Gwangjang Market 광장시장 (Jongro, Seoul)

The unlimited food options at Gwangjang Market, one of Korea’s oldest and largest traditional markets, can be quite intimidating for any visitor, especially first-timers and anyone unfamiliar with Korean street food. Well, these personal recommendations compiled over the years from my private food tours might make things easier for you (and save you valuable stomach space). Ranging from the ubiquitous bibimbap and mandu varieties to the more adventurous san-nakji (live wriggling octopus), this is where locals go for the best street food that Korea has to offer.

Oh, if you’re wondering why tteokbokki, soondae, and kimbap didn’t make the cut, let’s just say they’re not very “fresh” and I hardly enjoy eating food that’s been sitting out all day on a burner. In all honesty, that’s not the only reason why I avoid those food. This year, in particular, Seoul’s fine dust issue has reached new heights (click here), prompting emergency notices and warnings to wear face masks and avoid outdoor activities if possible. If food is being openly cooked in such conditions, it’s best to avoid them until further notice.

Gwangjang Market 광장시장

Changgyeonggung-ro 88 (창경궁로 88)

Phone: 02-2267-0291

Click here for an interactive map:   http://naver.me/GlNBBYxd

1. Soonhuinae Bindaetteok 순희네빈대떡 (stall 60; center of market plus a brick and mortar on east wing). Order the bindaetteok 빈대떡 (mungbean pancakes) and gogi wanja 고기완자 (pork patties), 6,000 won. Both basically deep-fried and delivering on crispiness, savoriness, and hearty; eats like a meal. Slightly better at brick and mortar because they have house makgeolli.

2. Soonhuienae Banchan Jeonmun 순희네반찬전문 (center of market). Lovely halmoni (and her sons) making most of the huge selection of fermented side dishes in-house. No pressure to buy and visitors are encouraged to sample with disposable toothpicks. Can be vacuum-sealed upon request for travelers.

3. Wonjo Nude Cheese Kimbap 원조누드치즈김밥 (west wing). Inverted kimbap with japchae 잡채 and spicy sauce, 3,000 won. Addicting combo that draws a crowd daily, closing shop when ingredients are used up (early afternoon). Absolutely terrific and my personal favorite for a quick, filling bite to eat.

4. Umma Sonmaat 엄마손맛 (south wing; stall 16). Mouthwatering bibimbap using seasonal ingredients, at a ridiculous 5,000 won. Utilizes two sauces for an extra umami punch. Also serves handmade mandu 만두 (dumplings) and kalguksu 칼국수 (hand-cut noodles) prepped on the spot. Emo will mix the bibimbap by hand if you ask nicely.

5. Yukhoe Jamae Jip 육회자매집 (yukhoe golmok “raw beef alley”). Yukhoe (beef tartare) lightly dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil with thinly sliced Asian pear and egg yolk. For adventurous eaters, get the yukhoe with sannakji (live octopus) for the ultimate experience. Highly recommend nearby Buchon Yukoe but expect lines at either venue.

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