I was quite surprised since I had just been there a few weeks before. I thought why not have some Mandu Guk, since in my opinion, that was the best item I'd had at Myung In. Strangely, it wasn't on the menu. Neither was any kind of mandu or dumplings! What the heck? ?I even asked and was told they are not currently making those dishes, but perhaps in the future?
Anyway, it's either a stir-fry, fried rice, or seafood soup.......
I went with the japchae, which was fairly reasonable at $7.99 and strangely, at least for me, came with rice.
In terms of being straight-up food court food, it registered as decent. The soup was insipid and the baechu kimchi and takuan were obviously bought form the market. The rice was on the dry side. The japchae itself was okay, the chicken was dry and chewy, though the dish as a whole had a decent soy-sesame oil flavor. I really didn't appreciate all the inedible dried chilies on the dish, though.
Myung In Dumplings (in the Zion Market Food Court) 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
A couple of weeks after returning from Seoul, I was wondering how Gala Chicken was doing. I decided to drop by and grab some chicken. I got the extra crispy, which is still priced at $7.99.
I was glad to see that unlike my previous two visits, that chicken hadn't been cut into during the cooking process. It did taste a bit off, sort of in a rancid oil kind of way, though the chicken was very moist. This time around, the coating was more like my first visit, really crumbly, than crisp like my second visit.
I can see the potential here and the guy working here is very nice, but the place just can't seem to get all the planets lined up. Though I don't get the grumbling from some folks I know about having to wait 15-20 minutes for the chicken. Hey, at least they are making it fresh and to order......
Gala Chicken 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd (Inside of Zion Market) San Diego, CA 92111
Our time in Seoul, and Korea, for that matter was coming to an end. The Missus and I discussed the possibilities for a last meal and we decided to give KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) another shot. This time at a place that was more highly recommended. I had a place on my list....which one of my coworkers called a "Hof"??? A Hof? Like "Hofbrau"? Well, she wasn't sure.....the term "hof" is used for various places that serve beer/drinks with food and to my relief had nothing to do with "The Hoff". So it was off to the "hof".
The shop was located in the Gyeongbokgung area, west of the Palace. The Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung looked especially striking on this clear evening.
Finding Mirak Chicken wasn't too difficult; especially with pocket wifi, called an "egg" in Korea, and a photo of the exterior.
Mirak Chicken's popularity is in part due to being shown on a very popular Korean Food Show named Tasty Road, which is how we found out about the place after having two people mention Mirak and the show to me.
The interior has a dark and kind of pub-like feel.
As is typical with these places, there's the all-you-can eat popcorn....which I found a bit odd. You obviously need a beverage of choice; we went with some Hite, which seemed a bit sweeter, but very light, and not as bitter as the versions here in the states. Perhaps it was being on holiday....... After ordering, some shredded cabbage dressed with a somewhat fruity mayo and the standard condiment of KFC, the water kimchi arrived.
Mirak is known for their Garlic Chicken, which of course had to order.
The chicken came with a ton of glazed whole garlic cloves, which of course I loved, but made me socially unpresentable for most of the evening. As with other glazed/sweet/spicy chicken of this type, the glaze was very sticky and way too sweet for me. They really had the batter and the cooking process down as the crust was thin and light, and the chicken very moist. It was just hard to get over the sweetness, for which I was thankful for the radish.
Hedging our bets, we also ordered the regular fried chicken which was quite good.
Crisp, light, and moist. But again, for some reason we both found the seasoning to be on the very mild side. They sure had the cooking process down though.
We were glad to have been able to try a couple of Korean Fried Chicken places.
Mirak Chicken (미락치킨) 17-1 Jahamun-ro Seoul, South Korea
After dinner, we decided to take a walk around the area. We hadn't been around this part of Seoul so this made for an interesting walk. We came across a shopping arcade and decided to do some exploring.
There were quite a few food stalls......
One stall was especially popular.
It made tteokbokki, not my favorite food item in the world, but this looked different. Bright red, stir fried in oil, so I had to try some.....
The was quite good....nice chew, a slight crunch, a good amount of spice, not very greasy.....I really liked it. It changed my opinion of tteokbokki.
After returning home, I tried to find out the name of this place and learned that it is Tongin Market, which was originally set-up by the Japanese in 1941 during the occupation. I also learned that one of the most popular stalls in the market makes Gireum tteokbokki, basically a fried in oil version.......lines rarely lie, right?
Walking back was a pleasure.....we really enjoy Seoul at night.
Before heading back to the apartment, we decided to head on over to the Cheonggyecheon Stream area. A few nights earlier we'd come across the Seoul Lantern Festival. I'm guessing this night must be something special, because folks were really enjoying the sights.
