Indulge the ahjumma (Ajumma is a Korean word meaning “aunt” literally) in me would you, and please share my excitement at visiting markets.
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.
What is this?? It seems to be popular in Korea because I saw this in Busan Jagalchi market as well!
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.
Cleanliness is of paramount importance, and you can see most of the fresh produce are wrapped or covered.
And of course, what’s a market without FOOD??
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. 🙂
Japchae, soondae, tteokbokki and some steamy hot noodle soup that was extremely tempting for the cold morning.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Some of the shoes are quite “aunty” (old-fashioned) but I thought this pair is alright if matched with a suitable outfit.
Each of these cost 2,000 won (RM6) and I was again tempted to buy every single variety available!
Vendors at work.
Grabbing breakfast before the day starts.
I peeped into someone’s breakfast. What dishes are these I wonder?
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.
Such beautiful produce.
Korea probably has the least variety of “weird” food. So far I saw this and another time it was a snail.
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.
Each bag cost 100 won (if I recall correctly).
Flattened boxes of all shapes and sizes and tapes provided.
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!
My buy from E-mart, Jeju Island.
Other than the one below that’s specifically Jeju the other items were available in the E-Mart in Seoul.
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! 🙂
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.
There are not very cheap, but they do taste GOOD!
Beauty calorie noodles??
I bought some skincare as well. Aloe vera gels/lotions are commonly available.
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.
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.
The same can be said of their E-Mart in Seoul. This branch is in Gimpo Airport.
For the convenience of shoppers there is a area for luggage to be kept while you browse. Oh and lockers as well.
And the same boxes wrapping service.
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.
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.
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.
I failed to sample any pork leg on this trip. I promised my self that I won’t on my next trip! 🙂
Seaweed! These individually packet ones are great gifts.
Another good choice for souvenirs are the MarketO snacks! It’s a “Korean thing” so it definitely shows that your gifts are from Korea.
Another thing that I buy all the time from foreign countries are the cereals I eat. They offer “flavours” not available in Malaysia.
Not to mention one whole aisle of these! 🙂
Camping food -15,800 won (+- RM50). Multicoloured sausages!
Instant noodles. 90% not available in Malaysia. About 4,000 won (RM12) for packs of 4 or 5.
Apple flavoured soya, green tea latte.
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!
So, do you like going to wet markets and supermarkets when you’re abroad too? What would you buy? 🙂
Gwangjang Traditional Market
6-1 Yeji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
TRAIN: Jongno-5(o)-ga Station (#129) on Line 1, Exit 7
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 –> https://www.rebeccasaw.com/travel/