First started in 1905, 광장시장 Gwangjang Market 廣藏市場 is one of the oldest, and largest traditional markets in South Korea.
Our first visit to the market was close to 9pm, and the food street bustling with lots of action!
There were many food stalls with customers crowding at the benches surrounding the stall to eat, and everything looked so delicious!
We made a round trying to decide what to eat, and eventually returned back on another night to finish whatever that we wanted to try 🙂
We had been eyeing the 빈대떡 (Bindaetteok) Fried Mungbean Cake 綠豆煎餅, and finally saw one stall that sold it by the quarter (₩1,000 per quarter). Most stalls sell it whole (₩4,000), but we would have been too full to try other stuff.
Though we did not get a freshly-fried one (there was a quarter sitting on the grill for a while), the bindaetteok was still crispy, and in the inside was not as mushy as we had expected. Overall, it felt lighter than expected, and was not too greasy.
I really, really wanted to try some 산낙지 (Sannakji) Live Octopus 活章魚, but was also worried that it might be too much for the 2 of us.
Here at Gwangjang Market, many stalls were selling small live octopus. Some of the octopus were rather inactive in the tank, and some of them were already motionless when served.
Finally, we were attracted by the friendly and cheerful ajumma at Stall 63, who was posing with her octopus for us to take pictures, and more importantly, we thought that the sashimi and live octopus that she was serving to other customers looked fresh. Once we were settled down, another younger lady who spoke some English, took our orders.
We shared a plate of 산낙지 (Sannakji) Live Octopus 活章魚 (₩15,000), and I think ours had additional seaweed, sesame oil, and sesame compared to the local customers; perhaps they were worried that we might not appreciate the full raw taste. The octopus was cut into small pieces before being served, but the tentacles were still wriggling away due to the nerve activity. After lots of video, and mustering up some courage, we each picked up a wriggling piece, put it inside our mouths, and chew really hard and fast 😛 It was quite fun eating it, and not at all fishy. Each piece was fresh and firm with a good bite, and sesame oil and seaweed complemented the octopus well.
Feeling quite encouraged after finishing the octopus, we pointed at this spiked sea-shell-looking thingy, that we had saw in 노량진수산물도매시장 Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market 鷺梁津水產市場, but had no idea what it was.
The young lady tried hard to explain what it was, and searched online to show us pictures and translation, how sweet of her! This was actually 멍게 (Meongge), which is known as Sea Squirt, or Sea Pineapple 海菠蘿. We wanted to try just one, but the young lady and the ajumma launched into a lengthy discussion, and it seemed impossible to sell us just one, so the young lady suggested that we take 2 for ₩5,000.
Hmm, when I took a first bite, some briny juice squirted out 😮 It was weird! The texture of the flesh was a little rubbery… and, tasted, erm, just really strange. Not our cup of tea. We would choose the live octopus over this 😛
We figured that we had enough raw food for the night, and decided to check out another hugely popular item in Gwangjang Market, the 마약김밥 (Mayak Kimbap/Gimbap) Drug Seaweed Rice Rolls 麻藥飯捲. Apparently, it was as addictive as drugs 😮
Each rice roll was smaller than the usual Gimbap, and they are not sold individually. Eventually, we settled down at Stall 17, and bought 8 rolls for ₩2,000. The rice rolls were served with a dipping sauce, and were delicious and filling.
We returned back 2 days later, to check out the rest of the market, which was super huge and selling lots of stuff! Of course, it was just window-shopping for us, and we went on to try out 육회 (Yukhoe) Korean Beef Tartare 生拌牛肉 (₩12,000) and 생간 (Saenggan) with 천엽 (Cheonyeop) Cow Liver with Tripe 牛肝牛柏葉 (₩12,000). Again, prices appeared fixed, and we simply chose a restaurant that seemed to be serving fresh beef.
Once we were settled down, a Chinese-speaking staff came to take our orders, and basically explained to us on how to eat the food.
The beef tartare was served with a raw egg on top, and strips of Korean pear underneath it. We liked this very much. The beef was served at room temperature and tasted fresh, and the pear gave it a refreshing lift, so it did not feel like the beef was too overwhelming. We also enjoyed the very fresh liver which was almost like jelly, and melted in our mouths!
If you still remember, my friends call me a vampire, since I enjoy pig’s blood pudding, goose’s blood pudding, etc 😛
Hence, not everyone may find this dish delightful. The raw beef tripe by itself was quite bland and rubbery, and we still did not like it much after using the dipping sauce. We were also served 2 bowls of complimentary beef soup, which was a lovely finish to our meal.
We were very stuffed, and there were still many other foods that we did not have a chance to try here during our trip. Hopefully, we will be able to visit here again sometime in the future 🙂