The theme this year was an "Illuminated Tour of Seoul", which was very cool. We saw lanterns of many of the sights we'd seen during the previous days.
Under the bridge folks were gathered, putting together lanterns to be released in the stream.
People were having a great time. It was a nice way to end our stay in Seoul.
As we walked back to the apartment along the alleyway parallel to the main street. Apparently, the huge building we were staying at was built over the Pimatgol, parallel to the main street of Jongno. Because the lower class residents were required to bow down to the nobles everytime they came across them, this parallel alley; the "alley to avoid horses", was created. There's a couple of very nice stories to be found here.
And while there are quite a few anecdotes I haven't told about Seoul; like the Missus complaining about not seeing a branch of Cocohodo, when there was one on the other side of the building. Just like Japan, it seems like there was a story around every corner.
We dozed of easily on this evening. We'd be rising early, then heading off to the airport, via Seoul Station. Next stop; Sapporo!
I'd had K Cuisine on my list for a while, even when the place was "Gorilla Korean Fusion Restaurant".....really. The last time I was here, the place was still Korean Hometown Restaurant ages ago. So when an acquaintance said that the place made some really good mandu, spicy chicken wings, and haemul pajun, I had to check them out.
I'd just returned from Seoul and wanted some straightforward Korean food. So I decided to give K Cuisine a try. The shop was pretty quiet on both my visits, spaced about 5 months apart. The place has a mom-and-pop feel, real down home, unpretentious with the smell of sesame oil permeating the air.....
You do need at least a beer (perhaps more) with food like this, and I'm not a big makgeolli fan, so I had a Hite. Strange, but it tastes much more dry and bitter here in the states than Korea.
I'd ordered quite a bit of food, beyond appetizers, so I got some panchan.
Nothing amazing, and yes, those are pickled forcemeat sausage, much like hot dogs. While I'm a big fan of pickled sausages like utopenci, this was way too salty. The baechu kimchi was taken out of a plastic container....like you'd get at Zion or H Mart, but actually wasn't bad. So perhaps they do what we do......I let the kimchi ferment in a cool hallway for about a week after buying it.
The Fried Mandu ($6.99) wasn't bad.
Light and crisp, the wrappers weren't overly gummy like other versions. The filling was rather mild in flavor, but I thought this was a decent version.
I wanted something hearty so I went with the Gopchang Bokkeum ($16.99).
Basically a stir-fried small intestine dish, with perilla leaf, onions, and other veggies. This was surprisingly tame in flavor, at least it wasn't salty, nor was it very spicy. The intestine could have been cleaned better as it had a good bit of musty, dank flavored, "grey matter" in it. Quite a strong offal flavor. It actually smelled even stronger the next day when I took it out of the fridge.
I fully intended to return to K Cuisine, but somehow the place just slipped my mind. Five months later, I returned. I decided to order the other two items recommended to me, starting with the Haemul Pajun - the Seafood Pancake ($7.99).
In terms of texture, this was the best version I've had in a while; light and crisp. It was a bit short in the seafood department and perhaps in flavor, but the salty, soy-sesame oil-onion-scallion dipping sauce handled that. Not bad, I'd have this again.
I also went with the Spicy Fried Chicken Wings ($9.99).
After having versions of this in Seoul, I should have known that it would be more sweet and sticky than spicy. I really needed that pickled radish to revive my tastebuds. The batter was on the thicker side, but decently crisp, the chicken seems to have been fried a bit too long as the meat was dry. This was just too sweet. I think I'll need to return and try just the plain fried chicken wings one day.
So there you go. Two visits over 5 months....I took long enough. Nice folks working here. Things tend to take a bit of time, which I find rather nice in these type of places. it ain't fast food. K Cuisine is only open during dinner to the wee hours of the morning (I think like 1-2 am). So next time you want some makgeolli, or perhaps a Hite and a bite to eat, you might want to check this place out. I'll probably return to try the straight up fried chicken wings and maybe even some kimchi jigae sometime during the winter.
It was our last day in Seoul. Time had really flown by, but to be honest, the Missus was already looking forward to the next leg of our trip, which was Hokkaido. There were really only two more places the Missus wanted to visit. So we headed off, down Jong-Ro.....walking of course. Past Gwangjang Market ....
The massive multi-building complex is quite overwhelming; covering 10 blocks, comprised of 26 shopping malls. After walking around a bit....I was getting hungry so we decided to head up to the Food Court located on the 5th floor of the "New Wing".
And found a stand that was open and got something simple to eat.
Nothing amazing, but simple and it kept the both of us going. Pretty cheap at 5,000 KRW (about $4.25) too.
We then headed off back in the direction we had come. Jetlagged, we had miscalculated the day of the week when we arrived and found Gyeongbokgung Palace closed. We decided to put off a visit until our last day in Seoul.
