If there is one thing I love most when visiting a country, it’s to check out the local markets. And when I go check out the local markets, I go straight for the food stalls. Because there’s nothing better than cheap, delicious street food…and being half-Dutch, trust me, I love a good bargain….and being half-Malaysian, trust me, I love delicious food.
My family and I were visiting Seoul, South Korea and decided to see Gwangjang Market. We went fairly early (with two young kids you don’t really have a choice in wake-up times) as the stall owners were just setting up their wares – the shouting as one stall owner greeted another, the clanging of trolleys being rolled from one end to another, the crisp, winter air kissing our cheeks despite being indoors.
I knew where I wanted to go, and that was directly to the food section of the market. We blitzed through the clothing area and as we turned a corner, we were rewarded with delicately placed bowls of fresh seafood and noodles waiting to go into a pot, fish strung-up to dry and lots and lots of kimchi, the classic along with variations.
We slowed down our pace, stopping to see what was on offer, each stall owner as friendly as the one before. “Come and try! Here, here”* (this is what I am assuming they said, as they picked up some samples of the food they had). Then, as we explored further, we reached the main food hall.
Steam snaked and rose-up towards the high-ceilings of the market place, the decibel level increased as tourists and shopkeepers alike yelled above the clang of pots and pans, the sizzling of things being fried, and the bubbling of things being simmered.
The colours popped – the deep, rich, chilli red of the sauce the rice cakes (tteokbokki) where being doused in, the orange of the carrots in the rice rolls (mayak gimbap), and the yellow of the mung bean cake (bindaetteok). The last on this list is what we stopped to try, as apparently this market is known for some good ones.
We waited for the stall owner to fry some up, the smell making our bellies rumble in anticipation. It was simple, no fuss. Take the batter with a laddle, plop it onto the griddle. The packaging was also no fuss – just a cardboard wrapped with aluminium to keep it warm. But boy was it delicious. It was crunchy on the outside, slightly soft in the middle and the accompanying soy, vinegar and onion sauce elevated the bindaetteok’s simple flavours.
It’s been a couple of years since I went to Gwangjang Market and ate bindaetteok, but it definitely left an impression on me. So I want to know, which food you ate while travelling has left a lasting impression on you? I want to know and maybe I’ll be able to try it too!