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South Korea’s Must-Visit Street Food Market & Food Highlights

Staying active and eating healthy is not only one of the biggest challenges of travel but also one of the most rewarding aspects. Here are some practical tips, many inspired by mom, that have helped me find balance and stay healthy while on the road:Staying active and eating healthy is not only one of the biggest challenges of travel but also one of the most rewarding aspects. Here are some practical tips, many inspired by mom, that have helped me find balance and stay healthy while on the road:

South Korea’s Must-Visit Street Food Market & Food Highlights begins by stepping into Gwangjang Market at the crack of dawn, with the first light of day casting a soft glow over the bustling stalls, is an experience that sets the tone for an unforgettable layover in Seoul. As the city's oldest traditional market, Gwangjang Market is not just a place to shop; it's a vibrant representation of Korean culture, history, and, most importantly, cuisine.


On my way home from Thailand, I was psyched to have a layover in Seoul and was told there's no better way to experience the local culture than by making Gwangjang Market your first stop. Opening its gates at 8 a.m, the market welcomes early birds with the aromas of homemade dishes and the cheerful chatter of vendors setting up for the day. This is the perfect time to explore, as the crowds are scarce and you can observe the market come to life.


 

Food Highlights: A Gastronomic Adventure


After spending the weeks prior eating my way through Southeast Asia’s food markets, my bar was set high arriving in Seoul. Within minutes, I was blown away, wishing I had more time here. 


Gwangjang Market is truly a paradise for food lovers, offering countless traditional Korean dishes that are both delicious and affordable. Here are some must-try delicacies:


  • Bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancakes): One of the market's signature dishes, these crispy pancakes are made from ground mung beans, mixed with vegetables and sometimes meat, and pan-fried to perfection. They're best enjoyed hot off the griddle, with a side of kimchi for that extra kick.


  • Mayak Gimbap (Drug Kimbap): Filled with seasoned rice, vegetables, and sometimes a hint of fish cake or pickled radish, these bite-sized seaweed rolls are the perfect snack to munch on as you wander through the market.


  • Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes): A popular street food, these chewy rice cakes are smothered in a sweet and spicy sauce, making for a mouthwatering treat. Some stalls offer variations with added ingredients like fish cakes or boiled eggs.


  • Yukhoe (Korean Steak Tartare): For the more adventurous eaters, yukhoe is a must-try. This dish features finely chopped raw beef seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, and other spices, often topped with a raw egg yolk. It's a delicacy that showcases the freshness and quality of Korean beef.


  • Bungeoppang (Fish-shaped Bread): This sweet snack is a fish-shaped pastry filled with sweet red bean paste. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, bungeoppang is a perfect treat to warm you up on a chilly morning.


  • Kalgusku (Knife-cut Noodle Soup): A comforting bowl of kalgusku, featuring chewy, knife-cut noodles in a clear, savory broth, is a must-try for noodle lovers. It's often garnished with vegetables and sometimes meat, making for a hearty and satisfying meal.


  • Hotteok (Sweet Pancakes): These sweet, filled pancakes are a popular street food in Korea. Hotteok is typically stuffed with a mixture of brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon, then pan-fried to create a crispy exterior with a gooey, sweet center.


Immersing Yourself in the Market Life

Beyond the food, Gwangjang Market offers an authentic glimpse into Korean daily life. As you navigate the narrow alleys, you'll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of locals bargaining for textiles, vintage clothing, and household goods. It's a sensory overload in the best possible way.


If you're visiting Seoul or find yourself with a long layover like I did, starting your day at Gwangjang Market is not just about filling your belly; it's about immersing yourself in the heart and soul of the city. So, embrace the hustle and bustle, savor the flavors, and let the market's vibrant energy fuel your Seoul adventure!

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