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By Way of Korea

South Korea   |   New York

A Korean food blog and travelogue inspired by

an epicurious New Yorker's journey around South Korea


An Oft-Overlooked Food Gem in Gangnam: Yeongdong Market (Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul)

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

A magnificent Gangnam cityscape greeted me each morning when I peeled back my curtains upon waking up. Surveying the colorfully staggered blocks of buildings and labyrinthine streets, I'd wonder which of them I'd end up in that day.

But before taking off on my next adventure, errands had to be run. The nearest Daiso was waiting to collect my wons in exchange for all of the things I needed (and did not need) for my new officetel. It appeared to be about a fifteen minute walk away in the direction of Nonhyeon-dong, which lied to the rear of my building. Little did I expect to walk into traditional market on my way there.

Down a steep decline and past Nonhyeon Elementary, I followed the route to Daiso suggested by Naver Map until the concrete path met the red brick road on which my fortuitous discovery of Yeongdong Market began.

Some of my favorite varieties of beans, rice, and tea sat in neatly-arranged containers and bags outside a shop. Barley, Chinese millet, mung beans, red beans, green kernel black beans, black rice, dried Solomon's seal, sauces, and condiments - I wouldn't have to look far to shop for my kitchen. The shop owner's attention seemed to be fixed on a TV program, but no potential customer (including me) escaped her impressive peripheral vision.

Severed pig's heads were not something I had expected to so casually spot on my way to buy toiletries, but there they were, faces up in front of Go-Heung-Jip (고흥집), waiting to be carved up for consumption or to be bought for usage as the centerpiece of a gosa table. Meanwhile, a woman stood behind them grappling with a long, freshly-made blood sausage. Every part of the pig - from the head to the trotters and even the blood - serves some purpose at this popular soondae-guk restaurant.

My first day of exploration ended here, but not before I noted a hanwoo butcher, more specialty food shops selling everything from rice cakes to banchan to dried fish, and numerous restaurants which included many great post-work barbecue joints and another soondae-guk spot that would become my favorite in Seoul. Searches for markets had always led me north of the River, so Yeongdong was an unlikely, but most-welcomed find in Gangnam. I returned regularly to my favorite spots, which are to follow this post.

Gosa (*), a ritual to ward off bad luck and attract good luck and fortune, is commonly held by those opening up a new business. A table of foods, of which the pig's head is often the centerpiece, is set up for the ceremony. In Korean culture, pigs signify abundance and money. During the ceremony, people stick money inside the mouth or ears of the pig before bowing to it. More recently, people have begun to use cake replicas as a substitute for the real thing.

Hyundae Soondae-guk (현대 순대국)For 7,000 won ($6 and some change), you're served a piping hot bowl of soondae-guk with rice, kimchi, kkakdugi, raw garlic, green peppers, salted shrimp, and ssamjang. The soup may appear to be slightly lighter than those of other soondae-guk spots, but it certainly doesn't lack depth. When you dig your spoon into the bowl, you may be pleasantly surprised by the liberal serving of meat resting inside. Eighty degrees or twenty degrees outside, this bowl of soup is one I seek out often without regard to the season or weather. Its restorative magic cannot aptly be expressed in words, but can be felt immediately upon finishing the last drop. If you ask for take out, they package the soup, meat, and fixings separately in plastic bags for easy assembly at home. Not preferred, but I've done it before when feeling under the weather.

Black and Sweet Rice Ho-ddeok (stand name unknown)

On the outskirts of the market from which Gangnam-daero can be seen, you can find a black and sweet rice pancake (heukmi-chal-ho-ddeok) stand. Each cake is made to order. A man (sometimes woman) flattens a portion of dough wide enough for it to accommodate a heap of brown sugar filling. The filling is sealed in the dough, which is flattened into perfectly round pancakes and fried in hot oil. These cakes have a beautiful tinge of purple owed to the black rice used. Ho-dduk tastes best when eaten on the spot, so I'd eat the first one there and bring a couple more back home to enjoy with a carton of milk I'd grab from GS25. The cakes would still be warm in the paper bag after a fifteen minute walk and oozed thick, dark brown filling when I split them down the center.

Mat-jjang Ddukbokki (맛짱 떡볶이)When in Yeongdong Market, I always swing by Mat Jjang to pick up 김떡순 (kim-dduk-soon). Formed with the first character of kimbap, ddukbokki, and soondae, kim-dduk-soon is a moniker for this popular bunshik trinity. Most businesses in the market close in the evening, but Mat-Jjang Ddukbokki remains open twenty-four hours a day (not entirely sure about Sundays). I've often waddled here with my summer slippers slapping against my heels to pick up kim-dduk-soon and eo-muk (fishcake) to enjoy at home while watching reruns of Produce 101. When the weather was particularly nice, I'd stand by the food huddled with my neighbors, munching on some fried goguma (sweet potato) and ojing-eo wanja (ground squid patty fried in batter).

Amidst the opulent modernity of Gangnam, Yeongdong Traditional Market remains one of Seoul's lesser-known markets and discreetly endures as Nonhyeon locals' beloved food sanctum. Packed with street food, restaurants, and specialty food shops down every alley, it certainly shouldn't slip under your radar when you're south of the Han.



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"If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel - as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them - wherever you go."

Anthony Bourdain's unmatched relish for adventure and humble approach to food, cultures, and humanity left an indelible impression on my younger self. Imparting on me the courage to veer into the unknown, he inspired me to embrace my vulnerabilities and seek adventures and growth beyond the comforts of home.


In July of 2017, I boarded a one-way flight to Seoul, South Korea. Within the first week of arrival, I signed a lease for an apartment and by the end of August, I had accepted a job offer that relocated me to Pyeongchang and Gangneung, where the Winter Olympics were soon to be held. From there, I had the rare opportunity to explore much of the greater Gangwon Province's beautiful mountainous and coastal regions and their distinctive foods. Once or twice a month, I'd return to Seoul or travel to an unfamiliar region to poke around alleyways, markets, and mountains in search of more good eats and adventures.


By Way of Korea is a storytelling project inspired by the food, places, and faces I encountered throughout Korea. By sharing my fondest memories, notes, and images of Korea, I simply hope to play a small part in piquing greater curiosity about Korean food and culture in my readers.  My content will heavily spotlight, but not be limited to Korean food and culture. 

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