Gwangjang Market – Embrace the Korean Market culture and Bindaetteok

Gwangjang Traditional Market (광장시장)

Operating hours: 7:00am to 10:00pm

(Hours may vary by store, 10:00am to 9:30 pm for food stalls)

Korean Address (Naver Map): 서울특별시 종로구 예지동 6-1

English Address (Google Map): 6-1 Yeji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Click here for my list of Seoul food itinerary

Introduction

Gwangjang market was established in 1905, one of the oldest markets in not only Seoul, but the whole of South Korea. This multi-level market has about 5,000 shops and it’s a market that you can find everything, from snacks, traditional Korean food, bags, shoes, Kimchi, exotic seafood to the high-end silk, linen and the legendary Hanbok.

Sampling of Kimchi. No plate, no toothpick, just hand. Point to the Kimchi to try and the lady will just place the kimchi in your hand.

Right at the heart of this market lies the food section that is bursting with activity and loud noise. The steam-filled alley contains countless number of food stalls that offers a vast selections of Korean food like Japchae (당면 sesame oil noodle), Gimbap (김밥 rice roll), Sundae (순대 blood sausage roll), Jokbal (족발 braised pig trotter), Patjuk (팥죽 red bean porridge), and the very well known item in Gwangjang market – Bindaetteok (빈대떡 Mung bean pancake).

Bindaetteok 빈대떡 (W$3000)

Among the food stalls, the one that stood out was those that are selling Bindaetteok, with stacks of towering golden-brown crispy pancakes that are freshly fried and served piping hot.

Bindaetteok is made of grounded mung bean, with bean sprout, green onion, kimchi, and pepper. The mung beans are freshly grinned using a stone rotary grinder and the pancake paste is mixed and fried on the spot.

After some observation, i patronized the stall that is most popular among the locals. Note that there is no restaurant treatment at these stalls and be prepared to sit shoulder-to-shoulder beside a total stranger for the meal. Paper cup and plain water is available and i don’t think that’s bottled water. Probably the stall owner refills them with boiled water.

Among many stalls that are selling Bindaetteok, this is the one with the endless crowd. The stall number appears to be (61) 2263 – 7567. Keep a look out for this stall!

I ordered the veggie version and the meat version, and both are reasonably priced at W$3,000 each. The veggie version is huge, with the diameter of a small pizza and the meat version, going at the same price, is evidently smaller.

As a meat lover, there is no room for competition between the two as the meat pancake wins my favor. It don’t actually taste like a pancake but a giant piece of fried meat ball, only it’s a flattened version. The savory minced meat patty is well marinated and flavored that is not excessively salty. I read that these pancakes are actually flavored using honey and this explains the tinge of sweetness.

Hot & crispy exterior with a tender center. Best street food of the trip!

For the veggie version, it taste a little like our Singapore version of vegetable pancake (菜饼) that’s available in Singapore’s shopping centre, only the filling is fuller. I love the cripsy exterior and the texture is further enhanced by the crunchy bean sprout.

For those who find this veggie version a little plain in taste, grab a saucer and fill it up with their home-made dipping sauce that taste like a combination of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, a little bit of chilli and slices of onion. Rest assure that after dipping in this sauce, you will finish the pancake in no time!

The stall that sells everything

The best part of visiting such a market is they have stalls that sells basically every kind of traditional Korean food. The blood sausage roll is highly recommended by the friendly Ajumma (middle-age auntie in Korean)  as she kept pointing to the sausage although she can’t converse in English. I declined it politely after seeing the foreign lady beside me struggled to finish it. LOL. I know it’s not as scary as what i thought but i guess i am not very use to the idea of having a blood filled sausage rice roll after all.

Tteokbokki (떡볶이 Spicy Rice Cake) and Gimbap (김밥 Rice Roll)

Gimbap is slightly different from the Japanese version of Maki as the Korean added sesame oil instead of vinegar into the rice. This non-luxury version only comes with pickle, cucumber and carrot which totally works for me. It gives a crunchy texture filled with the fragrance of sesame oil.

The highlight of this Tteokbokki is for it’s sauce. I like it for the fact that it’s flavorful but not overly sweet and cloying unlike some Tteokbokki found in Singapore and this is much spicier than Singapore’s. Though I still prefer a thinner rice cake instead of a thick one like this.

Japchae (잡채 Sesame Oil Noodle)

Japchae is definitely not anything new to anyone as it’s often served as a side dish in Korean restaurant. This japchae was served cold and it does taste like it’s stir-fried using instant chicken cubes, which is nice, but not exactly healthy to have it on a daily basis. I love the generous amount of sesame oil and sesame seed added to this simple and yet delightful dish.

Eomukguk (어묵국 Fish Cake Soup)

Eomukguk is the most popular street food during cold season! It literally means “fish cake soup” as the skewered fish cake comes with a cup/bowl of piping hot anchovy stock.

All these dishes cost me W$11,000 which cost about an average of S$3.00 for each item. It’s slightly more pricey than what i expected. I have a feeling, just a feeling that i had been overcharged. Since i can’t really exactly communicate with the lady, i decided to just pay and forget about it. Since it’s not too much of a money, I don’t think there is a need to confront and haggle with the lady and spoil my day.

Conclusion

Apart from the luxury malls, high-end shopping and five stars hotels, i thought it’s good to experience the unique culture of the nation and visit places that is unmistakeably Korean. And Gwangjang Market is one of such places in Seoul that provides an authentic Korean culture experience. Apart from the food culture, there is so much more to see and experience at Gwangjang Market.

