Tong-in Market: Eating on a Budget
Traditional markets dot the map of Seoul with some becoming more popular than others either due to a central location, the size or a delicacy or item you just won’t get anywhere else.
Tong-in Market (통인시장) probably became famous due to it’s location in the high traffic area just west of Gyeongbukgung Palace, but over the years it has become popular with tourists for another reason.
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Tourists from all over come to Korea and though many want to be adventurous and try the spicy and delicious Korean cuisine, going all in and getting a whole meal without knowing what’s in store can be a risk many do not wish to undertake. At Tong-in Market, visitors can opt to pay W5,000 and try just a helping of numerous Korean fare at a great price at the “Dosirak” Cafe, or Lunchbox Cafe, inside. Go there to be cheap or go there to try something new, either way, it’s a good decision for a lunch while out in the city.
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Tong-in Market was established in 1941 as a public market for the Japanese residents in the area at the time, but after the war ended, street vendors and store owners swooped in to grab a spot. Now, 75 shops and stores, mainly focused on delicious Korean food sit side by side ready to share their goods. At the Customer Service Center located in the center of the market, visitors can pay W5,000 and receive a tray much like those used by children in elementary school and a string of coins to pay the vendors. The coins are each worth W500 in the market and most dishes range in price from W500 (1 coin) to W1000 (2 coins) with just a few being as much as W1500 (3 coins).
Spicy side dishes, fried fish and veggies, noodle soups and kimbob (rice rolled in seaweed with other vegetables inside) are ready and waiting to be eaten.
The vendors that are open to accepting the coinage have a sign that sits at their stall and they can be seen slicing, dicing, flipping and frying away in anticipation of hungry customers on the way. Koreans and tourists alike line up to get their share of fried fish, broiled meat, spicy vegetables and more. One of the more popular dishes at the market is the tteokbokki, rice cakes in a spicy sauce, but this isn’t just any tteokbokki. The dish here is different from others you’ll find on street carts around the country because it is stir-fried in oil. At Tong-in this specialty comes with two flavors, the first being just fried in oil or the second fried in oil with a spicy sauce. Don’t miss your chance to try some!
The aromas waft along the corridor and vendors invite you to their stall ready to spoon big helpings into your tray. A helpful hint: walk along the entirety of the one corridor that makes up the market to get a feel for what there is to eat before you dive in at the firs stall. There is something for everyone. After the trays have been filled, head back to the Customer Service Center and walk up the steps to find a two story cafe/ cafeteria to sit down and indulge. There are drinks, rice and utensils provided once upstairs to complete the meal. The cafeteria is only open giving out the trays and coins from 11 to 4, so get there early to get in on the goods.
Tong-in Market (통인시장)
서울특별시 종로구 통인동 10-3
10-3 Tongin-dong Jongno-gu Seoul, Korea
Bus: 1020, 1711, 7016, 7018, 7022, 7212, local bus 09
Subway: Gyeongbukgung Station, exit 2. Walk straight an entrance to the market will appear on your left less than 10 minutes up the road.
Monday – Friday: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 1:00pm
Monday – Friday: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Amenities: restrooms, lunch cafe