30 June 2012

Seoul: Kwang Jang Market

This market is enormous; about a fifth of a mile long and a block wide.  It's covered the whole way, despite its impression of being open-air, and many shops have AC blasting, thank goodness.  The sheer density of shops, food stands, and people in here is incredible.  Good thing I'm vegan - if I were any fatter I would've gotten stuck in a crevice somewhere.

Kwang Jang Market
6-1 Yeji-dong
Jongno-gu, Seoul
South Korea
(31-82) 2-2267-0291

I chose to eat at this particular stand because the woman in charge seemed friendly, but you could grab vegan fare almost anywhere - although I'd avoid the places with cooked pig snouts if I were you.  In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll need five minutes outside in the fresh air to recover from the mere sight of a dozen pig noses attached to surrounding facial skin piled on top of each other, so... good luck.  Or something.

For W5,000 ($4.38), I got a small dish of kimchi and of greens, a cup of iced tea (storebought, from a bottle, and mercifully unsweetened), and a bowl of cold noodle and soy "bean" soup.  Obviously, the kimchi was great.*  (Is it ever not?)  The greens were good and pungent, cold, and slightly spicy.  The soup...

Imagine a bowl of simple cereal.  You'd pour cold soymilk over it and scarf.  Yes?  Well, now imagine that instead of cereal in your bowl of (unsweetened) soymilk, you have noodles.  And a little cucumber, sesame seeds, salt, and ice cubes.

Because I was sitting at the place counter style, facing the woman in charge, I had to fight to keep my face from imploding.  I started dumping my greens on the soup.  The woman looked disgusted and told me "No, no, no, no."  So I took the greens back out.  She didn't object when I added kimchi, though.  If it weren't for the kimchi I would have blown chunks.  I actually enjoyed the soup after that point - flavorful, noodley, and refreshingly cold.  Kimchi works wonders.

I couldn't finish.  Not even close.  But I did fill my belly with something that wasn't once on the face of a pig.

* Kimchi is made from cabbage (or other vegetable) pickled in super spicy chili sauce.  It's super common.  Just like ketchup, but better in every way.  So, not really at all like ketchup.  It's on a higher level of enlightenment, like Dijon mustard and Alicia Silverstone.

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