Tongin Market Dosirak Café (통인시장 도시락 카페)

Friday, 12 February 2016

After visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁), we decided to head to lunch. I originally had Tosokchon (토속촌) on my itinerary, but because the line was SUPER long, we decided to go to the Tongin Market Dosirak Café (통인시장 도시락 카페) instead.

How the café works: You pay a sum of money in exchange for a lunch box and some brass coins. Each coin is worth 500 won, so on average, most people will get 10 coins (i.e., 5,000 won) per person because one dish usually costs about 2-3 coins. You can buy from any shop with a "도시락" (dorsirak) sign at the front, and if you run out of coins, you don't need need to buy more because you can just pay the vendors with real cash. Once you've filled up your lunch box, you can go up to the seating area of the market to enjoy your meal.

There was 3 of us, but we decided to get 20 coins only (i.e., 10,000 won worth) because we weren't planning to eat until we were 100% full. When we started walking around, we quickly noticed that there was a lot food in the market, but it turns out that many of shops just had similar items on their menu.

We didn't go to the seating area to eat because we knew that there was going to be a lot of people, and we had already started digging into our food. In fact, we were eating as we were buying because we were that hungry. After exchanging our 20 coins and eating all our food, we were surprised that we were quite full by the end of it. It didn't seem like we bought much, but we did buy a variety of dishes, such as kimchi pancake (kimchi jeon 김치전) zucchini pancake (hobak jeon 호박전); oil tteokbokki (gileum tteokbokki 름 떡볶이); fried chicken (dakganjeong 닭강정); fish cake (omuk 어묵); and kimbap (김밥).

Just as we were leaving the market, we also bought these mini carp bread bungeoppang 붕어빵) for dessert, and they turned out to be really good. The batter was fried perfectly and the red bean filling wasn't very sweet. However, the best part was the price: 3 for 1,000 won—what a steal!

I don't think Tongin Market Lunch Box Café is a must go, but it is a worth a visit if you have the time. It's not like your ordinary market or restaurant where you sit down and have a meal placed in front of you—you go around choosing your "lunch box"—almost like a very down to earth buffet without all the fanciness. Not only is the food tasty and inexpensive, you also get to have a bit of fun while choosing dish to eat when there are SO many you want to try.

Tongin Market Dosirak Café (통인시장 도시락 카페)
3, Pirundae-ro 6-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울 종로구 필운대로6길 3

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