We all know that one of the best aspects of Seoul life is the cheap and readily available barbeque, donkas and kimbap – not to forget the plethora of western-style bakeries where you can stuff your face with all manner of korea-fied goodies. But for those of us for whom cooking means more than picking up a phone or setting a microwave to stun, it can be a different matter. The foreigners’ lot is to be crippled by an oven-less existence.
If you want to defy the naysayers and try your hand at creating your own culinary masterpiece, then Garak market is the place for you.
Situated in south-eastern Seoul on the outer reaches of Songpa, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a long way to go for your fruit and veg. You would, however, be drastically wrong. Divided into separate sections for fish, fruits, vegetables, meat and even livestock (rumour has it you can purchase a live cow), Garak is the best place to go for wholesale-priced, fresh ingredients. Not only will you find Korean staples in large quantities and at great value, but also more elusive fare for recreating your favourite comfort foods from home. My proudest catch of the day was a gigantic bushel of fresh coriander, which cost only 2000 won and went into my latest batch of home-made salsa!
We attempted to follow the signs to the elusive livestock section; past the slaughterhouses, butchers and the smell of manure, but unfortunately we were unable to locate it. This of course means we can’t verify the cattle purchasing rumour, but we’ll have another go at finding it for you before barbeque weather kicks back in. If this isn’t enough to assuage your thirst for blood though, then head to Garak’s fish section.
The seafood chunk of the market is probably the most prestigious. Filled will all manner of creatures from the depths of the yellow sea, Garak’s fish market is an intense combination of smells, sights and a wildlife documentary. All around you critters reach out with fin, claw and tentacle, trying to escape their impending, delicious doom. Be sure to keep moving around here to avoid the hustlers and keep your photography stealthy if you don’t want an earful of angry Korean. You can actually purchase a fish here and have it taken to an on-site restaurant to be prepared and then served with a variety of free side dishes. Just take a Korean friend with you to avoid paying waygook-tax.
Garak market is in Songpa-gu at the intersection of lines 8 and 3 (pink and orange), and is open 24 hours a day for when you get that 3am craving for live octopus.