If you're traveling to South Korea in 2022 and are curious to what are the latest taste bud trends of one of the trendiest countries in the world, look no further than Mangwon Market (망원시장) in Seoul! South Korea is a country where tradition meets trendy and unique! Mangwon Market, which is still considered a traditional market boasts some of the most unique eats in town! We break down some of our favorites! Read on!
Just a short walk from Mangwon Station (Line 6 Seoul Subway) and you will enter a portal into what is traditionally "Korean" with elders lining the smallest of streets selling their vegetables and other cheap goods.
For Asian-style market, Mangwon is considered to be pretty clean and doesn't smell much, like other markets. Walking through the only indoor street of the market, you can smell a variety of delicious fried goodness from donuts to the "real KFC", Korean fried chicken! Of course, we stopped for some rice battered donuts before heading to lunch.
If you love carbs (I mean, who doesn't?) then lunch will be an amazing experience! We decided to go to a Kal-guksu 칼국수 (handmade, knife-cut wheat flour soup noodles) restaurant. Kal-guksu is traditionally a seasonal food, mostly consumed in the summer months.
We ordered two of each of their famous noodle dishes, Son Kal-guksu 손칼국수 (long noodles) and Son Sujebi 손수제비 (hand-pulled dough soup), sort of like a Korean pasta soup dish. Each bowl was 4,500 Korean won ($3.45 USD)! I'd say that is an excellent deal for lunch! With a side of homemade kimchi, it was a filling meal! The exterior of the noodles provided a soft crunch with a nice chewy texture in the middle, like how a perfect noodle should taste!
After a hearty lunch, we definitely had to stop by two of Mangwon Market's most famous foods, Korean-style meatballs 떡갈비 (minced beef grilled patties or balls), and deep-fried stuffed jalapeños! Koreans definitely take their foods seriously as you probably should get to the market pretty early in the morning, if you're planning on going on the weekend. Luckily, it was a Friday, so there weren't as many people, but we still had to wait for 15 to 20 minutes once we ordered their famous meatballs. These babies are no joke. They are hand-formed and placed right on the hot grill in front of all the customers. I could see everyone's mouths water as they were forced to stand right in front of the grill master!
Each pack of meatballs comes with five baseball-sized balls, two spicy and three regular (I prefer the regular since you can taste it with the spicy white wasabi sauce it comes with). The meatballs are mixed with a variety of veggies and carrots and they are absolutely to die for!
Right before we exited for dessert, we had to stop by and grab deep-friend stuffed jalapeños! Right when we walked up to the restaurant, we could tell we would have to wait in line for about 15 minutes. The server was taking everyone's orders and by the time it was our turn, there weren't any open seats so we decided to take it to go.
When it comes to fried foods in South Korea, they are usually paired with alcohol. So standing in front of the restaurant was a library-sized shelf full of traditional Korean liquor that the restaurant suggests being paired with the variety of fried foods they offer! This restaurant offers three stuffed jalapeños for 9,900 won ($7.64 USD). Each jalapeño was double the length of my wife's finger! The crispy exterior was a delight to bite into and when I got to the filling, my mouth was salivating! There was a mixture of ground pork with seasoned vegetables and paired with an onion soy sauce, was a taste of heaven!
Right before we left the market, we had to stop by one of Seoul's hottest bakeries, which happened to be right across the street. The bakery, aptly named, Ugly Bakery, provided the necessary sweetness to our meals! Although the line wasn't particularly long today, I would recommend going as early as possible during the weekends since the queue goes down the street during those times.
There are numerous types of desserts, breads, and sandwiches so we decided to get some we haven't tried before. I would say their Shu cream breads were definitely a must-try.
Mangwon Market is definitely a must-visit if you're in Seoul! It is right next to Hongdae, which is the hipster art area for K-pop and K-drama paraphernalia. Although there are numerous shops and restaurants in the area, we highly recommend trying out some of the foods mentioned above! If you've been there, let us know which are your favorites! If you can't wait to go, which foods are you most excited to try?