Shopping in Korea: Gwangjang Traditional Market & E-Mart – Hanbok, Food, Groceries, Seafood, Skincare

Indulge the ahjumma (Ajumma is a Korean word meaning “aunt” literally) in me would you, and please share my excitement at visiting markets.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-002

I can’t help it. I love markets. WET markets are my specialty; where I get to gawk at fresh fishes, admire hanging carcasses of animals (ok that sounds gross) I mean, see the fresh meat and butchers at work and check out on their local produce, which more often than not, are bound to be different from what we see in our local Malaysian markets.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-015

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-019

What is this?? It seems to be popular in Korea because I saw this in Busan Jagalchi market as well!

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea -002

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea -001

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea

Unfortunately (or fortunately), Korean markets are very civilized, and only the cut, washed and trimmed parts of the cow are displayed. You should see Malaysia’s markets (if you’re not Malaysians) and the ones in China. Full bodied glory of carcasses, I mean fresh meat displayed. Hooves, tails, ribs, head, ears… Ok, I shall stop.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-037

Cleanliness is of paramount importance, and you can see most of the fresh produce are wrapped or covered.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-022

And of course, what’s a market without FOOD??

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-047

The centre part of the market building is like a food court. However you’ll notice that most stalls offers similar options for the cooked food. Prices are similar as well. When in doubt, just stay with the stall with the most people. 🙂

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-042

Japchae, soondae, tteokbokki and some steamy hot noodle soup that was extremely tempting for the cold morning.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-043

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-045

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-046

And this pork leg (jokbal) of which I was dying to try but thought of returning to do so after my exploration. Unfortunately as we moved on we didn’t manage to come back to this area.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-044

Another food item popular in the Gwangjang Market is Bindaetteok, a type of traditional pancake made with mung beans, pork and vegetables. I was told tt’s spicy flavour and soft texture go especially well with makgeolli (rice wine).
There are a few stalls here that offer Bindaetteok and you can see each pancake made fresh from scratch. One cost about 5,000 won (RM15).
I was tempted to try but in the end decided against it. There was no one to share this with and the bindaetteok looks so oily!

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-029

output19

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-039

According to my guide Kim, there aren’t many such wet markets around. Most Koreans buy their groceries and fresh produce from the E-Mart or supermarkets.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-051

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-007

The Gwangjang Market has 7 large and 8 small entrance gates. It’s total area is equivalent to 8 football fields. There are 5,000 stores and over 20,000 workers. I was really early (about 8 am) so most of the shops were not open yet and the market wasn’t too busy as yet.
In addition to basic necessities this markets sells cloth, crockery, bedding, mother-of-pearl, decorative items, accessories and fashion items. Get a hanbok (Korean traditional costume) tailored if you wish.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-003

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-004

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-005

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-014

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-006

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-010

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-011

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-012

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-013

Some of the shoes are quite “aunty” (old-fashioned) but I thought this pair is alright if matched with a suitable outfit.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-008

Each of these cost 2,000 won (RM6) and I was again tempted to buy every single variety available!

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-016

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-017

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-033

Vendors at work.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-018

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-032

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-036

Grabbing breakfast before the day starts.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-028

I peeped into someone’s breakfast. What dishes are these I wonder?

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-020

Korea is kimchi-land. There are so many types of kimchi! Funnily enough most of the outlets/restaurants we went served the usual types we see even in Malaysian Korean restaurants. I didn’t get to try the ones you see below.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-034

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-035

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-026

Some nuts!

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-027

Such beautiful produce.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-050

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-048

Korea probably has the least variety of “weird” food. So far I saw this and another time it was a snail.

Gwangjang Traditional Market in Korea - rebeccasaw blog-052

Ultimately Gwangjang Market is the place to witness closely what Seoul residents eat, drink, wear and live by; in other words, passing up a tour of the market would be missing a vital scene of Korean travel. 😀

**********************************************************

Moving I’ll like to share with you my obsession of grocery shopping in supermarkets in all the countries that I have visited. For Korea I usually go to E-Mart. This is not by choice but it always seem to be the most convenience one at that point of time. Anyhow even locals said it’s a good choice and I do get to see and buy pretty good stuffs here so I didn’t mind!

In Jeju the E-mart was 4 minutes walk from my hotel. The shocking thing that I found out after happily shopping was that no plastic bags were provided! You can pay for paperbags OR you can PACK your own groceries in FREE paper boxes provided.

Imagine my shock when I paid for a bunch of groceries and realized that I’ll have to hand carry all of that back to my hotel. Thank god the groceries fit into ONE box and it wasn’t too heavy. As you know I like to wonder around alone so I went to E-Mart alone.

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-003

Each bag cost 100 won (if I recall correctly).