The only thing is, i think there might be a need to exercise caution to prevent from being overcharged like what i might had encountered. Do some basic research especially if you intend to get big ticket item like Ginseng or something that’s is slightly more expensive

As for food wise, if possible, ask for the price before committing to any purchase and if you are still comfortable with the price, go ahead.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Directions and Maps

I took a photo of this map which gives a much clearer indication of the various alleys in Gwangjang Market and it even has labeling of the various zones in the market.

The nearest station to Gwangjang market is from Jongno 5(o)-ga Station and exit 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 will lead you to the North and East Gate of the market.

The market stretches all the way from Exit 7 to Exit 11 but the food zone is nearest to Exit 9.

Click to enlarge

Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari – A unique dining experience at Dongdaemun

Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari (진옥화할매원조닭한마리)

English Address (Google Map): Seoul-si Jongno-gu Jongno 5-ga 265-22

Korean Address (Naver Map): 서울특별시 종로구 종로5가 265-22

Operating hours: 10.00am to 10.30pm

Click here for my Seoul Food Itinerary List

Introduction

Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari is situated at an alley at Dongdaemun (동대문). They had been around for 35 years which goes a long way back when they first opened for business in year 1978. Among the few Dakhanmari restaurants in the same alley, Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari or Wonjo WonHalmae Dakhanmari are said to be the first Dakhanmari shop to start their business in this alley.

Each Dakhanmari restaurant has their own loyal customer but Jinokkwa Halmae  is said to be the only Dakhanmari restaurant that was featured in the Korean Michelin Guide in May of 2011.

Dakhanmari, literally means ‘a whole chicken’ in English. It’s a Korean food that is not commonly found, or totally not available in Singapore. The 35 days old young chicken is cooked in Dakbaeksuk (Chicken Stew/Soup) whose recipe and ingredients are similar to Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup). While Samgyetang is made with ginseng, various herbs, chestnuts, Dakbaeksuk consists of simpler ingredients, such as chicken, water, and garlic.

Dakhanmari (닭한마리)

I was very skeptical about Dakhanmari initially as the appearance of the food don’t look appealing, and even to a certain extend of scary looking. But there are really some talks about this on the net so I thought “what the heck, let’s do it”. In the end, this became one of the most interesting dining experience for my Seoul trip.

I reached this place at about 9.00pm and i manage to get a table without a need to queue. Upon getting a table, there is no need for me to order anything as the waitress naturally placed a big pot of soup with half-boiled chicken on the stove and skilfully cut up the chicken with a pair of scissors. The flame was turned to high while I waited for the soup to boil in anticipation.

Oh, by the way, when the chicken is served, Jinokhwa Halmae had already sieved away the oil and grease and to remove any “chicken taste” during the initial boil so that is why the chicken is served half-boiled.

While waiting for the soup to boil, i helped myself to the free-flow spicy Kimchi and water at the side counter.

How to enjoy Dakhanmari

The waitress explained that the chicken is suppose to be dipped in a mixture of their condiments – soy sauce, spicy mustard and white vinegar (and chilli if you love spicy food).

I personally think that dipping of the condiments is a must, else the chicken would only taste ordinary, like a typical steamed chicken.

Rice cake and noodles can be added to the soup at W$1000 and W$1500 respectively. I didn’t opt to add any and the waitress seems very surprised. Maybe if anyone of you do, please share the experience with us.

The unique thing about the soup is for it’s garlic chicken soup taste. There are three ways to enjoy Dakhanmari.

First way is to eat it as it is. I thought it’s a little sad to just eat this as it is because it would be just Chicken and Soup and i might as well order a Ginseng Chicken Soup and Ginseng Chicken comes cheaper with more ingredients.

Second way is to add their hot pepper chilli into the soup to add more spicy flavour to it. I observed that the locals like to fill their plate with a whole plate of chilli and to mix it with the chicken meat like it’s some kind of gravy so i followed suit. LOL.

The chilli taste a little bitter and salty which i personally prefer not to eat it by itself but mixing it into the soup greatly enhanced the soup flavour with some added “kick”.

The third way, which is the recommended way, is to throw in the Kimchi (and chilli) to turn it into a spicy and sour chicken soup. For those who love Kimchi, you will love this way of eating cus the Kimchi did wonder to the soup.

I’m not sure it’s just me or the soup just magically gets better and better over time and the whole big pot of soup was finished at the end of the meal.

Conclusion

Some reviews on the net mentioned that Dakhanmari is only chicken and soup and it’s totally not worth it. From the way i see it, it seems like they chose to enjoy Dakhanmari plainly without the chilli/kimchi and the condiments.

So i think it’s rather important to observe and see how others are enjoying it so that we can also have the maximum take-away from each dining experience.

At a slightly expensive price of W$20,000 (about S$23.00), that is good enough to serve two, i think it’s worth at least one visit to experience eating something that you can’t find in Singapore, and experience eating like a local at Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari. I personally enjoyed it much.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Directions

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge. Take note that this is a very zoom-in map so the distance is not as far as it seems. You can reach this place with just a 5 minutes walk.

1. Exit from Dongdaemum Station Exit 9 and walk straight along the main road.

2. Turn left at this junction as per this photo to walk into a smaller road. You should be able to see a stretch of food stall on this road.

3. Walk until the end of the stretch of stall as per the photo below and turn right into a small alley. Especially during the night, this alley may looks a little dark but don’t worry, this is the correct one. Walk in a little more and you will be able to see Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari.