Our Mini-Moon to Seoul: Part 2 (Gwangjang & Namdaemun Market)
Continuing on from our Mini-Moon series to Seoul (Part 1 : Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace), I wanted to blog about the most single thing we were looking forward to on our mini-moon in Korea – the food!
When I first met my husband Elliott, I didn’t know a lot about Korean food (or the culture!) Most of what I know about the food and the culture is what I have come to learn through him. Just like food from your childhood, Korean food has a special attachment to me because it is the thing that defines my husband whom I love dearly! Over time, I began to fall in love with the food and have now adopted it into our home so it is a huge part of my new family!
As previously mentioned, Elliott had not been to Korea himself and so we were both very eager to try all the authentic food there. We both love rustic, simple, home style food more than the fancy fine dining kind. We wanted to experience the fresh local home style food – the kind that you can find in the local markets!
We only had time to visit two markets in Seoul although we came with large empty stomachs! We visited Gwangjang Market and Namdaemun Market, with Namdaemun being my favourite out of the two! Read on to learn why!
This was the first market we visited and we came here for lunch. Although it is seemingly a large market, we found that the vendors often sold very similar items. The most common dishes we found were Korean pancake, cold noodle, gimbap, bibimbap and dumplings.
Here, we ended up trying some gimbap and cold noodles. They were both very good but Elliott was surprised how much Gochujang (hot pepper paste) they added to the soup! He couldn’t handle the heat and was disappointed that he couldn’t enjoy the soup flavour. For dessert, he picked up a Korean melon off an old lady selling vegetables and asked her to cut it open for him! I don’t like melons so he ate the whole thing himself. It was so cute because he looked so happy!
Elliott and I took the bus over to this market. It was supposed to take us around 30 minutes to get there and we were both following the map. But we were both so busy talking that we stopped following the map and missed our stop! But as we passed the market filled with colourful flags, I pointed out to Elliott that it looked so cute and I wanted to go there! So we hopped off the bus and walked 20 minutes over to the place with colourful flags and found that it was indeed Namdaemun Market – the place we intended to go! Haha!
We came here close to sunset and as we were walking through, we noticed that some vendors were already packing up to go home. But I could not pass up these large kimchi dumplings! They were honestly THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD. They were so juicy, the right amount of spice and just SO SO AMAZING. This was hands down my favourite food item in the whole of Seoul. These dumplings were so filling as well – I mean check out the size of them!
We went into what we thought was a little food shop close to the entrance of the market. But as we walked deeper inside, we found that it was just lined with vendors all selling Kalguksu (freshly made knife cut wheat noodles).
After a disappointing experience in trying Kalguksu in Myeongdong (where Kalguksu is popular!), Elliott really wanted to try it again. I really wanted to try both Bibim Naeng Myun (spicy cold noodle) and Bibimbap (mixed rice dish). Elliott always tells me that his level of speaking and understanding the Korean language is limited to what a child would know since he really only speaks to his family in Korean. So we found that we could definitely get by with talking to people, but he would often have difficulty understanding everything they were saying or explaining what he really wanted to say.
Elliott ordered the Kalguksu for 5,000 won ($5) and I ordered the Bibimbap for 5,500 won ($5.50). As we were ordering this, the lady kept saying that the Bibimbap is a ‘set’ and it came with the Bibim Naeng Myun too. We were like bonus! But she kept saying it over and over – that the Bibimbap was a set! We were like fine fine, whatever. We just want to eat!
When we got our food, we were so so surprised! My Bibimbap was certainly a SET! It came with Kalgusku, Bibimbap, Bibim Naeng Myun AND Doenjang-jjigae (fermented bean paste soup). While, for only fifty cents less, my husband got his Kalgusku and Bibim Naeng Myun as a bonus. No Bibimbap or Doenjang-jjigae for him – for the difference of only fifty cents. We were both in disbelief of what a great deal it was. We couldn’t find anywhere else in Seoul (so far anyway) that had anything as cheap as that!
If I’m super hungry, I’m not a great sharer (or maybe I’m not a great sharer in general) so I was like WAHAHAHA trying to eat it all for myself. But I just couldn’t. It was way too much food. I think Elliott and I could have just shared that Bibimbap set for the both of us and he would have got his Kalgusku and I would have got my Bibimbap and Bibim Naeng Myun and our stomachs would have been very happy!
IN CONCLUSION: GO TO NAMDAEMUN MARKET AND EAT UP!! I would totally come back here again 🙂