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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sinpo Market, Incheon Jung-gu: Enjoy your Dakgangjeong (Sweet Fried Crispy Chicken) after visiting Old Incheon Japanese Consulate (Incheon Jung-gu Office)

Located at 11-5 Woohyeon Avenue 49th Street/Uhyeonno 49beon-gil, Sinpo-dong 3-2 beonji, Incheon Jung-gu - Sinpo Market (Hanja: 新浦市場) which covers 3,300 sq m of area dates back to the late 19th century when vendors began selling fresh vegetables to the Japanese, Chinese, and Westerners who settled in the area. Sinpo Market was officially registered as a market in 1970 and now boasts over 140 stores. It is located 600 meters from the Old Incheon Japanese Consulate (present-day Incheon Jung-gu Office) in 80 Sinpo Avenue 27th Street/Sinporo 27beon-gil, Gwandong 1-ga 9-1 beonji.

An increasing number of tourists and international merchants have visited Incheon by ferries and cruise ships, turning the local market into an international shopping area over the past few decades. The information desk and office at the market even provide a variety of services (translation services, trade and shopping information, etc.) for tourists and merchants from home and abroad. 

Sinpo Market has long been Incheon's representative traditional market place. Sinpo-dong Market is located next to sophisticated fashion shops of Sinpo-dong Culture Street. Quaint yet handy stores such as mills, general stores, hardware stores, and OEM surplus clothing stores are visible in this market. 

It is also a place to savor some of Incheon's local specialty snacks such as spicy cold noodles (jjolmyeon), dumplings, handmade thick cut noodles (kalguksu), and the Chinese-influenced puffy bread, gonggalbbang, all prepared in their original old fashioned way. Ganghwa Susam (undried insam) is Incheon's specialty product and contributed to making Sinpo Market famous. Recently, you can see a lot of tourists and seamen from the Philippines and Russia. There are stores for Russians and Filipinos and restaurants offering a range of foreign foods. 

The red color of dakgangjeong, which has served as a signature dish in the market for 27 years with its garnish of chopped pepper and peanuts, is a mouth-watering sight. The first bite is spicy enough to bring a tear to people's eye, but it leaves a refreshing taste in the mouth that keeps them coming back for more.

Mandu, or dumplings made with thin dough and filled with meat or vegetables, are another signature dish. They come in different colors, and the filling gives even small portions a certain heaviness. One restaurant owner hails passersby with the promise that at his establishment the dough is colored not with pigment but with vegetables or fruit: cherry for the pink dough, mugwort for the green, and pumpkin for the yellow.

Following a recent renovation, Sinpo Market has been entirely revamped into a new appearance. With roads repaved in orange-colored ascon (an asphalt-concrete mix), and sidewalks redone using rubber blocks, the place conveys a safer, more cozy feeling to pedestrians. The area around the market, now equipped with arches, promotional towers and other information posting structures, appears urban and stylish. 

The market is conveniently located for sightseeing. Near Incheon Station on KORAIL-Seoul Metro Line 1, there is a historical district with old buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the country's first Western-style park, Freedom Park. Chinatown is also not far. 

The best way to look around Incheon is to take the city tour bus. It offers three courses -- downtown, Incheon International Airport and Ganghwa Island. For the downtown and airport courses, it leaves Incheon Station at 10 a.m. every day but the Ganghwa Island course runs once on Saturday and Sunday only.