Gwangjang Market: Bindaetteok & Budget Foodie Paradise

gwangjang market seoul

Traditional markets are always one of the most exciting sites in South Korea. I’ve blogged about several markets within Seoul, the Noryangjin Fish Market, and the Tongin Market at the west side of Gyeongbok Palace which is famed for its Korean Dosirak (a kind of assorted lunchbox). This time round was Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest market in Seoul.

Gwangjang market was opened since 1905, serving the nation for about 110 years to date. A historical site for more than a century, the market is simply what we called 살아 있는 박물관 in Korean, literally, a living museum.

gwangjang market dry fishes

Various sections are available at the market. Other than the usual meat & poultry, fresh veggies and daily utensils section you can find in a market back at home, you can find those sections brimming with the”truly Korean-ness” : Dried food section which consist of dried fishes and seafood, dried seaweed, traditional Korean snacks (Hangwa한과) section, Traditional Wedding & Ritual Item Section, Hanbok (traditional costumes) Section and banchan (side dishes 반찬) Section.

The traditional market certainly offers a better deal compared to branded department store. My mom did her dried goods shopping here and brought home some good dried fishes, baby prawns, squid and seaweed home and of course, at a relatively reasonable price. She is very happy with what she got and I guess if you’re getting some local products as a gift, the traditional market is the place for you.

Personally, I think the quirky environment offers a vivid array of colours for your photos. Certainly a unique location for some gorgeous and exotic pictures.

gwangjang market seoul

My recommendation, especially for self-boarding students who love Korean food, is the banchan store located near to the dried fish/seaweed section.

banchan side dishes stall at gwangjang market

This banchan store offers an array of seasonal banchan (Korean side dishes). Get 3 or 4 different types of marinated banchan home and keep it in your fridge. These banchans come handy especially when you’re rushing for reports or preparing for an exam. Just have your rice ready, take out a small portion from each banchan container and your meal is settled!

They do offer flight-friendly packaging so you can bring some flavours of Korea back home if you want!

gwangjang market soysauce crab

Ganjang-gejang (간장게장) — Raw blue crabs (꽃게)  marinated in soy sauce. These babies are a must-try in Korea, especially when they are in season (spring and autumn). The crabs are marinated after they are put to bed in a freezer, so they are raw, plump, sweet and juicy.

ganjang gaejjang soysauce crab

Remember to get some female crabs (with dome shape lower stomach) home so that you can mix up some rice with the creamy crab roe!  Too bad I was diagnosed with shellfish allergy some two years ago and I have quit eating shellfish since my diagnosis. However, I can still remember how wonderful they taste like two years ago! Definitely a must try for all crab lovers.

gwangjang market seoul

The food section is another attraction in the market. Tasty and affordable, this place is a heaven if you are on budget. A wide selection of food is available here at the market. On top of all, the very first thing one should try is their bindaetteok (빈대떡), known as mung bean pancakes.

gwangjang market bindaeddeok mungbean pancake

We got a seat at Soon-hee Ne (순희네), which was said to be the best bindaeddeok in the market. Their clientele includes the Dae Jang Geum actress Lee Yong-ae and Tim Burton. Even Running Man went down to film at their stall.

By the way, Soon-hee Ne practises a “no seat no talk” policy. LOL. So what you need to do first is perhaps give up on your Instagram and secure a seat at the back of their stall, THEN order your food. You can always come back and continue snapping away after you fill up your tummy anyway.

bindaetteok

gwangjang market binddaeddoek

So here’s the bindaetteok, a pancake made of mung bean gravy mixed with beansprout, onions and pepper, pan-fried into golden crisp. It is crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside.

gwangjang market mungbean pancake

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Piping hot and very filling, it is best to match the dish with makgeolli (Korean Traditional Rice Wine). I find it quite plain in taste. However, the dipping sauce made of vinegar, soy sauce and pickled onion complement the pancake really well. Not something that I am madly in love, but it wasn’t bad.

gwangjang market

Assorted Pancake Store with colourful pancakes for sale.

Other than bindaetteok, the food available in the market includes assorted pancakes, barley rice, Mayak (drug) kimbap and meat dumplings. All you need to do is to find an empty seat in front of the store, sit down, order and enjoy!

gwangjang market seoul

A barley rice (보리밥) store at the market.

gwangjang market seoul

Another highlight of the trip was actually this whole pomfret fish pancake somewhere in the middle of the food alley. This is one very big jeon(전, the Korean pancake) made of a whole fish. I was astonished by its size and I guess I am not the only one?

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So this is pretty much about Gwangjang Market. It was my first visit after so many years and I clearly have a long list of must-eats to complete in the market. (I will come back, no worries). I must say these traditional markets really have something that keep people coming back for more.

My tips for enjoying your market trip to the fullest: Find a seat and cosy up in the  inviting atmosphere, and share your food with people around you. (offering to share your makgeolli is always good). That is the spirit of the traditional market that I adore. : )

Lastly, The market is just walking distance to the magnificent DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza). It is just one subway station away. So I suggest putting Gwangjang Market and DDP on the same day on your itinerary. However, if you are planning to buy some banchan home, it is better you head right back to your hotel/home and have them in your fridge safely before coming out again. (That is extremely important when you’re travelling in the summer.)

gwangjang market seoul

cheonggyecheon winter

winter in cheonggyecheon

Operating Hours:

9am to 6pm for usual market stalls. 10am-7pm for shop houses, 9am-11pm for food stores.
Close on Sunday. 

Directions:

Gwangjang Market
6-1, Yeji-dong, Jongno-Gu, Seoul.
광장시장. 서울시 종로구 예지동 6-1.

Nearest Station: Jongno 5 Ga, Exit no. 8

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Johan says:

    I have to say the Bindaetteok on your photo from that particular stall was really good.It reminded me one of the finger food from my home country. Though the Korean version has additional dipping sauce with onions and vinegar ( Cider vinegar perhaps ?). Worth the queue….

    Also I tried the Mandu dumplings stall which was located in the mandu section , but this particular stall was located off to the side from the usual center setting in the market, and therefore the stall has a bigger seating capacity of 4 sides surrounding her stall, than the usual 2 or 3 sides which the usual arrangement for those stall in the center. The manduguk is really good in my opinion, and I noticed she made her own mandu skins, since when we were there, she was seen making the preparation for making mandu dough skin in front of us. Her mandu in my opinion are moist inside , and quite well balanced in taste.

    I have no idea the rest of the mandu stall, but judging from the frequency of locals who came and ate there , it “seemed” I might had chosen the better mandu stall. I could not read the signage, but if you used the description I mentioned above , you wont missed it because its stall might be the only has the capacity of four sided seating capacity. Anyway, thanks for the tip on the bindaetteok, thats was really a good one.

  • ctytc says:

    Hi, sorry but I would like to ask regarding the timing that is good for me to visit Gwangjang Market.

    Will the food stalls be open at like 4+ pm or do they open in the morning only??

    Hope to get a reply soon! Thank you (:

    • Pheuron says:

      Hello!
      I think the best timing to visit a market in Korea would be in the daytime, say 10am-12pm, just nice for a brunch.
      Some of the stalls, especially the food stalls will open for the evening crowds but I think it is still best to visit a market in the morning. 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    Hi, the pictures you took are very nice 🙂 May I know what phone or camera you used to take them?

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