We had made our way back here in record time as Gyeongbokgung wasn't open yet! Plus, we were pretty darn hungry....I guess that little breakfast/snack didn't hold up for very long. I had read severalposts about a iconic Kimchi Jigae shop down an alley nearby. So we found the area and I believe we found the alley....
There were no signs in older style Hanja that the Missus could read. Plus, all the businesses looked closed. I came across a kindly looking older gentleman and busted out one of few phrases I knew in Korean, "sillyehabnida" and showed him the name of the place, Gwanghwamun Jip. He smiled and walked us a few doors down......
The place did look closed so I used the other phrase I knew "gomabseubnida" and started walking away. He waved at me telling me to stop, opened the door, and one of the ladies running the place waved us in! Nice folks.
They were still prepping, cutting scallions and napa cabbage. They kindly sat us at one of the tables in this tiny hole-in-the-wall. The place looked like it was run by a group of "Ajumma", a good sign. We actually never even ordered.....what's to order since they basically serve two things here, right? A pot was taken off the blue bookshelf and placed on the gas burner on the table.
One of the women was hard at work at the stove near the window. And in a few minutes, everything else arrived.
You can see the other item that Gwanghwamun Jip specializes in, the tasty gyeran mari - a rolled omelet. Perfect for this morning. I loved the baechu kimchi here. It was nicely fermented the flavor complex and not overly salty as versions in the states. The Missus really enjoyed the simple fermented cabbage which reminds Her of the suan cai we make at home.
Meanwhile the pork kimchi jigae was bubbling away.
This was very hearty; even better as it kept bubbling away, eventually reducing to a thick and rich stew. Not too spicy, nor salty, nice savory flavors, this definitely has that "aaaah" factor. The pork was flavorful, though as expected rather tough.....it's there for the flavor.
It was a filling and satisfying meal. We love soulful, homey places like this. In a nutshell, Gwanghwamun Jip did not disappoint.
Gwanghwamun Jip 12, Saemunan-ro 5-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul
The meal left us warm and ready for our visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
As we approached the Gwanghwamun gate we noticed a bit of a commotion.
1. The first drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit mobilizes towards Gwanghwamun Gate. 2. The second drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit moves outside of Gwanghwamun Gate, and the chief of the relieving guard unit and the chief of the guard unit on duty perform an identification check. 3. The chief of the relieving guard unit orders his unit to take their positions at the gate and the relieved guard unit mobilizes to the inside of the gate. 4. The third drumbeat signal sounds and the chief of the relieved guard unit orders his unit to exit the vicinity."
It does go kind of long....the Chinese tourists got bored rather quickly and decided to leave.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed the entire ceremony. We've now seen Changing of the Guard ceremony's in Athens, Prague, and Malta.
Once the ceremony was over we could enter via the Gwanghwamun Gate.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was constructed in 1395, the first royal palace built by Joseon Dynasty which lasted over 500 years.
Our favorite spots on the palace grounds was the Geunjeongjeon, the Throne Hall.
Which held the throne of course.
And we also enjoyed the aesthetics of the Gyeonghoeru.
Walking back along Sejong-ro , we noticed this piece of concrete.
It's a piece of the Berlin Wall! I'm sure the symbolism must stir emotions in many people in Korea, a nation divided north and south, and technically still at war.
We headed back to our apartment, just a few blocks away....we'd done a bit of walking and the temperature was dropping, so it was time for a break. While walking back, we made plans for our last night in Seoul......
Kirk and Cathy are traveling, eating, doing important stuff, or maybe just resting today. So Ed (from Yuma) is posting about 3 meals (from San Diego).
I had to have some sushi. Just had to. Tina had memories of a good chirashi at Kokoro and its website said it would be open at lunchtime on Friday. And it was:
In addition to tables, Kokoro has an L shaped sushi bar that surrounds an elevated workstation and ingredient storage area, which I think helps executive chef Akio Ishito work more comfortably:
Although I don't remember it from before, the chirashi meal started off with a little lettuce and tomato salad:
The lettuces were very fresh, the tomato very ordinary, and the dressing seem to be based around rice wine vinegar, miso, and soy. Refreshing. Palate cleansing.
For soup, we were given the alternatives of miso or udon. So udon it was:
The noodles were perfectly cooked, toothsome and tender, but the soup overall was bland.
The chirashi looked beautiful:
Underneath the fish and friends, the sushi rice was faultless. The toppings presented a nice selection of sushi bar favorites, all good quality and offered good value at $19. We both liked the sizable slice of mackerel and the halibut (hirami), which was especially firm and fresh – in fact, much like the halibut crudo we would eat the next evening at the Wine Vault. We also liked the uni and shiso leaf pairing, and the surprisingly first-rate ebi, unusually meaty and flavorful. The hamachi also stood out. There were no bad tastes, though the slices of octopus and squid were exceeding thin. Overall, we enjoyed.
