The Korean Traditional Market

I took a walk through the Korean traditional Market close to Hwagok Station in Seoul  today.  Korean traditional markets are outdoors. The young Koreans love the hamburgers, pizzas, and fried chicken coming in from the west, but the older people still eat the traditional food, and the mothers are still making traditional food for the children.  At the traditional market, you can find this traditional unusual food.  The people at the traditional market do pretty well for themselves. I had a student who when he was in middle school just before Christmas, went to a chocolate factory and bought a bunch of chocolate, then went to the traditional market to sell it, and he made enough money to pay for all of his college plus take care of himself financially while he was in college. He didn’t have to live in the dorm like the other students, but paid for his own apartment. You know what chocolate is, but you probably haven’t seen a lot of the things at the traditional market, either that, or you wouldn’t know what to do with the things they sell there.  I will explain what you are looking at as I go.

The entrance to the traditional market
This is easy. Someone has been picking mushrooms, but not all of the pictures would be easy for you to identify.


You probably recognize the beans and garlic in the top box, but what are the things in the bottom box?  I have no idea.  The Koreans eat all kinds of things like this I don’t even recognize.
These I recognize.  These are rice cakes. Inside, there is probably some kind of nondescript seeds or sweet beans. They are good. The color makes no difference. They are all made of rice flour, and the color is there because there may be a kind of grass or flowers ground into the rice flour, but it doesn’t change the taste.  They are called seongpyeong. You may have seen them on my blog before.
These are more seongpyeong (rice cakes).  I especially like the white ones.  They have sweet beans in the middle and powdered sugar on the outside.  Usually, though seongpyeong have no sugar in them. The white ones with powdered sugar on the outside originally come from Japan and the Japanese call them Omochi.  The little black seeds on the seongpyeong at the top are poppy seeds.
This is kimchee, the stuff the Koreans eat at every meal, including breakfast.  It is pickled cabbage loaded up with chili spice, garlic, etc., whatever is spicy. There was a lady at the market with all kinds of homemade kimchee. She probably has a really good business because the homemade stuff they say is much better than what you can buy in a can.  They were selling all different kinds of kimchee, but this is the most common type of kimchee.
These are dried dates.  I haven’t tried any, but my Korean son in law says they are sweet, and he likes them. If you look the Korean word up in the dictionary, they give the definition in English as Jujubes. The Koreans call them betchoo.
I don’t know the name of these, but I have eaten them. They are a bit strange.  When I ate them, they were in Japanese soup. They tell me they are a kind of vegetable found in the ocean.
I haven’t tried these, but I know they are pickled quail eggs.
These are the insides of clams. I saw some ladies sitting there opening clams and taking the insides out to sell them.  You can also buy the whole clam at this market, shell and all.
This is chapchay.  It is a holiday dish.  Those are clear, greasy noodles you see with vegetables mixed in.  When I talk to younger women, none of them know how to make this.  When you read their books, they talk like all the kids just can’t wait to eat this on the holidays, but when I talked to people, a lot of people don’t really like chapchay, and I was surprised because it is a holiday dish.  It is edible, but when I ate it, I actually expected more because they gave it such a big build up.
Anyone know what to do with fresh baby octopus?
Most of the fish they sell in this market are whole and some are still alive, but someone has gone as far a gutting these fish for their customers.  There were also lots of packages of dried fish. I really wouldn’t know what kinds of fish they have, I don’t recognize them and wouldn’t know if they are any good or not. I thought when my daughter married a Korean, I could get some information about the fish so I could buy some and fix it, but he didn’t know anything about the fish either.
These are traditional “cookies” they eat on holidays. They call them cookies, but there are no flour in them.  They are very light and are made of spun sugar.  They are really tasty.
How could you have anything traditionally Korean without including ginseng? They really believe in ginseng. They think it is a cure all. However, when I first got here, I looked it up on the internet, and there have been modern scientific tests made on ginseng, and it doesn’t have the power that Koreans think it does, but you can’t tell them that.
There is always lots of street food at the traditional market.  This lady is actually making and selling tempura.  I ate it first in Japan, and when I first ate it, it seemed really strange because they were frying vegetables.  The only part I wanted to eat was the fried shrimp. However, with time, after I got over the idea of fried vegetables, I learned that tempura is absolutely delicious!  Sometimes, I make tempura at home, and my kids never struggled with the fried vegetables. They have always loved tempura.  They batter and deep fat fry things like carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, etc.

I took lots more pictures, but this gives you the idea of what you will see if you go to the traditional market.  These things are completely normal to the Koreans.  The pizza, hamburgers, and fried chicken are the things that are exotic to them.  This is what they ate before western food came into Korea, and they still eat this stuff at home.  The young people have completely embraced the food from the west, but a lot of older people have trouble with it.  The older people still want to eat their traditional food.  If they don’t know how to make it or don’t want to take time to make what they want, there is probably someone making what they want at the traditional market. I hoped you enjoyed the strange food at the traditional market.

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