Seoul Eats :: Gwangjang Market

6 Jan 2016




Gwangjang Market is a a traditional street market in Seoul, South Korea. The market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, and definitely a must visit because there are tons of awesome food to be had!

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With over 100 years of history, in the early years the market was a morning/wet market and only sold agricultural and seafood products, but as it became one of the largest markets in Korea it began to sell many other products too. Today the market has approximately 1500–2000 vendors selling clothing, textiles, handicrafts, kitchenware, souvenirs, and Korean traditional medicinal items (most of them are situated on the upper floors). I didn’t get to check all of that out because my main objective was to eat at the many food stalls of the ground floor. Because Gwangjang Market is famous for its abundance of street food, many international visitors flock here to sample traditional Korean food.

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The way the market is set up, there are restaurants and also free-standing stalls along stretches of the corridors. The corridors form an X shape so what we did was to first recce every stall and restaurant, look left look right, and get a broad picture of what the different vendors were selling before we zero-ed in on what to eat. Many vendors sell identical things and place is crazy packed, so it quickly became spotting which stall had empty seats that we could squeeze ourselves into. I don’t think the system here is like a Singaporean hawker center though… I didn’t see anyone sitting in front of stall A and eating food ordered from stall B halfway across the other end of the corridor. You sit in front of my stall, on my chair, you order from me only.

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Gwangjang Market is most famous for its bindaetteok, or mung bean pancakes. So this is a must-eat dish at this market. Mung beans are soaked and then ground in between millstones into a batter, and fried up with vegetables or chopped beef or pork. You’ll get to see how this is made using an ancient looking machine, where the corridors meet in the center of the market; one of the vendors operates it.

At first I wasn’t too keen on having this (kinda a waste of calories, because there were so many other yummy eats that I couldn’t wait to dive into) but since the market is famous for these mung bean pancakes, I had to try at least one no matter what.

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And my my, the bindaetteok turned out really delicious! It’s nicely crisped on the outside and the inside is moist, bursting with flavor. Weather was cold at the time so taking a bite into this steamy crispy mung bean pancake totally hit the spot and it prepped us for what’s next. Walking around the market again to recce.

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Kimbap…

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Chicken feet…

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Ooooh, Soondae (blood sausage) and pork snout. I really really wanted to have these, but the stall was packed shoulder to shoulder with people and there was no seat. :(

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Pork skin…

Everything in this market had my name on it, all these delectable animal spare parts and steamy stews… *salivating* I wanted to order from every stall!

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After circling the corridors, we – my parents and I – absolutely must must must get the stewed lungs. I, of course, love this stuff to bits but don’t get to eat it often. Luckily we spotted a bunch of people getting up from one of the stalls selling this and quickly sat down to order.

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Plump, tender, juicy thick-cut pieces of lungs thats’ been stewed in whatever, gochugaru and garlic and something something. Doesn’t matter the details, this was outta this world delicious and I said a silent single-tear-of-happiness prayer of how great and beautiful life is that stewed lungs exist. Mmm-mmm-mm! Lip smackingly good.

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Had to order Tteokbokki too, of course. Soft chewy cylindrical-shaped rice cakes that’s been swimming in a thick anchovy-based sauce with the right balance of spiciness from gochujang and sweetness from ketchup. Simple, unfussy comfort food that’s an umami bomb.

My dad had never had this before and I was like YOU MUST TRY IT! I’ve made Tteokbokki many times at home, and also ordered this multiple times at soju bars in the past but the street vendor’s version topped them all. Hands down.

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We also ordered this mystery-pork-part. I think it was pork hock (or maybe snout!? I can’t remember). Again, never mind the details because it was just awesome and delicious. The sort of thing I can snack on continuously.

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Halfway through eating, there was a commotion approaching us and it turned out to be some Korean celebrity (dunno who) filming some show introducing the market, so there was a film crew with their bright LED video lights and a crowd staring curiously. The host and the celebrity even stopped at the stall where we were eating and interviewed our vendor ajumma! Too bad I had no idea what anyone was saying. I also hoped neither my parents nor I ended up being caught on Korean TV stuffing our faces with lungs and mystery-pork-part.

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As I’ve mentioned above, the weather’s cold and this is a semi-outdoors market. Everyone knows how winters and I absolutely do not get along, but I’d love spending wintertime in Korea any day. Why? Because they have their chit together when it comes to heating. For example, in the apartment where we stayed at, the floor inside the room was heated. Heated! That’s oh-so-luxurious to me and if I’m ever to live in a city with harsh winters again, I must install this inside my abode. And back here in Gwangjang Market, the stools have heated chair pads! So yeah, tushies are kept nice and warm as you inhale all the delicious street eats.

Off to recce again.

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Mandu…

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One section of the corridor had seafood vendors side-by-side. Even though we weren’t in the mood for seafood, it was interesting to see the familiar and unfamiliar varieties offered.

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Something spiky…

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Cockles…

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LIVE OCTOPUS! Wanted to have this but the tank was empty. The neighboring stall had a couple of teeny tiny ones that looked listless, and somehow I didn’t think small baby octopi would be as satisfying as a robust squirming adult one.

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Ooooooooooh, this seafood stew with bundles of fish roe looked rather inviting…

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All types of fermented this and that…

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Mmm, raw baby crabs…

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Oooohhhhhhh, Ganjang Gejang (raw soy sauce marinated crabs)!!! This is a delicacy and I first knew of this through watching My Love From The Star K-Drama.

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Then this stopped me in my tracks because do you see what I see?

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That’s right. Ox Blood Hangover Soup. ZOMG, why why why wasn’t I hungover that day! I absolutely super duper need to try this next time. MUST.

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Even the Beef Tripe and Intestine Soup sounded like a fantastic idea to me and I could’ve ordered this, except by this time my parents were starting to get shivery (since we were no longer sitting on those heated stools) so we decided to call it a day and headed back to the apartment.

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But not before I spotted this Yukhoe restaurant by the nearby subway entrance and was internally screaming YAASSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!! Totally noting this down for future reference and definitely having it when I go back to Seoul.

There’s so much to love about Gwangjang Market, I’m looking forward to returning. *clasping hands in excitement*

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