There are markets scattered all throughout Seoul, each overflowing with delicious food stalls.
Most markets specialize in one or a few different food items. The Gwangjang Market, located in the Jongno district is one of Seoul’s oldest daily markets, known for its tasty gimbap and bindaetteok.
When I visited Seoul for Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving), my friends and I took on Gwangjang Market with full force and ate and drank our way through its busy and overwhelming alleys.
Here’s a little taste of our food adventure.
GIMBAP // ₩3,000 KRW or $3.50 CAD
Holy crack. Mayak gimbap.
Hands down this was my favourite item in the whole market (quite possibly even my favourite Korean dish to date). “Mayak” literally translates to drug in English.
These little bite-size rolls of gimbap (sushi rolls) are stuffed with rice, pickled radishes and carrots in a sesame oil seasoning, served with a side of mustard soy dipping sauce. If I wasn’t so full from everything else I had eaten before (typical), I could’ve (and would’ve) sat at this one stall until the ajumma serving them kicked me out.
Bindaetteok // ₩5,000 KRW or $5.75 CAD
Mung bean pancake? Yup, that’s what Koreans call “bindaetteok” and might I add it’s pretty darn good.
This fried savoury pancake (duh, everything that’s fried is delicious) made of “magical” mung bean, kimchi and onion, ladened with sesame oil is served with a side of soy vinegar onion dipping sauce. I never thought I would appreciate the existence of mung bean so much until now.
Hotteok // ₩1,000 KRW or $1.15 CAD
Why doesn’t Canada have hotteok?! I’m definitely starting a hotteok stand when I get back to Toronto.
Hotteok is a fried (yum), thick pancake, packed with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. It was so good that our gluttonous selves couldn’t wait for it to cool down. We couldn’t resist. We burnt our fingers ripping off our next bites.
Twigim // ₩2,000-5,000 KRW or $2.30-5.75 CAD
Did I ever mention that everything fried is delicious?
We ate a copious amount of shrimp, crab and potato twigim accompanied by a side of soju. Twigim is the Korean version of Japanese tempura. Soju is a dangerously strong alcohol that is an essential pairing with every Korean meal. When in Rome, do as the Romans. I choose to live dangerously (sorry Mom).
Odeng Guk // ₩3,000 KRW or $3.50 CAD
Soup! No matter the weather (30°C), Koreans just love their hot soups.
We tried odeng guk, which translates to fish cake soup. Until Korea, the only fish soup I was adventurous enough to have tried was chowder (exciting!). Odeng guk is made up of fish cakes, which look more like thick fish noodles (there’s nothing that reminds me of a cake about them), placed in a broth with anchovies, onions, and soy sauce.
Although I don’t normally get excited about having fish soup on the menu, this soup is something I would try again on a hot, summer’s night. Don’t know if it’s the soup or the weather but I’m dripping sweat already just thinking about it.
If you’re ever making your way through Seoul be sure to wander through Gwangjang Market or any of the city’s traditional food markets. I can assure you that your stomachs will not be disappointed, although your heads may be spinning the next morning!
Come on an empty stomach (of course) and bring lots of cash! Wear loose-fitting pants with a flexible waistband.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Jongno 5-ga station on line 1, exit 8 or Euljiro 4-ga station on lines 2 and 5, exit 4. If you get lost, follow the intoxicating smell of the mayak gimbap.
Happy eating, everyone!
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