Must-Visit Street Food Markets in Seoul

Posted August 18, 2022 in Destination - Last updated May 12, 2024

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It is often said that the best way to get a real sense of the culture and spirit of a city is by wandering around its local markets. When you visit Seoul, you will find that the street food culture in this city is unlike any other. The various street markets usually remain open throughout the year. They offer some of the freshest and most delectable Korean foods. So whether you want to savor the taste of a piping hot hotteok or dig into comfort foods like odeng and tteokbokki, there is no dearth of options in the Korean street food markets. Most of the street food markets are also easily accessible by public transport. In this article, we will list down some must-visit South Korean street food markets that you will find in Seoul. So, let’s dive right in.

Which Korean street food is the best?

There is a broad range of famous Korean food to suit every taste. Here are a few of the must-try dishes when you visit Seoul:

Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki is a Korean dish featuring spicy rice cakes bathed in a sauce made from gochujang, a red chili paste. It’s commonly prepared with fish cakes, vegetables, and boiled eggs, creating a flavorful combination. Despite its fiery red appearance, the sauce leans more towards a sweet and spicy flavor profile. These rice cake skewers are crafted from glutinous rice flour and are often found at various street food vendors throughout Korea.

Kimbap

Kimbap, a Korean favorite, combines steamed white rice with colorful vegetables, pickled radish, eggs, and sometimes meat. Rolled in dried seaweed, its distinct taste comes from sesame oil and seeds in the rice, offering a wholesome mix of textures and flavors. Kimbap is a versatile delight, perfect for snacks or meals, cherished for its nourishing and delicious appeal.

Hotteok

Hotteok are sweet pancakes stuffed with a mix of brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts, then fried until crispy. Sometimes, you’ll also find mung bean pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste. These Korean treats are popular as street food, especially in winter, offering warmth and comfort. Their sweet fillings and crispy texture make hotteok a delightful treat loved by both locals and visitors. Whether you like the classic brown sugar and cinnamon filling or the special mung bean paste version, hotteok is perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings.

Odeng

Odeng, a popular South Korean street food, consists of skewered fish cakes served with a warm broth and can often be found at food carts. These fish cakes are crafted from ground white fish and a mix of starches, resulting in a chewy texture. The broth, made from anchovies, dried kelp, and radish, adds a savory and comforting taste. This dish is particularly favored during chilly months, providing a tasty and warming snack for those strolling by.

Pajeon

Pajeon, a beloved dish in Korean cuisine, consists of savory pancakes filled with green onions and various ingredients like seafood or kimchi. They’re commonly relished as snacks or starters. With a crispy outside and a soft, chewy inside, pajeon is a delightful and tasty choice. Usually, it’s accompanied by a dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil, which adds a tangy and savory touch to each mouthful.

Dakgangjeong

In South Korea, “KFC” stands for Korean fried chicken, not Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s a must-try dish there. The classic Dakgangjeong features crispy fried chicken coated in a sweet chili sauce that’s both sticky and spicy, creating an irresistible flavor combination. The sweetness of the sauce balances out the chili heat perfectly. It’s no surprise that Dakgangjeong has gained popularity not just in Korea but globally as well.

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Namdaemun Where can I get Korean Street Food in Seoul?Market 

Namdaemun Market 

When you think of the oldest street food markets in South Korea, the first name that comes to mind is Namdaemun. This market has existed since the 1400s and houses tons of shops for food and crockery, electronics, fashion, and everything in between. Do you want to dig into delicious and cheap foods? You should not miss the Namdaemun market food street. It is located close to Hoehyeon Station.

The best collection of food stalls can be found near the Kalguksu Alley. You can savor grilled chicken skewers and Dakkochi and try some of the best Tteokbokki you will ever have. The market also has a live seafood section for people who have adventurous taste buds. This section offers a variety of dishes made from an octopus. The best time to visit this market is when the restaurants are in full swing, from mid-morning to post-lunch.

The market is located at 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Hoehyeon-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul.

Gwangjang Market

This is another one of the older street markets of Seoul, dating back to the early 1900s. Although it is most popular for its vegetables, fruits, textiles, and kitchenware markets, it offers some of the best traditional Korean delicacies. For example, you should try the bindaetteok, essentially crispy pancakes made from vegetables, mung beans, and meat served with a tangy dipping sauce. 

