavors moved from sour to rich to salty, a perfect complement to the sweet and filling corn dog.
Lastly, I ordered the bulgogi mandoo, pot sticker-style dumplings loaded with marinated beef, carrots, garlic, green onion, and cabbage. The intense flavors will be a delight for beef lovers, as each bite oozes with meaty flavor. The dumpling noodle was delicately thin and fried crispy on one side, and there was so much moisture inside that no sauce was necessary. BoonSeek also offers a fairly large fried chicken dish that is served with a sweet chili sauce and a side dish.
BoonSeek usually posts up for just a few hours at a time in locations across the city, with a concentration in Oakland. And even with its small menu and limited hours, it provides a great, unique, and affordable meal across a variety of palates.
I hope BoonSeek keeps growing and maybe even expands their menu a bit, as I was craving a specialty dessert or beverage to wash down my meal. The truck usually roams around Oakland, so a boba tea wouldn’t be hard to find, but the attention BoonSeek pays to its food makes me confident whatever else they add will be a delicious success.
The BoonSeek. instagram.com/theboonseek