Junk/street food is probably one of the many traits about Korea that most of you Korea enthusiasts fall in love with. To say I was thrilled when my friend told me about Gwangjang market (광장 시장) and its street food diversity was a total understatement. Well it’s not like it is the only food market in Seoul, but it surely is the market of my food. As you already know the biggest players are rice cake (떡볶이), fish cake (어뎅) and fried food (튀김). My most favourite dish however is sundae, the one dish that has manged to gross lots of foreigners out, including me if I stare at the food long and hard enough.
Growing up in a country whose junk food is just as important as protein, and pig’s intestines (raw ones with no infusion or adding different ingredients whatsoever) are as good as pork belly, I absolutely have no trouble eating sundae. But you may need to work up some courage to try the dish, and if you’re in bad luck, you’ll hate it forever lol.
While I still believe the best sundae can only be found at 고른 햇살 in Anam, this is pretty close behind. Each slice was firmly rolled, insides solid and rich with ingredients. Sadly only in Anam will you be able to find the special home-made(?) sauce to go with the sundae, in most places, sundae is only served with crushed chili salt. Each serving is 3000 KRW, so the huge tray as you can see in the pictures, was 6000 KRW worth. They gave us a lot of liver, so no, that wasn’t expensive at all.
You see the white thingy behind the pile of pork feet? That is my favourite! The small intestines. Too bad the small intestines were so expensive here in Korea we couldn’t afford to try and see how it tastes like and how it is different from that at my country (the price ranges from 10,000 ~ 20,000 KRW >.<).
A bow of fish cake soup with two pieces of fried tofu as a bonus because the vendeur thought we were cute (story of my life).
Ok I jumped into the food too soon because I was excited. Let’s talk about the atmosphere which is the thing that was even more fantastic than the food itself. Despite the bitingly and bitterly cold weather, the whole market was the only thing that seemed to be alive when everything else was pretty much dead. It was busy, really busy, people mingling around, talking and eating, vendors crying, different sounds reverberating every corner we went. And strangely enough, those sounds were not the usual annoying noises we hear in Hongdae or Dongdaemun (admit it, you can get really riled up if you hear an obnoxiously loud laugh on the street even though it has nothing to do with you – or maybe it’s just me) but rather a familiar, endearing sound of life and its way of breathing.
Can you see the moutain of japchae right there…
Let’s get back to the food. You often see these mini kimbaps sold at most street vendors in Seoul right? I’d totally had a neutral feeling about this dish since I didn’t see anything particularly interesting about it. It’s only a kimbap in an XS size, right? But when you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do, which is, in this case, eat this mini kimbap at Gwangjang market. The friend of my friend – who introduced us to this market, specifically told us to check it out as a must. And so we did. It was actually our first thing to eat when we arrived at the market. Sundae was our second dish after we’d spent like half of an hour doing market research lol.
Unexpectedly, I liked it. The seaweed roll was super shiny, crunchy and tasty, unlike the soggy, ill-looking green wrap that I’d seen in Hongdae (but then who am I to tell I’d never laid my eyes on them anyway). The sauce was actually a mix of wasabi and very little soy sauce which was definitely a boost in flavour let me tell you. You will get 8 mini rolls for each 2000 KRW. It’s tiny, almost nothing, you chew twice and it’s gone; but I promise it’ll make you feel happy.
Our next dish, which was also the final dish, was bindaetteok (빈대떡). We stopped by a restaurant named 순희네 that seemed to be the most famous spot judging from the amount of people constantly going in and out of the tiny restaurant (if you can call it a resto). They only had two choices of jeon (pancake), one is 녹두빈대떡 (nokdu bindaeddeok) and the other one is 고기완자 (gogiwanja). Of course we ordered both of them, going by the name 모듬 (6000 KRW) in the menu.
Both of them were delicious, satisfyingly crunchy and fun to chew but I quickly got tired from eating all the grease. My favourite part though was eating the crispy crust of the 고기완자. From what I observed, every table had at least one bottle of makgeolli so perhaps most Korean people only eat this as a side dish, a thing to munch on while drinking alcohol. Though how they drink at 3~4pm is really beyond me.
Oh the burnt crust…
It was getting unbearably cold for me so we had to leave early before my feet got frozen, expelling themselves from my body. My friend and I also bought some songpyeon to bring back home but they were all hardened because of the cold. Bleh.
I can’t believe the market is only less than 15 minutes on subway away from where I live. Gwangjang market is definitely the place I’m going to frequent whenever I need a cheap feast. You’ll have lots of fun there, trust me.
Gwangjang market, Jongno-5-ga Station, line 1, exit 7.