Japchae Kimbap 잡채김밥 (Gwangjang Market, Seoul)

As much as I love a fatty roll of delicious kimbap, I haven’t found any place that separates itself from the many premium joints offering the “best” kimbap in the city. My thoughts turn even more sour after watching the news about suspect ingredients and unfair work practices at one of my once-recommended kimbap places, Kim Sunsaeng, a popular chain known for its use of healthy and fresh domestic ingredients. Despite trying a good share of places in Seoul, I am still searching for that special place that will replace or at least mimic an unforgettable kimbap eatery that my gf and I religiously ate at while living on Jeju: Dagami Kimbap. Surprisingly, we came pretty close with a recent visit to one of Seoul’s most popular (and always bustling) traditional markets.

With some errands to take care of in Jongro, we headed over to nearby Gwangjang Market for a little shopping and a quick bite to eat. But, instead of gravitating towards the more well-known bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) and mayak kimbap (crack kimbap) stalls, we saved spaces in our stomach to eat at a stall made more famous with a recent appearance on a food program. Their specialty is a unique combination called japchae kimbap and, to put it simply, it’s the real deal. For a ridiculous price of 2,000 won, you get japchae (glass noodles w veggies) plus an inverted kimbap packed with ham, pickled daikon, imitation crabmeat, fish cake, cheese, and topped with tuna. Dipped in some spicy soy sauce (beware, tons of Cheongyang Peppers!), you got yourself hands-down one of the best bargains in town. As simple as it sounds, I was surprised to get so many contrasting textures and flavors from ingredients often used at most kimbap eateries. Not surprisingly, my girlfriend (a big kimbap-lover) couldn’t contain herself and went ahead and ordered another serving, keeping the personable imo (“auntie”) busy while a formidable line started stretching shortly after our arrival (around 2pm). One of the customers in line mentioned that the stall started off averaging 1,000 rolls a day, but that shot up to 3,000 after her TV guest appearance. Check out this video and you’ll see how this graceful ninja keeps up with the demand. And if you’re not in the mood for kimbap, the market houses thousands of other stalls that will definitely have what you are looking for.

“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” ~ Franz Kafka

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars

Gwangjang Market

Stall #41 “Nude Cheese Kimbap”

88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Phone: 02-2267-0291

Hours: Open every day 7am~7pm

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

Directions: Come out of Jongro 5-ga Station (exit 11) and walk straight until you reach the intersection. Take a left and walk until you see West Gate #2 on the left-hand side. The stall will be the first with red signage.

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