Tong-in Market is a traditional Korean grocery market. What makes this an interesting destination is the Dosirak Cafe here (dosirak means takeout lunch boxes). You get to go around the market filling up your lunch box with some traditional Korean brass coins.
The market is quite easy to get to. It's in the Seocheon area, within walking distance from Gyeongbukgong Palace.
What you do here is that you first buy 10 brass coins called yeopjeon for 5000 won. That means each coin is worth 500 won. You will be given a lunch box. Then you go around the various stalls buying what you like with the coins.
Not all stalls participate in the Dosirak Cafe. Look out for the dosirak sign. But you can always pay with cash if necessary.
You go around different stall filling your lunch box with what you like. Then you go to the cafeteria on the 2nd or 3rd floor to eat. There are tables and chairs there and chopsticks are provided. You can also buy rice or soup for one coin each.
There is a stand up poster explaining how it works in Hangul and English.
It was crowded when we were there, packed with many Korean students on an excursion. Most of the dishes costs 2 coin (1000 won).
What is good that you get a chance to taste a bit of various Korean food. For example, if you order a pajeon (spring onion pancake) from a restaurant, it would cost about 10,000 won for a very big piece. (I always thought 10,000 won for a pan cake was expensive). But here you get to try a small piece for 1000 won only.
The downside is some of the dishes are pre-cooked and cold already, and hence not as tasty as if it is cook to your order and served hot.
If you prefer your food hot, there are two microwave ovens on the second floor cafeteria for you to heat up your food.
Between two of us, we had 10,000 won worth of coin. We quickly filled up our lunch boxes. It didn't look like a lot of food, but we will full when we worked through them.
I liked the kimchi jeon and the pajeon. The potato pancake was not bad. The bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) would probably be nice if it was hot. I didn't like the vegetable chapjae (sweet potato glass noodles).
There are enough vegetarian options here for the vegetarians to try.
|You buy a string of 10 brass coins and a lunch box with 5000 won|
|Poster explaining how the Dosirak Cafe works.|
|A stall selling tteokbokki, sundae (blood sausages) and vegetable chapjae. There sign there indicates this stall participates in the dosirak system.|
|Hotteok for 2 coins each. This is a good vegetarian option|
|Traditional Korean cookies, not part of dosirak.|
|Another stall with many food choices, including fruit salad.|
|Our haul. Doesn't look like much but we were full.|
Tongin Market (통인시장)
18, Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 자하문로15길 18 (통인동)
Operation time of the Dosirak Cafe (not certain):
11am - 5pm, closed on Mondays and 3rd Sunday of each month
West side of Gyeongbukgong. Nearest subway station: Gyeongbukgong.
If you take bus it's just 1 or 2 bus stops away from Gyeonbukgong (depending on the stop). Many bus service, e.g. 1020, 7016, 7018, 7022