It had been a long time since Tina and I had been to any Korean restaurant. We weren’t looking for a smoke filled room or for cooking our own food, so we decided on Halmouny, where we’d always enjoyed our visits in the past:
We noticed they'd remodeled the interior, and we liked the changes – the place seemed cleaner, more modern, and more open:
A flagon of chilled water was brought to the table along with my beer:
A mysterious box on the table, when opened, contained stainless steel soup spoons and chopsticks – nice touch:
A funny thing happened. Tina and I started looking over the large menu, discussing things, and trying to figure out what we wanted. There were so many choices, and almost every one of them seemed inviting. Twice the friendly server came over and asked if we were ready, and we had to say no because we weren't. Then, when she came over the third time, we ordered two of the most standard dishes on the menu.
Soft tofu soup with vegetables:
And dolsit bibimbop:
I'm sure our server must have been laughing with her coworkers about the clueless gaijin taking so long to order such a simple basic meal.
But it was good. While the soup lacked a certain depth of flavor, it was certainly tasty, and the interplay between creamy tofu, spicy broth, and veggies and ‘shrooms was pleasant. The bibimbop was great comfort food. The simple meal was really what we wanted.
Though the ban chan was totally standard and uninspired, we enjoyed them. Here’s some items:
The dried radish was our favorite of those four. There was some baby bok choy and some other veggie that I can't remember, but our favorites were the regular kimchi:
and the wonderful dried tofu
For us, this dinner was, paradoxically, exotic comfort food.
For lunch on Saturday, we were looking Eastern Mediterranean, but La Miche Kabobgee is closed for lunch on Saturdays. We remembered seeing a large restaurant, Sufi, on Balboa not too far from Convoy that promised Mediterranean food. So that's where we went:
It is large, and at lunch, it serves a popular buffet:
Photographing the entire buffet was pretty much impossible as other customers were coming and going. Plus I was getting hungry, so this fuzzy shot shows just a small part of the available choices:
Tina's first plate looked like this:
She really liked the chicken and the fire roasted veggies (the big zucchini slice and the charred tomato half). She also enjoyed the garden salad with the feta dressing, and we both liked the Shirazi salad with chopped onion, cucumber, tomato, and parsley.
Here's my first plate:
For some reason, I chose three slices of sausages, which were okay, but not really unique or outstanding. The baba ghannouj was decent, and the hummus was creamy, but far from the best I've had in San Diego. The chicken wing was OK, the pickled beet excellent, and the beef kebab just okay. Tina and I both enjoyed the stewed zucchini.
At first, the breads were not ready, but soon we were able to get pita bread and Persian naan:
For me, the breads said a lot about Sufi. The pita bread was pitiful – cool, store-bought, and boring. The Persian bread, on the other hand, was warm, tasty, and probably homemade. But in some ways that is the essence of the restaurant. While it calls itself "Mediterranean," Sufi is really a Persian restaurant that serves some generic Lebanese food to broaden its customer base.
In fact, most of our favorites from the lunch were Persian, like this interesting pomegranate soup, a lentil soup with a distinct sour tang:
And the stews on my second plate:
I believe the one on the left is called fesenjoom, a chicken and pomegranate stew. On the right is ghormeh sabzi with a big chunk of tender beef covered in greens along with large dark red beans. The closest item is, I think, gheimeh, beef and yellow split peas. I have no idea about the green bean stew furthest away. In any case, these Persian stews were the most interesting items on the buffet, and I wished that I had focused on them right from the beginning.
Nonetheless, the buffet was interesting and we certainly got to eat all kinds of things we can't get out in the desert.
This little place is the "and more" in the title of the post. It's located right next to Sufi and looked promising, so Tina insisted we visit:
There was a bewildering array of Persian pastries:
So our late-night snack that evening consisted of these walnut or pistachio treats: We were expecting something like baklava, but these were different. The pastry was not fila and they were a little more savory and less sweet than baklava. Four years ago Cathy visited the same bakery and hinted that a post might be forthcoming. Hint hint.
Anyway, we enjoyed all three of these meals. None was spectacular, but each scratched an itch, and that's a good thing: too long in Yuma and I get awfully itchy.
There was steady drizzle as we headed back to Myeongdong.
We had begun to notice something about the crosswalk signals in Seoul.....they seemed to take an inordinately long time to change. Miss a walk signal and you're stuck cooling your heels. Which is probably why you'll see folks sprinting to make the walk signal....I mean like 80 year old grandma's hauling it to the crosswalk!
