Monday, February 23, 2015

The Pyeongtaek Churro Review

Churros have been common festival food in Korea for as long as I have lived here and likely longer. More recently the popularity of these Spanish, ridged, deep-fried sticks of cinnamon-sugared goodness have exploded beyond their tent stands and into everyday cuisine. Seemingly overnight, specialty churro cafés started opening up all over Gyeonggi-do, selling fresh churros to hordes of sugar crazed Koreans lined up outside their windows. 

Pyeongtaek is no exception. There are at least three churro vendors downtown: Churros Time, Michin Hotdog, and Xurreria. So we at EatKorea decided to put them to the test.

In third place is Michin Hot Dog (미친핫도그). Meaning "Crazy Hotdog" in Korean,  Michin obviously didn’t start out selling churros. Only lately have they expanded their menu to catch the winds of the newest food fad. So we aren't surprised they haven’t perfected their churros yet. In comparison to their competition, though, they have a lot to improve upon. 
A Michin Hotdog churro

Michin's churros are the smallest of the group. They are all about the same length as the others, but due to deep, ragged ridges, Michin has the smallest diameter of the three. The ridges and the small diameter have the effect of making their churros super crunchy. But their churros have a really strong grease flavor and they leave your hands visibly oily. Moreover, there wasn’t much cinnamon or sugar coating on the one they gave us.

On the bright side, Michin offers four sauces to dip their churros in: chocolate, cream cheese, blueberry, and mango. As far as we noticed, the other stores didn't have as much variety. For me and Eat Korea’s robotic taste tester, the NetBot,  the cream-cheese sauce was too tempting to resist, but we really should have stuck to chocolate. What we received no sane American would describe as cream cheese sauce. But then, I shouldn't be surprised. The shop must be called "crazy" for a reason. A more apt name of their sauce is sour lactose putty. You really can't dip a crispy churro in putty. It breaks. I had to gob it out with my finger and stretch it around the churro. Luckily for us, we were given a very small cup of lactose putty. 
A Churros Time churro

Churros Time, our second place winner, is the best place to visit for a churro on the go. They are right in the middle of the main action in downtown, behind the bus stop and taxi stand down the street from Pak'ae Hospital (박애병원). This central location makes them an ideal place to grab a churro after shopping, or after a meal, or while waiting for the bus. 

At 1,500 won, 500 won less than the competition, their churros are the cheapest. And for being cheap churros they are not too greasy. The vendors don’t skimp on the cinnamon and sugar. And their chocolate sauce (1,000 won extra) is hot and bitter-sweet. Plus, with a very light external crust, Churros Time churros are the softest of the three we reviewed. In fact, in the NetBot's opinion, too soft.

An Xurreria churro
So, for simply the best plain churro in downtown Pyeongtaek, you need to go on a bit of an expedition. Xurreria, located in the jungle of dead streets between McDonald's and Tongbok Market, is very difficult to find. But if you are fussy about your churros, theirs are worth the trip. The churro the Netbot and I tasted struck a harmonious balance between crispy and soft. It was fully dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It was the least greasy of the three. It was just perfect.

Unfortunately, perfection comes at a cost: 500 won more than Churros Time. On the other hand, if you shell out 1,000 won for chocolate sauce, they do give more sauce than anyone else. It's cold and gooey instead of melted, and it tastes more milk-chocolatey than Churros Time sauce. 

While Xurreria's churros are supreme, convenience prevails in the end. After reviewing our latest restaurant downtown, the NetBot wanted churros. It was cold. Her batteries were low. Where did we go? We went to Churros Time. Overall they offer the best experience: Cheap, convenient, good tasting churros. 

How to get there from Pyeongtaek Station:

Xurreria - Pyeongtaek downtown is like your hand, palm up with your fingers the roads and the station in your palm. Cross the street in front of the station and walk down the pinky finger for two blocks. I call this "Puppy Street" because of all the pet stores. Turn right when you get to Kosa Mart. You'll quickly come to an intersection of pedestrian friendly streets. Turn left at the intersection. Xurreria will be the second shop on your left.

Churros Time - Cross the street in front of the station and walk down the index finger for two blocks then turn left. Churros Time will be on your left behind the first bus stop you come to. 

Michin Hotdog - Cross the street in front of the station and walk down the index finger for one block. Turn left at the ArtBox/Pizza Hut building. Minchin Hotdog is in the middle of the square at the end of the road.

Ordering a churro at Michin Hotdog

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