Sunday, May 4, 2014

Namdaemun Market and Hottok

A lot of the traditional Korean market places have given way to supermarket chains owned by the monstrous Korean chaebol’s (south Korean business conglomerates) like Samsung or LG. Luckily, a few of the traditional market places still survive and thrive to this day. One such traditional market place is Namdaemun Market.

The market is located next to Namdaemun, the "Great South Gate", which was the main southern gate to the old city. It is the oldest and largest market in Korea. It is also right next to Hoehyeon station (line 4). Exits 5 and 6 are practically in the market. 

-Be prepared to haggle on the price.
-Bring cash.
-Don't visit on a Sunday or a public holiday. Many of the stores will be closed.
-Wear good walking shoes. There is nowhere to sit and rest. 
-Every store has a number above it, like a street address. It makes finding your favourite store easier in future. 

We arrived in the afternoon and (my mother won't be surprised) I was hungry. We stopped at a Hottok (호떡) street vender to get a snack. As is evident by the queue of people, these are really popular and delicious. Apparently there are 3 different ways to cook hottok. baked, pan fried, and deep fried. I've read they are sometimes filled with crushed pine nuts, but today we would be getting the bulgogi hottok (2000won, $2) and japchae hottok (1500won, $1.50). In the picture, it looks like they are the pan fried, but they were actually swimming in oil on the hotplate, so I'm guessing they would be classified as deep fried. 

All freshly made by hand. No store bought mass produced crap here :)

We slowly progressed through the queue which snaked it's way around the stall. 

You can see the people waiting patiently in the background. You know it's good when people are willing to wait in the rain for it. 

Hum. This was the bulgogi hodok. It's filled with meat, vegetables and potato noodles. 

Next to the hodok stall was a guy making fresh juice. We bought some strawberry and banana juice to wash down the hodok. 

nom nom nom.

With the hole in my stomach temporarily filled, we spend some time wandering around Namdaemun Market. 

Each of the hundreds of stalls has their own specialty. It's nothing like the china town I visited in Malaysia where every second stall stocked the same exact crap. In Namdaemun market most of the stalls stock their own unique merchandise, much of which seems to be decent quality. 

Bags, bags, bags!!!

The large jars are ginseng, a plant root that is used in food and traditional medicines throughout Korea and Asia. 


I've visited these markets before, but unfortunately this time we went on a Sunday. Many of the shops and stalls were closed. It really is like night and day, comparing a Sunday with a Saturday or a weekday. Sunday is like a ghost town.


More hats!

Need a tie? You have come to the right place.

The markets are like a 3 dimensional maze. There are basement levels underground you can wander through filled with food, jewelry, bedding, medicine, toys,..... the list goes on.

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