So why did we head back to that beast called Lotte Department Store?
Well, the night before I stopped by 7-11 and picked up a bottle of Hite. attached to that bottle was a sample of honey-butter almonds.....which the Missus loved. So of course we had to hunt them down. After looking in a couple of convenience stores we decided just to head to Lotte and check out the market in the basement. And whaddya know? Almonds. So it was mission accomplished.
We headed back to the apartment for a short siesta. During this time of the year, night falls like a hammer in Seoul...it gets dark by 430pm! We were also quite hungry. Seoul is famous for their "Food Alleys". Near the Jong-no 3ga station is an alley that specializes in Gul Bossam; pork and fresh oysters wrapped in lettuce or napa cabbage...... No need to ask me twice, I'm there!
The instructions were, find exit 15 of Jong-no 3ga station and walk 20 meters down the street, take your first left down the alley to your left, then take your first right. One of the shops, Samhae Jip was the one I read about the most. I had a photo of the storefront and the Missus could read the Chinese characters. It really wasn't that hard to find....you just looked for the line!
And all the pork simmering away......
We really lucked out as all the other parties were large and we quickly snagged a small table for two. I was also quite lucky to not have to do endure the floor seating, which, if you've read some of my previous posts is a disaster waiting to happen. The possibility of me falling over and spilling hot soup on folks is not a pretty thought, though folks here were having no problem.
Lot's of folks seemed to be having a good time....and many had what we call the "Asian gene" thing going on! Half the fun was people watching. The three guys to our far left were just plain wasted....they were slapping each other....then feeding each other! On our table to our left, we noticed the girl there only eating panchan and lettuce, while her boyfriend/husband just plowed through the pork, something we had also noticed the night before.
The smells in the place were just intoxicating! All the standard sides and panchan arrived; bean paste, fermented baby shrimp, the raw garlic, a couple of chilies, ssamjang, kkandugi (radish kimchi), Sukju Namul.
The wrapping was done with either lettuce or napa cabbage. The Missus preferred the lettuce; I preferred the sturdy cabbage, which I thought kept everything together better and had MCPB - More Crunch Per Bite.
Soju is required for this type of eating....at least that's what we were told.
The Missus's favorite item was the gamjatang, the pork bone soup. It was fairly chilly and damp, so the Missus who loves Her bone soup had problem plowing through almost the entire pot! It was quite tasty. The Missus has also developed a taste for the perilla seeds.
This was a load of food for 20,000₩, about $18 US! This was for two people! I was kind of leery about the oysters, but while not great in flavor, it had a nice texture, and was fresh. The fresh radish kimchi was really good as well. The pork....well, as you can see.....it was moist, pretty tender, mild in flavor. And those fermented shrimp tasted really good!
The folks here were pretty friendly. And dinner was a bargain at 30,000₩, about $26 for food and drinks.
It might be hard finding this place....well not really if you follow the "exit 15 - take a left - take a right". It's worth the effort to check it out.
Samhae Jip - Gul Bossam Alley
We headed back out to Jong-ro. The rain had subsided and the temperature was going down.
As we watched the businessmen stagger down the side streets.....
It had started raining fairly hard as left Myeongdong. But we really weren't through eating. We went back to the apartment, had some tea, showered, and headed back out. This time the target was Gwangjang Market; established in 1905, I read that there were over 5000 shops in the market.
It is indeed quite a beast as we entered and immediately got lost....surrounded by textile shops.
After wandering around for quite a while....almost in a dazed state we found the area that sold food products and some of the "alleys".
Of course there are a ton of food stands.....
Serving every part of the animal.
And then there are the congregations of shops that specialize in specific dishes that have their own "food alleys"; gimbap alley and jeon (pancake alley), where you can watch mung beans being ground to make Bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes).
There was one alley I really wanted to visit. I love yukhoe, the Korean version of beef tartare, so I really wanted to try it during my visit to Seoul. We'd had Yukhoe Bibimbap at Gogung, but I really wanted to try it straight up. So we hunted down Yukhoe Alley, a small collection of shops specializing in the raw beef dish, and chose one that I had read about named "Brother's Raw Beef". The only way I found it was by the cow logo as all the signs were in Hangul.
No English spoken, but the gentleman running the place as well as the woman who served us were very friendly.
And really, all you need to do is put up one finger and say "Cass" and then raise that index finger again and say "yukhoe"......
And in case you wondered about how fresh the meat was; there were three women in the back of the restaurant prepping the beef.
The Missus recalls the beef-daikon soup that came with the raw beef was really tasty.....
But all I remember was how very good the Yukhoe was. Just enough Asian Pear to add crunch and some sweetness, some pine nuts adding another dimension of flavor, the egg yolk lending a richness to the whole dish.
