‘Buffet-style restaurants’ in Gyeongju’s Seongdong Market, offering a variety of all-you-can-eat delicacies for just 5,000 won
Although Seongdong Market can be easily seen when you cross the road from Gyeongju train station, the area within it where the ‘buffet restaurants’ are is not easy to find, even though all you have to do is go straight for a little while after you go into the market building and then head to your left. If you are unsure or can’t find them, just ask a vendor how to find the “뷔페 식당” (bu-pe sikdang). The folks at the market will kindly direct you to the buffet restaurants section.
Most people don’t know about these “jackpot restaurants” that give you a real sense of Gyeongju generosity and hospitality~~ Don’t you agree that these are the kinds of places that qualify as truly fine local restaurants? Like Jagalchi Market in Busan…
In the buffet restaurant section, there are many individual eateries, each with its own name.
The one that I saw in a blog was called ‘맛나 식당’ (Matna Sikdang – ‘Tasty’ Restaurant), but I took a seat at a restaurant by the entrance to the section called ‘숙이네’ (Sukine, a word referring to ‘Barley’), where I was warmly welcomed.
Along with jeongsik (set meal), the menu had a relatively wide selection, including Korean favorites like bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables), dwenjang-jjigae (bean paste stew), chueotang (spicy mudfish soup), dwaeji-gukbap (hearty pork soup with rice), sokogi-gukbap (beef stew with rice), kalguksu (knife-cut noodle soup), and guksu (thin noodles).
But at a place like this, to get the widest sampling possible, I definitely had to opt for the full-course meal called jeongsik.
You can tell just by looking at it that the food is delicious, and a wide variety of banchan (side dishes) are lined up on a table, waiting to be served.
All kinds of banchan are prepared here, as many as16 different side dishes.
Because there were no other customers (maybe because it was still morning), I asked the owner if it was all right to take photos, and then I started going around like a madman, snapping pictures of tasty side dishes.
When I sat down, she served me sungnyung, a warm drink made with toasty rice crust, along with a bowl of rice and an empty plate.
I already knew what to do with the plate, but I asked just in case.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, it’s okay if I use this to serve myself, right?”
She replied I could fill it up to my heart’s content, but I should finish everything on my plate. When she asked me which kind of soup I wanted, I offhandedly answered, “Whatever’s hot.” She served me a rich earthy bowl of sirakguk, a soup made from dried radish greens.
I know it must seem a little strange to be taking pictures of side dishes like this, alone, early in the morning. But I started taking more pictures of side dishes for my blog.
There were 16 side dishes, and every single one of them was made with farm-fresh vegetables and meats picked up that morning at Seongdong Market, prepared with care and home-made flavor—there was nothing that looked like it had been sitting around.
Soy-sauce stewed shishito pepper jorim, well-seasoned and mild
Oi-muchim: a delectable mix of seasoned cucumbers with onions and carrots
Dorukmuk-muchim: Seasoned sailfin sandfish that looked like ggongchi-jorim (stewed pike mackerel).
Kongnamul-muchim: Seasoned bean sprouts
Odaeng-bokkeum: Stir-fried fish cake
Myeolchi-bokkeum: Stir-fried anchovies
Beoseot-bokkeum: Stir-fried mushrooms
Ueongchae-jorim: Stewed shredded Korean burdock root
Muchae-jorim: Stewed shredded daikon
And rolled egg omelette called “gyeran
Next, you can kind of see the dureup (fatsia shoots) and doraji-muchim (seasoned bellflower root).
Gyeongju Saeng Makgeolli that goes with this meal perfectly
Thinking it was too early in the day to eat a lot, I took only small amounts of everything. But the plate is overflowing because there are so many side dishes.
Thinking that I would need to fuel up with a full stomach for my upcoming bike ride, I slowly tried to eat all of it.
The whole time I was eating, the owner kept serving me more rice or soup when I needed it.
As I chatted with the owner, I was able to enjoy delicious and bountiful breakfast, unlike any other meal I’ve had in my travels.
Yogurt drink--the finishing touch
After my meal, I looked around and saw Matna Sikdang, the restaurant I originally saw in the blog. Across from it was Busan Restaurant.
There are lots of buffet restaurants here. Although the flavors may vary from one place to the next depending on the owners’ cooking style, it looked like the kinds of side dishes were almost identical.
I’d like to recommend ‘Sukine’ restaurant, where the lady who owns it is extremely kind, especially after I got yelled at by the owner of Matna restaurant when I was taking photos on my way out of Sukine restaurant, where I had eaten.
With the cost of living rising these days, restaurant prices nationwide have gone up a little. You cannot have a decent and plentiful meal for 5,000 won anymore.
But here, you can have a filling and delicious meal for just 5,000 won.
Incidentally, the owner told me that she opens up at 6 or 7 a.m. and stays open until about 8 p.m. in the evening.
In addition to the buffet restaurant section where, there are many other kinds of eateries at Seongdong Market including kimbap sushi rolls, sundae blood sausage, ddeokbokki spicy rice cakes, and guksu noodle dishes.
If you have ever tried market food you must already know this, but the prices seem very low to me, and the food is tastier than places elsewhere.
There are two markets around Gyeongju Station: Seongdong Market and Joongang (Central) Market a little further down, known to locals as the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ markets.
Both of these traditional markets are full of eateries where you can get delicious food, to the extent that I’d call this place a ‘Paradise of Good Food.’
A little later, as I biked towards the historic tomb of General Kim Yushin, I went past Joongang Market. I have to check out that market next time for sure.
I was really happy to find out about this place, because it can be difficult to find a decent breakfast if you arrive in Gyeongju early in the morning, as I did.
How about stopping by at the ‘buffet restaurants’ of Seongdong Market, where you can eat delicious side dishes to your heart’s content for only 5,000 won?