Suwon’s traditional Nam-mun Market a Korean treat

Suwon galbi; Photo courtesy of Suwon city hall
Suwon galbi; Photo courtesy of Suwon city hall

Suwon’s traditional Nam-mun Market a Korean treat

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

For tourists seeking to sample street food and eat like a local, a stop at Nam-mun Market, near Suwon Hwaseong, is a must.

This is Suwon’s largest traditional market, covering a total area of 164 square meters and featuring over 80 kiosks selling a variety of food and goods. The market, once divided into nine markets, including Jidong market, was integrated under the name Nam-mun last year, but many locals still use the old names.

Suwon, which had the biggest cattle market from the Joseon Dynasty (1392 -1897) to the 1940s, now relies on its many galbi restaurants and is the place for visitors seeking out the signature dish. For specialty galbi, upscale restaurants Gabojung, Bonsuwon and Silla Galbi, are well-known for serving high-quality beef with a well-seasoned, deep and rich taste profile. Unsurprisingly, indulging at these restaurants will cost you (from $20-50 for one person) since the galbi made of Hanwoo (Korean beef) is considered a premium delicacy.

For those seeking a local food experience that is easier on the wallet, head to traditional markets near the fortress only a short 5-minute walk away.

Sundae gukbap - Korean blood sausage rice soup

During my visit to Suwon Hwaseong, I decided to take a break at the market and explore. At the entrance of Jidong Market, a crowd was gathered around a steaming dumpling stand trying to appease their hunger with mandu, Korean for dumplings. The dumpling skin was very chewy, and the filling had an interesting taste with its various ingredients mixed up with Kimchi. You’ll also find dumplings filled with beef or pork, ginger and garlic at the market. If you prefer fried dumplings, Boyeong, Boyong or Suwon mandu shops would be a good option for a quick bite.

Deeper into Jidong Market and you’ll hit Sundae Town, but here you won’t find ice cream or any type of dessert. In Korea, sundae means Korean blood sausage, so beware! Sundae Town features 20 sundae eateries where you can get blood sausage or “sundae gukbap,” Korean blood sausage rice soup. Sundae is a quintessential staple food for the common Korean, enjoyed with good friends over a drink like soju or makgeolli and preferably in a loud and hectic atmosphere. I ordered boiled sundae gukbap (about $5) since it was still slightly chilly at night. I slurped down the hot zesty soup that was hot enough to warm me up. My soup came with free rice and side dishes from the generous restaurant owner. Though this unfamiliar food might not be something many tourists might seek out, the price is too enticing to resist trying it at least once.

Chicken Alley nearby might be a better option if Korean sundae isn’t for you. Visitors will find chicken restaurants that have been here for over 30 years. Just a 5-minute walk from Paldal-mun Gate, let the fragrant smell of traditional Korean fried chicken lead the way. Many Korean people come to feel the nostalgia of times past as the recipes and cooking style in massive cast iron cauldrons called gamasot are still the same as they were decades ago. The different tastes and food stands might overwhelm you.

Stir-fried Beef Tripe is another specialty of Sundae Town

Try Yongseong-tongdak, a whole fried chicken with a nutty flavor and extreme crisp ($13.23). For silky and juicier fried chicken, Jinmi-tongdak will suit your palate. Generous, heaping portions, prices, and nostalgia make this Suwon specialty everyone’s favorite. Also try ‘Chi-maek,’ which is the compound word from ‘Chicken’ and ‘Maekju’, the Korean word for “beer”. It refers to a combination of Korean-style fried chicken with beer. Bring your friends or coworkers and enjoy Suwon’s specialty with beer.

For a different experience, head to Jidong-gyo Bridge, where you will also find a row of food trucks lighting the area. Each food truck has its own concept serving up a variety of dishes, ranging from chicken thigh skewers, steak sushi, cheesesteak and grilled-pork to tickle young people’s palates. Once you cross the bridge, you will notice ‘28 YOUNG PEOPLE’ mall, called Cheong-nyeon-mol, in the Yeongdong Market building, where 28 young entrepreneurs try their hand at business, offering food, art, crafts and more. If the food on the street does not suit your taste preference, step on to the 2nd floor of Yeongdong Market building and try one of the restaurants there.

Nam-mun Market (Paldal-mun market)
- Address: 6, Suwoncheon-ro 255beon-gil, Paldal-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do.
- Operating Hours: 0900 a.m to 2100 p.m. 

Food truck
- Address: Near Nam-mun Market
- Operating Hours: 5-10 p.m.

28 young people
- Address: Near Nam-mun Market
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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