A touch of sesame oil....that's all I really needed.
The beef, while lean was surprisingly tender. This was my favorite dish from our time Seoul.
Brother's Raw Beef (형제육회) - In Gwangjang Market 160-8 Jongno 4-ga (near exit 10 of the market) Seoul, South Korea
It was still raining when we left the market and headed back in the direction of our apartment. We took a short look around Tapgol Park.
As we were leaving, the Missus decided we needed to head back to Myeongdong.........
The forecast called for rain on our second full day in Seoul. This meant one thing for the Missus.....get an early start. We decided to head back to Bukchon Hanok Village as we believed (rightly so), that we wouldn't have to deal with the hoards of tourists. A Hanok is a traditional Korean house, and this collection of structures between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, once the lair of high ranking government officials, Bukchon Hanok Village is full of little alleyways, with these traditional structures, some of which date back to the Joseon Dynasty.
It's a wonderful place to wander in and out of the alleyways during the early morning. Even though some of the structures have been turned into cafes, shops, galleries, and guest houses, there are still many residences here. Which is why we felt really bad seeing the place mobbed with loud tourists....geez, can you imagine if you lived here?
If you've been reading our little blog long enough; you'd know that the Missus loves Hachiya Persimmons and was mesmerized by a tree full of them! She stood under that tree for a good ten minutes trying to will some of the fruit to fall. Alas, there was to be no divine intervention here. No fruit falling from the heavens. So we left Bukchon Hanok Village, taking some of the quieter back alleyways back to the hustle and bustle of the morning rush.
The wind was picking up and there was some intermittent drizzle as we got back to Jong-ro.
We were getting hungry and headed off to another place from my "list". Walking back to Myeongdong, over the Cheonggyecheon Stream.
As you could tell from my previous posts; I'd been seeking out classic Korean dishes and down the street, across from Myeongdong Cathedral, stood another shop I wanted to try.
Hadongkwan has been in business since the 1930's and serves basically two things; suyu (boiled beef or pork slices) and gomtang, a clear beef soup.
The drill here is that you order and pay at the register first, then have a seat. The woman working looked mighty tough.....she looked at me and said "you big...." and then "small" to the Missus. In other words she ordered for us. And frankly I wasn't going to argue as I'm fairly certain she had a ruler to whack me over the knuckles had I disagreed.
As we sat, she walked over to another table and grabbed the bowl of sliced green onions right off it and brought it to us....the guy was still eating! We couldn't help but chuckle...what if he wanted more green onions? I guess he would have had to deal with her and we were fairly certain who would come out on top.
The kimchi here was very good, not salty, mild fermented flavor, very clean tasting. Ah yes, clean tasting, that also describes the gomtang, in spite of the nice fat, and collagen infused broth, it tasted very clean......sea salt, rice, and a ton of scallions for me. Just like Japan, scallions are considered a veggie here. And, as much as I joke about the woman running the front of house, she was very efficient. When she saw how much I enjoyed the green onions, she nodded at one of the servers, who instantly refilled our bowl....same with the kimchi!
Very nice, straight up beefy flavors. This might seem simple, but getting things right is deceptively hard.
Hadongkwan 10-4 Myeong-dong 1-ga Jung-gu, Seoul
After breakfast, the Missus decided to do some shopping and we wandered the side streets of Myeongdong. And while we saw a very familiar sight.....
Though the Missus really couldn't find the cosmetics She wanted. So we headed to the huge Lotte Deprtment Store....this being the main branch.
Unfortunately the department store didn't open until 1030, it was just getting to 930. We noticed that the Lotte Duty Free store was just opening so we decided to head on over......to the feeding frenzy! Sheesh! It was a huge rush of Darwinistic, every woman for herself, Chinese tourists. We started walking around a bit and noticed many of the women dragging along huge suitcases. Naturally we thought that these folks were heading off to the airport and just making a stop along the way, until we noticed that once items were purchased, they'd open the empty suitcases and fill them up. We saw women literally buying a thousand dollars worth of cosmetics and dumping it into a empty steamer trunk! Yikes! This was just too much for the Missus and She needed to leave.....
We decided to head back to the apartment for some calming tea, before heading back out.....of course crossing Cheonggyecheon Stream yet again. This time we walked on down and along the stream for a bit. A nice, relaxing walk.
We meandered through the back streets parallel to Jong-ro. There are a ton of restaurants down those streets and alleyways. I came upon one which caught my eye.....it was a hot pot place....I could tell they served goat and lamb. But what was that creature between the goat and lamb?
