I am currently sat on a KTX back to Busan after embarking on a week long trip to Seoul. It was my second time visiting Korea’s capital city; a metropolis so alive and vibrant, full of exciting escapades, magnificent landscapes and opportunities to make friends. My week has been crammed with touristy site seeing, authentic Korean experiences as well as my first ever language exchange meet-up! I am in a little bubble of happiness right now, all a buzz with Hongdae’s imprint… of course Busan will always have my heart but I HIGH KEY love me some Seoul right now!
A personal favourite anecdote of my trip: the street food I devoured at Gwangjang market. Interestingly one of the first questions the natives ask all foreigners is “Do you like Korean food?”. Food is such an important element of the Korean culture, so many people I have met here are so proud of their nations best dishes and furthermore eating together is a social necessity. I always answer the question with a solidly enthusiastic “Hell yeahhhh!” to much surprise and glee. At the language exchange meet-up in Seoul, I was asked that very question and after giving my response, I was then asked if I had visited Gwangjang market yet to try the selection of food on offer there. I was thrilled to exclaim I had actually been there just the day before for a full on, three course culinary extravaganza!
First on the menu was 파전; 전 (jeon) in Korean means savoury pancake and 파 (pa) stands for spring onions (scallions to Americans). There are so many various different 전 however 파전 is the Korean go to on rainy days, always to be eaten whilst drinking 막갈리 (makgeolli). The day we visited Gwangjang market happened to be the rainiest day during our trip to Seoul so naturally 파전 was the way to go. The ahjumma we bought from was adorable; she flipped our 파전 in the pan and made it nice and crispy with a side dish of sliced green chillis swimming in soy sauce. It was a nice thick pancake, stuffed with not only spring onions but what I also believe to be Asian chives as well as potato. All that for 3,000 won (roughly £2.10)… such a steal!
I had a major hankering for 비빔밥 (bibimbap) that day, and after fulfilling the rainy tradition for 파전, I was a woman on a mission to find Korea’s staple rice dish. The food zone of Gwangjang stretches on and on, numerous stalls offering various versions of 떡볶이 (rice cakes in a spicy sauce), 순대 (blood sausage that is normally fried) and 만두 (dumplings). We were drawn to one lady’s stall in particular; I cannot tell you the reason why but I’m guessing it has something to do with the multitude of veggies she had lined up on display ready to pile on top of a bowl full of rice. We took a seat, ordered our 비빔밥 with a side order of 김치만두 (kimchi dumplings) and tucked in. The ahjumma again was adorable, refilling our bowl with different veggies once she saw us running low whilst also gasping in faux, jokey horror when she saw the amount of 고추장 (gochujang – red pepper paste) I squeezed out over my rice.
We wanted to finish off our meal with 붕어빵 (bungeoppang); a fish shaped pancake stuffed with sweet red beans however we could not find any at Gwangjang and have since been told that they are normally more readily available during the winter months as a warming snack. We settled on 꽈배기 (kkwabaegi), twisted doughnuts, instead. The texture of the 꽈배기 is unlike the standard doughnut; it is more bready yet it is still light. I love buying these when they are straight out of the fryer, warm and super soft, coated in a thin layer of sugar for added sweetness. They are ridiculously cheap too; 1,000 won is all it costs to take you to Korean doughnut heaven!
Our bellies were fit to bust after all of the food we ate but every last morsel was super delicious! All in all everything cost us 15,000 won… 7,500 won each! £5.20 to all the Brits reading this!! 😱 If you’re ever in Seoul and fancy some street food then Gwangjang market is the place for you!
Have you ever been to Seoul? Did you go to Gwangjang for street food? Or is there somewhere else in Seoul that serves food just as good for a similar price? Let me know in the comments! 😄