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-005

Flattened boxes of all shapes and sizes and tapes provided.

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog (1)

So this is why I travel with a big luggage. The tope part of my 28″ luggage is reserved for shopping! Groceries shopping to be exact!

e mart - jeju island

My buy from E-mart, Jeju Island.

e mart - jeju island-003

Other than the one below that’s specifically Jeju the other items were available in the E-Mart in Seoul.

e mart - jeju island-007

Instant noodles are a must! To be frank I don’t eat instant noodles at all unless it’s air-dried or it’s rice noodles/pho/rice vermicelli. But I make exceptions for Japanese/Korean/Hong Kong/Taiwan instant noodles. Other than that, if there are interesting flavours I’ll buy them too! 🙂

e mart - jeju island-002

Korea offers many “healthy” options for their food items. There are plenty of air dried noodles (non-fried means less calories!), MSG-free items and low sugar snacks.

e mart - jeju island-001

e mart - jeju island-004

e mart - jeju island-005

e mart - jeju island-006

There are not very cheap, but they do taste GOOD!

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog (3)

Beauty calorie noodles??

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog

I bought some skincare as well. Aloe vera gels/lotions are commonly available.

e mart - jeju island-008

I had cooked many packets of instant noodles that I bought back from other countries but that shall be in another post. Here’s one of the ones I bought recently from Korea. This is a non-fried one that comes with dehydrated meat! The stock is clean tasting yet flavourful.
Even the noodles has a better bite to it.

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog (2)

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-006

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-007

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-008

The aisles in the E-mart is clean and wide. Their trolleys are pretty cool, it has auto brakes and won’t slide backwards when you’re on the inclined automated moving walkways. Push in a 1000 won coin to use.

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-001

emart jeju island - rebecca saw blog-002

The same can be said of their E-Mart in Seoul. This branch is in Gimpo Airport.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport

For the convenience of shoppers there is a area for luggage to be kept while you browse. Oh and lockers as well.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-018

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-020

And the same boxes wrapping service.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-019

The E-Mart also sells skincare, clothes, fresh food, an in-house bakery and well, just about all the necessities you would normally find in a supermarket/department store.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-023

e mart Korea - gimpo airport

Cooked food in the supermarkets are actually affordable – 3,000 (RM12) to 3,500 (RM14) for a bulging sandwich. There’s fried chicken, rice cakes, fish cakes and so much more; just like our local Jusco (Big Aeon) supermarkets hot food sections.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-001

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-002

Korean breads are tasty and more towards to fluffy and soft variety. In patisseries around Seoul you can find many French inspired bakeries that offers delectable looking cakes, pastries and European (hard crust) style breads.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-017

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-016

I failed to sample any pork leg on this trip. I promised my self that I won’t on my next trip! 🙂

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-015

Seaweed! These individually packet ones are great gifts.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-013

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-011

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-010

Another good choice for souvenirs are the MarketO snacks! It’s a “Korean thing” so it definitely shows that your gifts are from Korea.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-009

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-007

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-008

Another thing that I buy all the time from foreign countries are the cereals I eat. They offer “flavours” not available in Malaysia.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-006

Not to mention one whole aisle of these! 🙂

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-005

Camping food -15,800 won (+- RM50). Multicoloured sausages!

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-014

Instant noodles. 90% not available in Malaysia. About 4,000 won (RM12) for packs of 4 or 5.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-004

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-003

Apple flavoured soya, green tea latte.

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-021

I bought very little this time as I had been traveling so much and I still have so many packets of food in my kitchen!

e mart Korea - gimpo airport-022

So, do you like going to wet markets and supermarkets when you’re abroad too? What would you buy? 🙂

Location:
Gwangjang Traditional Market
6-1 Yeji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
TRAIN: Jongno-5(o)-ga Station (#129) on Line 1, Exit 7

Location: E-Mart
Various locations around Seoul.
The ones I went were the one in Jeju Island and in Seoul it was at the Gimpo Airport. From the Gimpo Airport, you can take the train to Incheon airport (which was what we did) for about 4,000 won (RM12).
TRAIN: Gimpo Airport Station on Seoul Subway Line No.5

Any other markets or supermarkets that I should visit on my next trip that offers items or food dissimilar to what I have seen here? Let me know! 😀
You check out my ‘live octopus eating’ experience here in Jagalchi Market Busan too!

*This wonderful experience was during my Asian On Air media familiarization trip organized by KTO Malaysia and Korean Air in October 2013. The Jeju Island trip was earlier in August and was by Air Asia X and Jeju Tourism.
Stay tuned as I’ll update more on my trip over the next few weeks alright!
For other travel adventures, you can visit my travel page –> http://www.rebeccasaw.com/travel/