Many years ago I saw a cooking program about a Korean-American woman who decided to visit her homeland and pay homage to her roots by learning to cook and enjoy Korea’s traditional food. I remember being fascinated by the vast types of noodle dishes or Ramen, the unfamiliar vegetables and the exotic cuts of meat. The presenter travelled all over Korea and when she arrived in Seoul she invited one of her friends along to the Gwangjang Market.
The Gwangjang Market is more than a food market. It’s the place to go when shopping for Korean silk, tailored suits, traditional Korean shoes and custom-made Korean Hanbok.
At meal times the place is packed full with locals and for good reason. The food here is both good and cheap. It’s cooked right in front of you and almost all the vendors have a seating area for you to relax and enjoy your meal.
The whole market is quite small and can be walked through in about 30 minutes but as a tourist it took me a lot longer as I stopped at many stalls to soak in the sights and smells of the exotic dishes. From what I could see there are four types of sellers; those selling pancakes made from mungbeans, spinach, seafood and other things, those selling Korean sweets and desserts, the vegetable sellers and finally the ones offering meat and fish.
At the meat vendors you can have fresh seafood, fish soup, sushi, giant beef sausage and if you are feeling really adventurous, pig’s trotters.
And of course, loads of Kimchi!
I decided to try a bunch of different things and ended up with sushi, fish soup, mungbean pancake and some Ginseng sweets for dessert.
Here is a short video I made of my lunch.
I had a fantastic time at this food market, it’s incredible how different the palate is in the West from that in the East. Also the style of eating; here in Korea it’s casual, you come inside, sit down with a bunch of strangers and enjoy sharing together a meal made of many small side dishes whereas at home everyday meals are mostly eaten alone or formal plans are made with friends and extended family and large plates of food are passed around the table. In fact this style of eating may be why the Eastern population has fewer cases of obesity and a collectively lower BMI than the population of the West.
I think I might borrow the asian style of eating. Even though I can’t get into the taste of Kimchi, I do like the idea of everyone bunched together casually sharing little bits of food. That’s the thing about travelling, it opens your mind and allows you the opportunity to see new ways of living that you can choose to ignore or take on as your own…