As the sun set on Seoul, we realized what a full day we'd had, crisscrossing Jongno, from breakfast on Supyo-ro, then off to Gyeongbokgung Palace only to find that the palace was closed that. It was then onward to Bukchon Hanok Village, only to find that place crawling with tourists. Then deciding to walk to Changdeokgung Palace and a wonderful tour of the Secret Garden, followed by a walk through Insadong with lunch at Gogung. Whew. When evening hit, man, we were pretty hungry. The Missus had Samgyetang, ginseng chicken soup, on Her "wish list" and who am I to deny Her?
So we headed out....the Missus wanted a different route, so we headed down to the Cheonggyecheon Stream area, once an elevated freeway area and crossed over to the very busy Myeongdong area, bustling with post-work and pre-Christmas shoppers. Around this time of the year, lanterns adorn the stream.
Walking past Lotte Department Store, we headed in the direction of City Hall and soon heard some loud singing. It was this guy singing his heart out....unfortunately, it was just to an empty field of grass.
That didn't deter him from giving it his all though......
This palace is Deoksugung, which had evening hours. After getting the Missus Her Samgyetang we returned but decided one should only visit so many palaces a day and decided to pass.
A busy intersection and few blocks away was our destination; Korea Samgyetang, which claims to be the first Samgyetang Restaurant in Seoul, opening in 1960.
The place has four floors. We sat on the first floor which was pretty empty when we arrived, but quickly filled up. A mix of tourists and locals.
As the Missus loves Her Black Chicken, She ordered the Black Bone Chicken with Wild Korean Ginseng Broth and Abalone......which I think came out to something like $30!
Things started off with some panchan and some (free)ginseng wine, which I found a bit too medicinal for my taste.
I think I already mentioned how good the kkandugi was in Korea, this one was probably the best....not too salty, not bitter, slightly sweet, and with a nice crisp, but not hard texture. It must be the type of daikon used as the texture is totally different from what we have here in the states. That raw garlic...was quite potent.
Like I mentioned above; I'm not a big fan of Samgyetang and this didn't really change my opinion. Personally, kind of flat tasting, the abalone was very tough and hard.....same could be said for the black chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, dried dates, and ginseng. The Missus? She loves black chicken and really enjoyed this....
The place sure does get busy. As we were finishing up, a group of Thai arrived. When we were leaving I started cracking up as I saw a Ziploc bag of Thai Chilies being passed around from person to person.
The service was efficient, if not a bit perfunctory. I was happy for the Missus.....
Korea Samgyetang 55-3 Seosomun-dong Jung-gu, Seoul
And while Samgyetang is traditionally "hot weather" food, the Missus seemed energized by all that rubbery chicken and ginseng floating around in Her belly, so we decided to walk around for a bit.
King Taejo, who founded the Joseon Dynasty, chose Seoul to be the Capitol in 1392. Security of the center of government was important to Taejo, so he ordered that a wall be constructed to protect his city. The wall had 8 gates, which also is the number of mountains which surrounds the city. So you'll come across many gates during a visit. This one is Souimun (Seosomun).
I was again struck by the contrast of the ancient and modern in Seoul......
We made our way back in a roundabout way, finally deciding to walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream to admire the lanterns.
We fully intended to stop when we got to the apartment, but for some reason we just kept on walking down Jongro....pass a shopping street where the Missus said, "you can't go down there....you're too old."
Somehow, we ended up back near Supyo-ro and I was feeling a bit hungry. I remembered a "KFC" (that would be "Korean Fried Chicken") place I saw the previous evening and was suddenly hungry. You can't go to Seoul without getting some KFC, right?
Which how we ended up at Kkanbu Chicken........
We ordered the Crispy Chicken, which came with a bowl of popcorn (?!?) and water kimchi. Man, this was like a whole chicken!
The chicken was super crisp, the batter very light, the chicken very moist.....but the flavor seemed bland and in need of seasoning to us. The Missus looked at me and said, "you'd kill for a bottle of Crystal hot sauce right now wouldn't you?" The chicken sure did need a bit of flavor and something to cut all of that...friedness. Some of my Roasted Ghost Pepper hot sauce would have been killer...heck, if I'm coming back to Seoul, I might invest in those tiny keychain bottles of tabasco!
On a cute note; there was a young couple who sat on the table next to us. We saw some kind of fruity soda and a mug of beer arrive at the table. To crash those stereotypes; it was the tiny young lady who had the mug of beer and the guy had the soda. I did notice that the girl only ate the kimchi and nothing else though, which I found kind of strange...the guy just whacked the whole chicken.
The service was nice, though I was really looking forward to the KFC place I had on my list scheduled for a few nights later.
