“I’ve been selling hand-roasted chestnuts 군밤 and ginkgo nuts 군은행 for over 40 years in different areas of Seoul, but this corner spot of Gwangjang Market has worked out the best because there’s a lot of elderly who pass by. Not many young people buy these snacks unless they’re with their parents, who want a taste of nostalgia and know that chestnuts roasted over fire taste much better than the ones you see being roasted in a rolling machine nowadays.”
“I agree with you. I’ve had those—many times just sitting in a pile and getting cold after being roasted—and they taste nothing like yours. I think direct heat from the charcoal briquettes caramelizes the chestnuts, making them sweeter to eat and adding a unique smokiness to them. Just perfect as a light, healthy snack along with your roasted ginkgo nuts. That’s why I’ve been coming here for over six years—but today is the first time you really talked to me at length.”
“It’s hard to talk to or even greet any customer because I have a hard time looking up. I’m permanently slouched over after bending down so much over the years. But that’s worked out for me because I’m an old ‘nojeom’ (street vendor)—there are a lot of crazy strangers out there so you gotta be careful.”“Do you consider me a stranger?”
“Stranger or not, it’s never a good idea to get close to anyone you meet on the street.”
Words of wisdom and tasty street snacks from a hard-nosed halmoni street vendor next to Gwangjang Market. To sample these nostalgic hand-roasted chestnuts and ginkgo nuts (5,000 and 2,000 won, respectively), head across the street from the west wing of Gwangjang (Jongro 4ga intersection) and she’ll be sitting in front of Shinhan Bank every day except Sundays.