Story by Jordan Redmond / Photos by Peter Kim
A world of hot dog indulgence in Sinsa-dong
The humble hot dog. Best known as mystery meat trimmings stuffed into a tight-fitting casing, the hot dog is cursed to forever suffer the ignominy of the discomfort that we feel putting on a sweater just after the holidays. To add further insult, the hot dog’s very name is a harsh misnomer dating back to the stigma given to frankfurters served by Germans in late 19th century NYC. At the time, Germans were known for consuming dog and thus the name stuck. Hot dogs are often sold cheaply in amounts mismatched to their buns, pushed aside on the grill to make room for the more illustrious burgers, and are doomed to always resemble a phallus. If hot dogs could post on Facebook, their emotional status would most likely always read “aggrieved”.
Since hot dogs are often pushed to the margins as snack or junk food, they are in precisely the right place in our gastronomic pecking order to act as a canvas for cultural expression. The world over, hot dogs morph along geographical boundaries to fit the local tastes. Often served streetside and best consumed after alcoholic indulgence, hot dogs are an accurate a marker of place as any for exactly where one is standing at any given time on our pale blue dot. Chile has its completo, a dog topped with mountains of avocado, mayonnaise, sauerkraut, and a spicy pepper salsa. In Sweden, they go for a more pig-in-a-blanket style, surrounding the sausage with mashed potatoes and shrimp salad. The regional hot dog variations of America are well-documented, from New York to Chicago, Carolina to Arizona, and even spark salty arguments between geographically-opposed proponents. Ketchup or no ketchup? Be careful what you say.
So, it’s both surprising and confounding that Korea hasn’t found a hot dog that properly expresses its culture. Grilled kimchi, swiss, and mustard on a dog? Yes, please. Yet, hot dogs in Korea are among some of the most disrespected in the world. Sure, there’s that double-fried, french fry-studded behemoth; but as for a good iteration of sausage-on-a-bun? Hot dogs here are too often served on stale bread, the sausage lukewarm, and covered with no less than three sauces, a crescendo of disappointment provided by the tortured, withered lettuce, whose presence somehow always manages to be a shock, residing under the dog.
When there is a hole in the food market, Korea is usually pretty quick to fill it. Trends over the past few years read like a catalog of Western junk food standards. So, why not hot dogs? It’s a question that Bad Container in Apgujeong seeks to answer with an all-star cast of hot dog variations. Looking to head-off a perceived coming trend, the owner here enlisted the help of a Korean who spent 15 years living in New York and who does an excellent job of representing American excess through a menu filled with decadent options. The standout here (for the simple fact that the toppings could basically be a meal all on their own) is the Bulldog, basically a cheesesteak dog. Like the name implies, this is a true gutbuster, a landslide of steak and rich white cheese covering the wiener. The Tosadog (all the hot dogs here are cheekily named after kinds of canines) is another undisputed winner, topped with some top notch guacamole and fresh tomato salsa. BAD Container’s unofficial motto is “F*ck Health” and one can see that ethos in two other decadent monsters: the Pitbulldog, which is a spot-on chili cheese dog, no hokey “chili sauce” here; and the Pugdog, a bacon-swaddled number.
If these options aren’t enough to scratch your hot dog itch, BAD Container offers a build-your-own option with sausage-and-bread as your base starting at just 3,000 KRW. Coleslaw and beef chili can be combined for a Carolina Dog or bacon and guacamole for a Sonoran. Each day of the week offers up two different dogs available as combos with seasoned, thick-cut fries and a coffee for 9,000 KRW. Still short of a true Korean hot dog, BAD Container does an admirable job giving hot dogs their well-deserved spotlight.
Recommended items: Bulldog cheesesteak hot dog (5,900 KRW), Pitbull chili cheese hot dog (6,900 KRW), Tosadog guacamole hot dog (7,900 KRW)
Address: Gangnam-gu, Sinsa-dong 566-18
Hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-10pm