At Namdaemun Market, Pt. 2: Eating (Seoul, March 2023)

Here is my third report from the place that was my second favourite to visit in Seoul on my trip in March: Namdaemun Market. I went there three days in a row and ate lunch there on all three days. My first report was of my lunch there on the second visit, eaten at their famous Kalguksu Alley. My second report was a broader look at the market, focussing on the dry and wet market sections and their other famous food alley: Hairtail Alley (I did not eat there on this trip). This report gives you a look at the other food vendors of the market—the ones who are set up, formally or informally on the market’s main drags. A few are restaurants; some have restaurant’ish spaces attached; some are counters—you eat standing there; some are street vendors—you take your food and eat it somewhere else.

The massive slideshow below begins with a walk around the market—starting at the entrance at Namdaemun-ro as you walk down to it from the direction of Sungnyemun Gate. As all my visits to the market followed visits to the Seoul Museum of Art, this is the direction from which I arrived on each visit. At the market entrance here is an extremely popular hotteok vendor: there’s always a massive queue snaking around opposite them. As to whether their hotteok is better than those sold by other vendors at the market, I don’t know; I don’t like standing in long lines. I did get some very good hotteok from another vendor on my first visit, and if this more popular vendor is actually much better, they must be very good indeed. Or maybe they’re popular because they’re popular.

On that first visit, I failed to find Kalguksu Alley. But I was happy enough with my lunch of eomuk (fish cake on a skewer with some of the broth it was steamed in) and tteokboki (rice cakes in a spicy sauce). These I ate standing in front of the counter that sold them; I then got some gimpap to go as I wandered the market further. The aforementioned hotteok was my dessert (see this Reel on Instagram of the hotteok being made). On my second visit, I found and ate at Kalguksu Alley. Looking for dessert after, I accidentally bought a savoury fried pastry—very few of the informal vendors have much English and many places have no English signage. I happily ate it and then successfully bought a sweet one.

On my third visit, I finally ate some bindaetteok, or mung bean pancakes, from a vendor I’d had my eye on from the moment I’d entered the market on the first day. They have a small restaurant attached but I preferred to hang out in front, where I watched the bindaetteok being made (somehow I’ve not uploaded a Reel of this yet), and got some to go. First, one with pork to whet the appetite and then a larger order of classic bindaetteok which I ate sitting down by the street outside the market.

All in all, these are what are known as good times. And I expect to repeat them in good measure when I’ll be back with the family (and a slew of students) in February/March 2024. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get some hotteok from the ultra-popular vendor.

Click on a pic below to launch the truly excessive slideshow. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.

The last Glenallachie review of the week will be posted tomorrow. On the weekend I’ll have my penultimate Goa report and possibly another Seoul report. Let’s see how it goes.


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