I love cities with a thriving street food culture. Seoul’s is particularly wonderful because on top of there being a wide variety of delicious foods, the stands in Gwangjang market come with heated benches, the likes of which I have never seen in the US. Imagine my surprise and delight when after hours of walking through the cold, snowy streets, I plop down on a bench for a late lunch and find it fabulously toasty. It’s like finding five bucks on the ground. They made my lunch so much better. These may not look like much, but trust me, they’re the best thing to pair with a bowl of hot soup on a cold day.
On to the dumplings: Near one end of the main prepared food alley, you’ll find the dumpling stands, stretching as far as the eye can see, each with large platters covered in mounds of handmade dumplings.
That’s how these markets are organized, actually. Anything you might want, if they sell it, you’ll find at least a dozen stalls with it, all clustered together. With competition like that though, they have to be good. So just pick one that looks popular and claim yourself a warm, toasty spot next to a local.
Most have some English on the menu even if the shopkeeps don’t speak it themselves, and pointing worked just fine for me. Here’s one of the menus and as far as I can tell, it’s reasonably representative of the cost and options. All the options at this particular stand are a convenient ₩5000, which is less than $5 at the current exchange rate. It’s an amazingly cheap lunch considering the labor that goes into making them!
The steamed kimchi dumplings are great, but don’t let the name scare you. It’s not just filled with kimchi. The kimchi gives it a bit of flavor and slightly crunchy texture, but isn’t overpowering. To be honest though, I’m not sure what else is in them so if you have any food allergies, I can’t help you there. My order came with two kinds of dumplings (flavored with different kinds of kimchi?) but otherwise looked just like the photo on the menu. I’m a fan of truth in advertising!
Here it is from another stand, in steaming hot soup form.
And of course, what is a meal in Korea without some kimchi on the side? This stand offers two kinds and some dipping sauce. Maybe these are the kinds of kimchi used to flavor the dumplings above?