Gwanjang bibimbap vendor

There’s something about the area between Jongno and Dongdaemun that sets it apart from the rest of central Seoul. Heading west along the Cheongye stream from City Hall, it feels like you are stepping into an older, less polished part of the city. The chain stores and restaurants gradually thin out, to be replaced by smaller, more specialised outfits, and the suits and high heels morph into work clothes and more practical forms of footwear.

It’s here that you can find Gwangjang Market, Seoul’s oldest covered market. Specialising mainly in textiles, the market is a great place to go if you are after any kind of cut-price fabric or simply fancy a gawk at Korean industry at its most elemental. Traders do vigourous business amongst huge rolls of silks and linens, and narrow alleys and passages lead off into a warren of shops and restaurants.

Gwanjang market

At the market’s nucleus there is a fantastic street food section. Lines of tightly packed cooking stations spider web out from the central concourse, selling a range of Korean street food classics. Huge coils of sundae perch languidly on narrow countertops; boiled, hairless pig trotters await transformation into jokbal; and dexterous ajummas churn out piece after piece of perfectly formed mandu.

Gwanjang bindaeduk vendor

An absolute “must eat” street food here is bindaeduk. Mung beans are ground into a batter by huge rotating stone pestles, then fried up with beansprouts, green onion and garlic. The result is a thick, crispy pancake, served simply with kimchi and an onion and soy sauce dip. The pancake is gloriously garlicky, and has a great crunchy hash brown consistency to it.

Gwanjang bibimbap

Another winner here is the bibimbap. Not a dish you usually find on the street in Korea, the one at Gwangjang is made using barley as well as rice. Like some of the best street food dishes, this one is assembled rather than cooked. Measured amounts of sesame oil, gochujang and doenjang, are added with lettuce, spring onions, dried seaweed, cherry tomatoes and a great little peppery, grassy, bitter leaf whose name escapes me at the moment. The dish is all about balanced flavours and freshness, and qualifies as some of the best bibimbap I’ve had.

Gwangjang Market. Exit 12 Jongno-3-ga Station. Exit the station and walk for a few mins until you reach a road. The market will be directly across it. Once inside, walk past the first few street food stalls you see – you’ll know when you hit the good stuff!

21 Responses to Some of Seoul’s best street food at Gwangjang market

  1. By Mai - June 3, 2010

    Pig foot is one of my most favorites ever. And they’re nowhere to be found on menus in America. :-(

  2. By Street Foodie - June 3, 2010

    Yeah it’s pretty good alright, especially with that vinegary shrimp sauce you get it with! Maybe you should try making it yourself? Actually, maybe I should try making it!

  3. By Mai - June 10, 2010

    My mom says cleaning the trotters are one heck of a workout, and she usually boils it until tender, which is forever. I don’t know of another way to make it with less work.

  4. By The central perk guide to Korean Street Food « Street Foodie - June 18, 2010

    [...] United Kingdom « Some of Seoul’s best street food at Gwangjang market [...]

  5. By Roisin - August 16, 2010

    Great food blog! First time I’ve seen it. I look forward to reading more.

  6. By Street Foodie - August 18, 2010

    Thanks Roisin!

  7. By Gregory - August 31, 2010

    Great post. And a fantastic blog. Keep up the excellent work.

  8. By Street Foodie - September 6, 2010

    Thanks! I’ve been a bit lax recently but hopping to post a lot more the next couple of months.

  9. By hardyandtiny - September 13, 2010

    most of the food served in that market is crap.

  10. By Street Foodie - September 14, 2010

    No it isn’t

  11. By Korean street food with a difference at Noryangjin Station, Seoul. « Street Foodie - October 6, 2010

    [...] offer at the next stall was bibimbap. Apart from the excellent barley version at Gwangjang Market, this is another dish I haven’t really seen outside of restaurants and canteens. Here, a [...]

  12. By Korea.net - October 13, 2010

    Korea.net is the official website of the Rep. of Korea. For our “Blogging on Korea” section on our webpage, we pick nice and appropriate blog posts and introduce them to our visitors.

    We’d like to outlink your blog post “Some of Seoul’s best street food at Gwangjang market” on our web, so we can share it with our visitors. Thank you for your source, and please visit our website and other official social networking channels.(see the links below)

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  13. By Street Foodie - October 13, 2010

    Cool no problem

  14. By heather - October 14, 2010

    i ‘d like that!! cool

  15. By Annette - January 26, 2011

    Help! Looking for a item that came from a street vendor, my friend described it as a Twinkie like cake stuffed with boiled eggs. Does anyone know the name or recipe?
    Thanks!

  16. By Street Foodie - February 8, 2011

    Hi Annette,

    Sounds like gyrenbbang. There are loads of stalls selling them in Myeongdong, especiallt near Euljiro-3-ga station.

    Hope this helps!

  17. By Agent P - March 6, 2011

    I developed an interest with Gwangjang Market after reading this blog. We went there last week to try out the street food section. There’s good stuff in there and it was such an enriching experience; unfortunately, the food is not cheap. :( The price is just about as expensive as eating at a regular restaurant. Me and my friends (8 people total) only had odeng soup, kimbap, jokbal, two types of pajeon and ddeokbokki and the total bill was 48,000won. We had full meals at the hotel restaurant in Muju Resort which were much cheaper than that. My Korean friend said it used to be dirt cheap but after the market was featured on TV, the stall owners started jacking up the prices.

  18. By Street Foodie - March 6, 2011

    Mmm I miss the food already! Did you get enough food for all of you? If so 3000 won a person sounds like a bargain!

  19. By Agent P - March 6, 2011

    We felt it was too expensive because that’s how much we usually pay for our meals but the other meals were infinitely more filling than what we had at Gwangjang Market. The other time we feasted on street food at a tent in Gangnam, we only paid about 25,000won and we had like, 20+ sticks of odeng, among others.

  20. By Negosyo franchise - May 11, 2011

    If I had time I will go ti that place to taste their food since I have my own food business it will be good for me if I explore different kind of food tasting. :)

    sugar

  21. By Jane Metzger - July 12, 2011

    We lived in Seoul for two years and in the winter they had vendors that made little donut like goodies with sesame and cinnamon in the center. They were cooked in what looked like little waffle irons except that they made spheres. They were not rice, but regular flour. What are they and can I make them at home.

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