Korean Markets – Seoul – Korea
In July this year (2013), I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Seoul, South Korea. This is a massive city of millions and one of the driving culinary and cultural forces within the Asian continent. Korea is responsible for K-Pop, Korean BBQ, Kimchi, Bibimbap, Soju and Psy (Gangnam Style) just to name a few. Some of which have had a positive impact on our world, but others have done quite the opposite – Psy and Soju in particular. I was excited. Even on my Korean Air flight they served traditional Korean food such as Bibimbap, so I knew this was going to be a culinary treat.
I have a couple of good friends that live in Seoul, so they showed me around while I was there. One day in particular my friend Grant took me to a local Korean market. This was a great experience and I would highly recommend anybody travelling in Asia to check out the markets, eat the street food and dine at the market stalls. Eat with the locals and you will not be disappointed. There is nothing better than traditional food prepared locally.
We ended up in a market that wasn’t geared towards tourism at all. It helped service local Koreans and housed some fabric shops, a few kitchen suppliers, and of course a central food court that lined the rows. There were lots of stalls selling food for consumption but there were also some butchers and fish mongrels that sold food for preparation. We stopped at one of the restaurant style stalls.
Two women who appeared as mother/daughter worked the stall and could barely speak English. They were making a couple varieties of soup with homemade hand cut noodles and dumplings. They also accompanied the soups with a few homemade condiments made of spice and sauce. Chilli peppers are not hard to come by throughout Asia and Seoul was no exception.
I ordered one of the noodle soups and the women went to work. They immediately started kneeing the dough and manipulating it in a way that I could not even dream about. Their work was second nature to them and it was a beautiful and natural thing to watch, all while laughing and joking around about spice and interacting with us as best they could with the language barrier. The dough was rolled out and cut by hand into varying noodle sizes and shapes to suit any given soup.
Eventually when all of the ingredients were prepared, they were placed in a mesh strainer and dunked in the pot of simmering broth that was bubbling away from behind. The dish was cooked in front of us from start to finish, placed in a bowl and topped with hot broth from the mother pot. It was a beautiful experience and the women were lovely.
I was served my soup along with my company. We sat at the eating station and continued to watch their intimate interaction with food and purpose. I grabbed my traditional metal Korean chopsticks and dug in. The soup was adjusted according to taste and preference with the array of condiments present, and we ate. This is how food should be experienced, as simply that, an experience. Too often in our current world we forget about how important food is to us and our survival. Food and eating should be more than just filling a void, but it should be interaction, love, purpose and fulfilment. This was all of these, food the way it should be.
- Rules of Korean Dining – Fact versus Fiction (derekversuslonelyplanet.com)
- seoul eats: the street food edition (eatfullest.com)
- Top 10 South Korea (edition.cnn.com)
- Korean Cuisine is My New Love (isastudentblog.wordpress.com)
- By popular demand, more on Korea (itsallhoodep.wordpress.com)