Olle Market 올레 시장

My first memory of going to a market was the Dixie Flea Market in Waterford, Michigan. My grandparents, mom, dad, and brother dug through the antiques and purchased fresh vegetables from the farmers in the summers. I remember the chaos of people walking around, the stalls piled sky-high with junk and treasures, and I remember the taste of the food we brought home. The flavors were seemingly more vibrant and bold than what we got in the store. I mostly found these trips boring. I never appreciated getting lost and wandering between stalls. I do now.

Maybe it’s because I’m older and the thought of purchasing fresh produce and meats to make a home-cooked meal excites me, or perhaps it’s because Markets hit differently here. With the building of groceries stores and supermarkets like Target in the US, your local farmers’ market is no longer a center for the community. It has become a place for the middle and upper class as well as foodies and those who prefer a farm-to-table lifestyle; in South Korea and much of Asia (from what I’ve seen), that is not the case. The rich, poor, foodies, and even college students flock to local markets for everything from clothing to street food to fresh produce and meat. Markets in Asia are still an important place for many people to get their nutrients and needs met.

Now sitting on a bench in Olle Market 올레 시장, I am mesmerized by the chaos around me. The chaos and disorder that bored me as a kid has filled me with a sense of adventure. Wandering from stall to stall, looking at the souvenirs and clothes, I smell the freshly cooked street food while hearing locals compare the fish and Banchan prices, debating who has the best and what to get for dinner tonight.
There is nothing like a market.

My favorite treats from this market include;
Fresh-grilled Squid
Hallabong and Green Citrus Juice
Slow roasted pork
Stirfried pork with Tteokbokki 떡볶이
Whatever those meat skewers with shrimp and onion I had were
my favorite rice crispy I’ve ever had (Gangjeong 강정)

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