It is obvious when we speak about South Korea in general, cosmetics, fashions, and Korean-pop always come first beyond anything. While for me, the food culture here in Seoul stands a solid spot in my heart. The only reason why I am traveling to Seoul is to eat. If I have a choice to eat until I couldn't move, I will not hesitate any second but literally just volunteer for it.
On my first impression of Seoul, everything is modern and high technologies are incorporated everywhere in the mall, street, and shops. Considering that South Korea is the birthplace of your Samsung and possibly most of the electric devices you have at home. Thus, I am totally not surprised to find many sparkling and glamorous buildings with wide HD billboards everywhere. However, as modern as the city can be, there are still some parts of Korea that preserve its authenticity. Especially the traditional market that the local sought to protect.
After hearing so much about Gwangjang Market, we have totally no chance to skip it. Turns out, it's one of my favorite market in all of Seoul! The buzzing people at the narrow alleyways, sizzling sounds from the hot pan and the chatting voices perfectly fulfill the description of what lively truly means.
Gwanjang market is was the first market that landed here permanently since a decade ago here in the heart of Seoul. This vibrant market has been everyone's top attraction whenever he or she's here in town. For all we know, this market is known for its street snack but there are more than just it.
Here in Gwangjang, you'll find more than you expect from traditional clothing, souvenirs, daily supplies to fresh produce, you name it you'll get it. Although most visitors here are tourists, but the locals couldn't resist to snack at one of the Korean bar tables to have some spicy rice cake, sipping on some hot fish cake broth to beat the winter.
Look at those beautiful fabrics! If you love to work with fabric, you'll literally in heaven. From those peculiar patterns to quirky fabric texture, your creativity to work with it is beyond any limitations.
At times, when you're walking through the dark alleyways, there will be hidden gem popping out of nowhere just like this traditional Korean clothing store. I couldn't stop but to take a good look at all of the items, admiring how detailed work and beautiful these items of clothing are. Even though I didn't put it on, but I am happy enough to feast my eye with these beauties.
As we proceed to explore deeper into the market, we stumbled upon the fresh market. This is the place where all the actions got started. A total change of atmosphere just a few alleys away from the quiet lane we had been. You'll find an endless variety of fresh produces lining up in gigantic metal pots, from exotic silkworms, local vegetables to ready-made kimchi, you'll feast your eye and mind with an explosion of knowledge.
I drooled every time looking at this. An assorted of fresh and fermented kimchi, crabs, peppers and etc were laid nicely in different trays for takeaways. As much as I would like to try out the soy marinated raw crab, I decided to skip it and reserve space for the coming meal in the market.
For your information, don't be scared by the crab 'Ganjang-gaejang' knowing its suppose to be consumed raw. It's safe to eat and apparently, it's extremely flavorful and delicious. I'll explain further more about it in the next article!
After an exhausting strolling around the market, my tummy was rumbling and my lips are crackly from the dehydration. We stopped by at a fruit store to get some fresh juices and it came to my surprise that grape juice is actually available on the menu for the first time! It's strange as I normally only get them in a juice box. Honestly, it was so good, refreshing and sweet that I went to get a second cup afterward!
The more I walked, the more goodies I found here in this market. If you haven't already known, this is a famous street snack that you can possibly find anywhere here at the corner of the street in Seoul. Bindae-tteok is a mung bean pancake mixed with assorted vegetables and meat that is fried to a crisp.
The mung beans are first soaked overnight until it's softened, then grind in a traditional or modern grinder into a paste. In this case, we found this store is still using the traditional mortar grind. The mung bean paste is then mixed with different vegetables like bean sprouts, chives, green onions, kimchi and seasonings in a big plastic tub. After that, the mixture is then transferred into a frying pan, flatten and fry to a crisp. If you're not a big fan of oily food, you might just want to skip it for something else.
Although most of the store here is selling the same food as the spicy rice cake, fish cakes, gimbap and etc. But, it's actually pretty hard to get a seat as the crowd is not slowing down at all. As soon as we found a table, we sat down an ordered some food to fuel up our roaring stomach.
No one can resist not ordering a savory hot broth, especially during the chilly weather. Although it's not the most flavourful dish I ever had, but I am totally into it. The subtle fishy broth with a hint of sweetness from the radish is like a perfect combination.
Next, it is the staple of all Koreans, 'Gimbap'. You'll find these little treats everywhere even in the convenient store. Unlike Japanese sushi rolls, gimbap in Korea is typically more humble fillings like carrots, pickled radish, and perilla leaves with a glaze of sesame oil. We were told that it's best to eat with mustard and I could totally understand why it's so addicting. The crunch, the saltiness, and the herbs will totally open your appetite. It's also pretty filling too. So, don't underestimate them even though they looked small and tiny.
While the most exotic food we've tried here in this market is probably this blood sausage. 'Sundae' is a type of blood sausage that is made with a mix of ingredients like glass noodles, rice, seasonings and blood stuffed in cows' or pig intestines. They are steamed and served with kimchi or just plain chili salt on the side ingredients. It's actually doesn't taste awful or bad like you assume. It tastes slightly irony and somehow likes rice without those jarring taste kicks you in the face. Overall, I enjoyed it more than I expected.
Look at these cuties, hiding at the corner of the tank trying to escape from death note. Jokes aside, they are actually very delicious! Although we did not have it here in this market, but we had it somewhere else during our visit to the biggest fish market in Seoul. Also, please don't be critize Korean's culture or being animal cruelty because they are dead before its being chopped up and served.
They are moving due to the muscle contraction. It looks cruel, but it's not!
We ended our trip to this market by taking away some of the local sweet treats. Since we are a fan of all sort of nuts, we definitely could walk past it without having to snack some of it while we are on our way back to our hotel.
Just in case you're wondering what this, it is sesame brittle with just a little twist to it. Instead of it being crispy and brittle, Korean style brittles are a little chewy from the malt sugar and sometimes it sticks to the back of your teeth as you chew. However, be sure to bargain or just get a sample to try as it's definitely not cheap. Knowing a just a half of this piece you see here in this photo, it cost us 9USD! That shocked us a little, to be honest.
Overall, we really love this market as it's totally our kind of market. As a traveler who loves to eat and explore the culture, this is the place where we dreamed of being there. If you're visiting Seoul in anytime soon, this market is highly recommended to be included in your itinerary.
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