Other Gwangjang market foods you should look out for are mayak gimbap or the sesame seaweed roll and soondae, steamed stuffed pig, or cow’s intestines. The Mayak gimbap can be especially addictive, standing true to its name. Another thing to look out for is the makgeolli, a refreshing rice-based spirit.

The market is located at 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 4(sa)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tongin Market

Tongin Market has a fun way to try lots of yummy street food. You buy tokens and use them to make your own lunchbox from different food stalls. For 5000 won, you get 10 tokens and a lunchbox. Then you can go around the market and use 1 or 2 tokens at each stall to fill your lunchbox. Take a walk through the market to see all the options and pick your favorites. Tongin Market is cool because you can try lots of tasty Korean food in one meal.

The market is located at 18 Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Cheongunhyoja-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul.

Noryangjin Fish Market

Another street food market that should not be missed is the Noryangjin market, which is popular for its live seafood stalls. It is the biggest seafood market in Seoul, with more than 800 street vendors making delicacies with fresh seafood. You can buy fresh seafood from the market and then head to the upper floors to get it cooked at reasonable rates. The best way to reach the Noryangjin market is by taking Subway Line 1, which leads to the Noryangjin Station. When you take the bridge over the train tracks, it will lead you to this market. It would be best to reach this market early in the morning.
The market is located at  674 Nodeul-ro, Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul.

Korean Street Food Festivals in Seoul

Seoul is a busy city that never stops, especially when it comes to food. There are lots of festivals celebrating street food throughout the year, making the city a great place for food lovers.

Here are two of the most famous food festivals in Seoul:

Seoul Kimchi Festival

The Seoul Kimchi Festival happens every November and celebrates Korea’s famous dish, kimchi.

At this special event, you can learn about kimchi’s history, join in making kimchi together, and try out different types of this fermented food. Kimchi fried rice is always a hit!

This festival isn’t just about food; it’s also about community and tradition, showing how important kimchi is in Korean culture.

Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market

The Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market happens from March to October and is super fun.

Lots of sellers come to different parts of the city, selling yummy food, cool crafts, and other neat stuff.

You can try tasty snacks like tteokbokki and pajeon, and find pretty handmade things at this lively market.

There’s also live music and cultural stuff going on, making it a must-see for tourists in Seoul during these months.

Street Food Outside Seoul

Beyond Seoul, there’s a whole world of street food waiting to be explored in other Korean cities.

In Busan, the second-largest city, try the ssiat hotteok, a sweet pancake filled with seeds, honey, and cinnamon—it’s a must-try treat.

Jeonju, known as South Korea’s food capital, is famous for bibimbap and bustling food markets. And don’t miss Gwangjang Market in Gyeongju, where you can sample traditional Korean snacks like chalboribbang, a sweet red bean pancake.

Exploring outside of Seoul not only lets you taste unique regional dishes but also gives you a wider view of Korea’s rich food culture.

The Street Food Culture in Korea

The tradition of Korean street food has a deep-rooted history dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Back then, street vendors sold simple snacks and meals to the public, many of which are still popular today.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Korea’s exposure to foreign trade introduced new ingredients and culinary influences. Dishes like kimbap and hotteok were inspired by Japanese and Chinese cuisine, respectively, and have since become staples in Korean food culture.

After the Korean War (1950-1953), street food became vital for many Koreans, offering affordable sustenance during tough times. As Korea’s economy grew, so did its street food culture, expanding the variety of dishes available.

Today, Korean street food is a significant part of the country’s culinary identity. Food markets are lively places where locals and visitors can enjoy a wide range of delicious dishes.

These markets also serve as social hubs, bringing people together to eat, drink, and socialize, showcasing food’s role in fostering community.

When you’re in Korea, be sure to explore the vibrant street food scene to experience the rich tapestry of Korean culture.

Summary:

Exploring the vibrant street food markets of Seoul is not just a culinary adventure; it’s a journey through the heart and soul of Korean culture. From the bustling stalls of Namdaemun Market to the historical charm of Gwangjang Market, each market offers a unique gastronomic experience that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Whether you’re indulging in the spicy delights of tteokbokki or savoring the sweet warmth of hotteok, these street food markets promise an unforgettable culinary escapade.

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