F In Seoul : Dining Gwangjang Style - jeepneyjinggoy

In Seoul : Dining Gwangjang Style

Gwangjang Market in Dongdaemun

I got you into that lassoing-on-a-galloping-horse beat, didn't I? Well, you would have that same high feeling after having a hearty meal in one of Seoul’s most popular markets, Gwangjang Market in Dongdaemun.

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Daily scene

Before every foodie got to dig into the “house specialties” that made the place a must-eat destination for locals and tourists, did you know it was once called Dongdaemun Market? It was only in 1960 that it was renamed Gwangjang Market, after the corporation that created the first permanent market (meaning, open everyday of the week) in 1905. Gwangjang took its nae after the two bridges the market was built in between: Gwangkyo (wide bridge) and Jangkyo (long bridge). 

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul

The market started as a single shopping center in the center of the huge Dongdaemun Market we know today. It only sold seafood and agricultural products then. Then it started expanding with vendors selling clothing, textiles, traditional medicine, handicraft, kitchenware, etc. set up shop. Gwangjang became one of the largest markets in the country. The address is host to more than 5,000 shops with more than 65,000 visitors daily.

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Competition is stiff among food stall and restaurant owners

Even though Gwangjang Market technically refers to the entire Dongdaemun Market, the locals will point you to the direction of “Gwangjang Market” when you want to try traditional Korean cuisine. 

Now, let’s dine the Gwangjang style!

Mung bean cakes are delicious

Gwangjang Market is a very busy place. Inside the building are rows of restaurants and in between, where the wide, covered walkway is, are stalls serving a variety of food as well. Maneuvering yourself from one point to another can be challenge, but this is where the charm of the place lies. Isn't it more tempting to eat in a place where all restaurants are filled with diners and people are queueing for a spot in the busy space?

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Mung beans being ground to make bindaetteok

Like any curious tourists, we went around the place to check out what was plastered on each signage. Of course, we can’t figure out what it really says. With the screaming speech balloons that seem to trumpet being the best in the area, and queues by the doorways, it’s harder to choose. 

Menus list a good number of offerings. Some are cooked on pots ready for scooping, other entries are cooked by order. There are several restaurants though that almost share the same entries, dishes that the market is famous with, one of which is the mung bean pancakes (or the bindaetteok) and I call it the Jorean version of our “okoy.” It’s made fresh. The process of preparing it is like show-and-tell or an open kitchen minus the glass partition— soaked mung beans are ground into paste, then vegetables and meat are added, and pan-fried into pancake-like servings.

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Mung bean cake

Two other specialties were sold in almost all restos, “hoe” dishes (meaning: “raw”) the yuk-hoe and San-nakji. 

Yukhoe, the local version of steak tartare, is the thinly sliced tender cut of beef often mixed with a marinate of condiments. It is served with raw egg on top and thinly sliced pear. San-nakji has long-armed baby octopus (nakji) as its main ingredient. From the aquarium, it is cut into small pieces and served with pieces still moving. That’s how fresh it is. 

Nakji, long arm baby octopus. San-nakji, raw octopus, is a Korean specialty

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Yukhoe, the Korean version of steak tartare

Another famous dish is the gimbap, the Korean version of maki.

My group decided to pass on the raw dishes but opted to go for mung bean cakes and a couple of cooked meat dishes. What I love about the meat dishes is it is consistently tender whichever restaurant it is ordered. 

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Grilled pork dish

Eating at Gwangjang Market, DOngdaemun, Seoul
Beef dish

We missed out on the donut, a recommended delicacy. That gives me a reason to go back to Seoul. 

Gwangjang Market is accessible from Jongno 5-ga or Euljiro 4-ga metro station.

Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.

Follow jeepneyjinggoy on  Instagram  and  Facebook 
For lifestyle features, visit www.ofapplesandlemons.com
Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com