Saturday, 25 May 2013

And The Most Popular Guys In Namdaemun Market Are...

...definitely not the K-pop celebrities! Ha-ha-ha!

On my first venture to Namdaemun Market during my first weekend in Seoul as a tourist, I got lost. I think I got out on the wrong exit and ended up on the opposite side. I remember asking for help twice, but since both Korean women didn't speak English (and I couldn't speak survival Korean then!), I just had to find my way back to the correct exit. Fortunately, I was able to buy the souvenirs I had to bring back home: 'Korea' t-shirts, traditional Korean fans and of course, a poster of a popular Korean actor.

Since then, I return to Namdaemun Market every once in a while to buy a few more souvenirs and presents to bring home: ginseng tea and korean drama actor calendars.

But every time I'm in the area, I noticed that most tourists and shoppers don't flock at the souvenir shops or the bag shops or the clothes shops. They flock at the Korean food stalls!

Yes, the most popular guys in the Namdaemun Market are not your favorite K-pop stars or Korean actors and actresses! They are the Korean food vendors!

Just go to the Namdaemun Gate 2 and you will see a long queue of foreign tourists and locals waiting for their turn to get some hotteok or some bindaetteok.

And if you enter through Gate 2, that mandu stall on your left is also a favorite spot, where the Korean lady displays her mandu (Korean dumplings) of all sizes!

Next to that stall is a small bindae-tteok or bindae-duk restaurant, which is also popular to the local office employees during lunch time. The lines could be long during a weekday, but a couple of months ago, my friends Jenny, Sophie and I were lucky to enjoy a meal in this restaurant during a holiday. Bindae-tteok is a pan fried dish with veggies and mung beans inside. How I wanted to describe it, but doing it would just make me drool while I'm writing this. Ha-ha-ha! When eaten warm, it's really yummy, yummy, yummy! 

And on the other side of Namdaemun Market, near Exit 5 of the Hoehyeon Station (Namdaemun Station), another shop attended by a few Korean ajummas, sells hwang mandu (big-sized mandu). This shop also enjoys a long line of regular customers mixed with tourists. And whenever I am in the area, I usually buy a box of mandu (only KRW 6,000 of ten big pieces!) only when there's no long line!  

 But my favorite stall of all, since I have a sweet tooth, is that of the hotteok guys (with green aprons) on that alley leading to the Shinsegae Department store, or if I were coming from Gate 2 of Namdaemun Market, I turn left at the first alley and follow the wafting of the hotteok frying at the next mini-intersection. Hotteok is another pan fried delicacy which is filled with cinnamon, melted brown sugar and sliced nuts. I usually buy two because one is never enough! And it's only KRW 1,000 each! Happiness could be that cheap! Ha-ha-ha!

Sometimes, the lines in front of these guys are so long, the ajumma selling bags at the next stall complains because the hotteok customers cover her shop. Ha-ha-ha! Everyone has to re-align the line.

So, the next time you're walking through the alleys of the Namdaemun Market, observe where shoppers, locals and tourists actually flock, and you can immediately tell that K-pop stars and Korean celebrities are not the most popular people in Namdaemun Market.

The most popular guys are actually the ones who give everyone the most memorable experience of enjoying these Korean delicacies!
I will see you all there!


  1. Food trip! The fact that the lines are too long, it's a shouting evidence of great food.

    As for the train stations and directions in S.Korea, I notice that most bloggers mention that they are a bit confusing to tourists and commuters. Is it true?

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    2. Getting lost in Seoul years ago was easy. Now, they have put signs in English everywhere including the subway stations; they have online info and maps; and most impressive is that they have created apps for walking tours as well which you can use with your smart phone or Ipad. If your sense of directions is good and you researched your itinerary well, you won't need a tour guide at all while roaming Seoul. It's even easier to get lost inside the Mall of Asia in Pasay City, than in Seoul. Ha-ha-ha! My first time in MOA, I got lost twice in one afternoon. In Seoul, I only got lost once on my very first weekend in the country while walking around alone with a primitive map. :-) I would recommend one to use the subway, instead of the city buses, unless one is familiar with the bus route. Although there's a Seoul City Tour Bus, its route is limited to the most popular spots.

    3. Thanks! Even in my past trips to HK and SG, I was more comfortable with the trains. As a typical Filipino, I'm overwhelmed with the number codes of the buses. Which is which? haha

      Sorry about your experience with SM MOA. I'm ashamed to admit it but I haven't explored the mall that much, despite working in Manila. :D I've been backreading your posts and trying to catch up with everything.

      Thanks a lot! Have a great weekend!

    4. Thank you and have a fun and restful weekend, too!

  2. wow your post makes me drool!!^^
    will surely check this out when i go to Korea again this November!
    I went to Namdaemun market during my last day in Seoul last March just to buy pasalubongs to bring back home, so I was really in hurry and didn't explore Namdaemun that much T_T or even tried those street foods.

    And i noticed when i went there, there's some English speaking tourists helper outside the exit in Namdaemun (in Myeongdeong and Dongdaemun too^^).

    1. Yes, you will need time to explore Namdaemun Market and enjoy the street food. Some friends even bought some mandu and hotteok to bring home to Manila on their last day. You can do the same and even start enjoying them while you're waiting for your flight home. Have fun again on your next trip to Korea!

  3. I was able to visit namdaemun market last month. It was my first time to visit the market and I agree, that food stalls are darling of the crowd, we wen ther eto buy kitchen wares though.