An Evening of Good Eats: Tongin Market

Last week, a group of friends and I, along with our mentors from the 한밀레 (Hanmille) Program took a trip to a traditional Korean market to try out some Korean street food. Initially, we had planned to check out Gwangjang Market, closer to Hanyang (한양대학교), but that market closes earlier in the day, so we opted for somewhere else: Tongin Market(통인시장)

 

A Bit of Background

Tongin Market was originally made to cater to Japanese residents from while Korea was under Japanese rule. After the Korean war, the market expanded quickly to serve the boom in Korean population and remains a popular spot for both locals and foreigners, conveniently close to Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁역).

Aside from the hustle and bustle of an Asian market and regular street food stalls, Tongin market also has a Dosirak Cafe (도시락까페) that gives you the option of opting to build your own dosirak, or Korean lunch box. For ₩5,000, you are given five tokens you can exchange for different types of food to fill your lunchbox.

The tokens you receive from the Dosirak Cafe to exchange with the different market vendors. Source: http://thesoulofseoul.net/2014/08/24/tong-in-market-eating-on-a-budget/

 

Getting There

Source: Google Maps

Getting to Tongin from Hanyang is a short train ride and 10-minute stroll from campus:

  • Take the Inner Circle Line 2 (Green Line) from Hanyang University Station to Euljiro 3-Ga Station
  • At the station, transfer onto a Line 3 (Orange Line) headed to Bulgwang. Take this train to Gyeongbokgung Station
  • Take either Exit #1 or #2 at Gyeongbokgung Station and walk north along the main road, take a left and follow the route highlighted in blue on the above map, and you should hit the same entrance we used to get into Tongin

Tongin Market Entrance

 

The Vibes

For a market open in the evenings, I noticed how quiet it was. There were a few customers walking up and down the stalls, but for the most part, it was a lot tamer than what I would expect from a night market. Probably one third of the stalls were closed and didn’t do much to Some of our Korean mentors mentioned it might have been the day of the week that we went (it was a Tuesday) or the fact that it was White Day (화이트데이), but it did slightly change the atmosphere for the evening. Additionally, I don’t think any of us were aware of the Dosirak Cafe (either that, or it was closed), so we only went up and paid for our food separately.

Despite that, the lack of crowds did give us a better sweep of the market. We didn’t wait very long for any of the food, and the the open space gave us a bit more arm room that many of us Westerners were more comfortable with.

Below: overall, Tongin Market was fairly quiet but there were still a number of food vendors open during the evening.

 

The Food

By far, the highlight of the market was definitely the food. It was great getting to experience so many new flavours and to try it in a setting that was a lot more authentic than being in a very tourist-filled area.

 

(1) Hot Dogs

Not very different from hot dogs-on-stick that are sold in North America, but there were a number of toppings I wouldn’t have expected if I were in North America. There were options like having pieces of potato fried and battered over your hotdog, as well as the option of having your hot dog coated in sugar. My friend even opted to have a thin coat of wasabi around their hot dog before being put into the fryer (pictured below). Each choice was between ₩1,000 and ₩1,500.

You can’t see it very well in the picture, but the inside batter of the hot dog took a lighter green tint because of the wasabi coating the hot dog.

 

(2) Cup Chicken

Again, nothing brand new for foreigners, but it the chicken was cooked in a sweet-spicy sauce and included some ddeokbokki (떡볶이; small rice cakes) as well. For the cup, I only paid ₩1,000.

Cup chicken with ddeokbokki underneath

 

(3) Yenal Ddeokbokki (옛날 떡볶이)

A different take on Ddeokbokki. This ddeokbokki is thinner and fried in a wok in two versions: garlic and oil, or hot chili flakes. I opted for the hot version, and my friend got the garlic and oil version. I’m not a big spicy-food fan, but I liked the heat that came with this one. The big cup of yenal ddeokbokki cost me ₩3,000. As a bonus, apparently this type of fried ddeokbokki is an uncommon cooking method and is a specialty of the woman who owns the spot we visited – she’s been making them like this for 20 years.

https://youtu.be/EvDccu_HbLo

Red chilli flake yenal ddeokbokki being fried in a wok.

 

(4) Hotteok (호떡)

I passed this stall quickly a few times before my friend pulled me along to order something. Hotteok are essentially a sweet version of a Korean pancake. As the video below shows, batter is filled with sweet ingredients like brown sugar, honey and pinenuts, and then fried to a golden brown. My friend had mentioned he had tried the honey hotteok (꿀호떡, ggul hotteok) previously and recommended it, so I got some for myself. Made right in front of us, and warm and chewy when you first bite into it, this only cost me ₩1,000.

The menu at the hotteok vendor

Check out my videos taken at the stand!

 

(5) Wine & Cheese Yakitori

This was a big hit with our group. Grilled chicken on skewers, covered in various sauces. Most of the options available were spicy. Even the wine & cheese option that all of us picked had a bit of heat. Definitely a safe bet for a familiar starting point if you’re a bit apprehensive to dive into other dishes.

Wine & Cheese Yakitori (와인치즈 닭꼬치)

 

Overall, the evening was definitely a fun one. A few of us made the mistake of ordering too much food in the market, as we ended up going for a proper meal afterwards. But, if you’re looking to try some authentic, tasty and really affordable Korean foods, definitely check out Tongin Market!

 

Sources

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=1823985

http://www.theseoulguide.com/sights/markets-and-shopping/tongin-market/

http://english.visitseoul.net/attractions/Tongin-Market_/282

 

Article by Kevin from Canada

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