Gwangjang Market (광장시장)

Thursday, 25 February 2016

If you're looking for a place to eat that's representative of Seoul, Gwangjang Market (광장시장) should be on the top of your list. It's known as the nation's first market and one of the most popular tourist destinations for food. Located in the Dongdaemun (동대문) district of central Seoul, popular dishes at the "Eatery Alley" (먹자골목) of the market include: drug kimbap (mayak kimbap 마약김밥), mungbean pancakes (bindaetteok 빈대떡), raw beef (yukhoe 육회), and pork trotter (jokbal 족발). They also have live octopus (nakji 낙지), which we wanted to try but didn't because it was too cold (sigh).

Hungry and cold after our tour at Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁), we desperately wanted something hot and warming to the body so our first stop was a food stall called Go-ssi Ahjumma (고씨 아줌마), where we ordered: a bowl of fish cakes (omuk 어묵) each; and a serving of blood sausage (soondae 순대) and mayak kimbap to share. The soondae and omuk was great, but the kimbap was a bit cold for my liking. But I wasn't too fussed about it because we had the hot omuk soup on the side. However, what I did find really interesting was the mustard and sesame sauce that came with the kimbap because I've never had anything like it before. Now I know why mini kimbaps are so addicting—it's the sauce!

Our second stop: noodles (kalguksu 칼국수) at a shop I don't remember the name of. However, it sold one of the best bowl of kalguksu I've ever had—the broth was good and the noodles were spot on al dente and chewy. I would go back to Gwangjang Market just to have it again. We also ordered a serving of kimchi dumplings (kimchi mandu 김치만두) as well, but it wasn't great—rather average, in fact.

Our third stop: bindaetteok at Soon Hee Ne (순희네), which is said to sell the best bindaeddeok in the market. (There are actually number of Soon Hee Ne stores in the market, with one being a restaurant, but we just went to one of their food stalls.) We only ordered one serving, but it was more than enough for the 3 of us because it was cut up into about 4 generous pieces. I also love how the texture of bindaetteok is like potato but it's actually made of mung bean, which is better for you.

Our fourth and last stop: tteokbokki (떡볶이) at "Ha Ni Ne Soondae Janchi Guksu" (하니네 순대 잔치국수), where we took up 3 seating spaces even though we only ordered one serving of rice cakes. (We really couldn't eat anymore!) However, the tteokbokki itself was a disappointment because it didn't have the right sweetness and was too spicy for me to enjoy.

If it's your first time in Seoul, visiting Gwangjang Market is a must. However, I wouldn't suggest going to the stalls we went to, because honestly, any food stall will do. We just sat down randomly at any store that looked decent and most of them turned out to be really good. (Given the amount of competition with neighbours who sell similar items, you bet the shop owners will make good food.)

The Eatery Alley however, was much smaller than I had imagined because I thought it would look more like Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) in Taipei. Nonetheless, visiting Gwangjang Market was a great food experience and I highly recommend it. With delicious local delicacies, warm seats (they've got some kind of heating on the benches for winter) and a lively atmosphere, it's a place where you can really enjoy the food culture of Korea.

Gwangjang Market (광장시장)
88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울 종로구 창경궁로 88

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