Inheon Market: This local market takes place most days, in Nakseongdae near the Nakseongdae metro station, not too far from Seoul National University where we were staying.
Markets are one of our favorite places to visit in a city or town, as they can tell us so much about a country or an area and its cooking, cuisine and culture. So, when out hosts at the Workshop at the SNU campus asked us on our first full day there what we wanted to do, we asked if there was a local fresh food market.
It’s called Inheon Market, the same name as the local primary school. It’s a long narrow street lined with small stalls and shops selling every type of imaginable vegetable, root, and fish and shellfish (and some not-so-imaginable, or at least unknown to us), pork, rice and rice cakes, kimchi, red chile paste, soybean paste, snacks etc.
Many of the vegetables are seasonal, with lots only appearing in spring, so we felt very fortunate to see these “in the raw” here at the market, and then later during our month-long visit to taste many of them. Some of the greens (that we could find the word for) were: mugwort greens, garlic greens, day lily greens, bracken fronds (kosari), on left. Of the roots, we saw lotus root, and deoduk (no English).
Like many markets around the world, it’s vibrant, noisy, colorful, with odors wafting and voices calling out to buy some product.
We slowly wandered its length, stopping and asking innumerable questions. Our hosts were very happy to get out their electronic dictionaries and try to find an English word for some of the things we were seeing. Some could be translated, some not, as probably we just don’t have that item in our country. We were the only non-Koreans there, so it felt really “authentic”, that we were experiencing the market just as the locals do.
What did we see and learn? That Koreans love vegetables and seafood; that seafood can be fresh, dried, or preserved in a paste; that some seafood is very strange-looking; that rice in various forms is an integral part of their cuisine; that many foods are smothered in a bright red chile paste; that prices here at the market are very reasonable; that people are very friendly; that traditional foods have adapted to modern times (example, kimbap (rice rolls) stuffed with ham and cheese, or Spam, or kimchi).
It’s not easy to capture the essence of a market in words, so I’ll try to “summarize” in pictures. These are just a few of our photos, giving a brief look at the huge variety, the colors, the sometimes strangeness, and the different/new products.