Kkanbu Chicken 202 Nagwon-dong Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
By this time I was kind of feeling all those miles and I was looking forward to hitting the sack. But it was not to be...at least not right away. As we got to the highrise where our apartment was located, the Missus kept on walking.....we ended back up on Sejong-ro on Gwanghwamun Square, staring at the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin.
As we got back to the apartment the Missus looked at Her smartphone and said "perfect....we just put in 20 miles of walking today!"
What?!? I needed a shower and a good night of sleep.......
Since we had pretty much struck out at Gyeongbokgung Palace (wrong day of the week....damn you jetlag) and Bukchon Hanok Village (crawling with tourists), we went for "Plan C", Changdeokgung Palace. Walking over, the place looked quite busy, but once inside it was rather sedate.
Completed in 1412, this was considered the "second palace", after Gyeongbokgung. You enter through the Donhwamun Gate into a large courtyard that fronts the Injeongjeon, the throne hall.
The markers you see indicate where the court stood....basically in terms of rank. So of course the Missus stood next to rank 1 for Her photo and took one of me in front of the last rank! Not really knowing much about the history of Korea, the Missus was fascinated to see that Chinese was used as the written language.
From this throne the king received envoys and oversaw ceremonies.
We walked along Daejojeon Hall, the official residence of the queen.
This was all very nice, but there was one area I'd read about and really wanted to visit; "Biwon" (비원 The Secret Garden). This area can only be visited via a guided tour and you need to purchase tickets. Also known as Huwon (후원 Rear Garden), this series of pavilions and ponds were originally created for the royal family.
We had a hint of things while walking around other parts of the palace.
There are times when travelling when everything just seems right, your timing is perfect. In spite of the other 50 or so folks on the tour, this was the highlight of our time in Seoul. Our guide was so very knowledgeable, She explained the use of Chinese writing and the transition to Hangul to the Missus later on during the walk.....she was oh so very patient, keeping a group like this together was like herding cats. And listening to the three Filipino girls was a hoot; "pleeease, no more hills", "what, more steps?", "ok, enough leaves already...."
The colors were stunning as was the backdrop.
The photo above show the area named Juhamnu; this is where the Royal libraries were located. The pond in front of it is called Buyongji Pond.
One of the most stunning sites was the next stop; the "Love of Lotus" pond and pavilion (Aeryeonji).
We don't have an intense changing of the seasons here in San Diego, so just the colors had us mesmerized.
For a kid from Hawaii like me....this was like being on a different planet.....
This is the Jondeokjeong Pavillion, known for the double roof.
This is the Soyoam Rock. Notice the carving in the rock. Along with the name of the area carved by King Injo, there's a poem carved into the rock by King Sukjong.
At the end is a Chinese Juniper Tree that is supposed to be over 750 years old.
It was nothing short of spectacular to us......the timing was just perfect; the next few days were quite windy and somewhat rainy which I'm sure changed things. Sometimes you just get lucky!
We were getting hungry, so we headed down to the bustling streets of Insadong, full of shops, little restaurants....tourists and locals.
In the basement of the very popular Ssamziegil Mall is a restaurant named Gogung, famous for their Bibimbap.
The restaurant specializes in Jeonju Bibimbap, supposedly a specialty of Jeonju which was declared one of the Creative Cities for Gastronomy by UNESCO. Jeonju Bibimbap is supposed to be serious stuff; sometimes with up to 30 ingredients used for a single bowl!
The Missus really enjoyed Her meal here and considers it Her favorite meal in Seoul.
There were two items that arrived with the panchan that caught our attention. The first was Deulkkaetang a perilla seed and mushroom based soup. The flavor was quite interesting, like basil, mildly sweet with an anise finish combined with the earthy flavor of the mushrooms. This was nice, but I found the fragrance kind of odd, mildy fishy-earthy, not sure if my olfactory was working well on this day.
The second being some fermented thick cabbage stems which smelled almost exactly like the suan cai we make at home. Funky fermented flavor. So of course the Missus just loved this.
We noticed that folks on the other tables pretty much stayed away from this....the Missus was tempted to grab them........but She displayed great restraint.
The Missus went with the Jeonju Dolsot Bibimbap; which might have been one of the best dolsot bibimbap I've ever had. Amazing textures, especially the bean sprouts which tasted oh so good.
As the rice crust formed things got even better; adding a layer of nuttiness and even more contrasting textures to the dish.
The Missus though, really enjoyed what I ordered; the Yukhoe Bibimbap. The amazingly clean tasting raw beef had perhaps a bit too much minced Asian Pear in it, making it a tad to sweet for me; but the Missus really loved the flavor and texture of this.
She polished this off in no time.
The traditional Sujeonggwa was served as dessert/digestif.
We both enjoyed it as this was not as sweet as most versions back in the States, making it quite refreshing. The prices weren't too bad at all; the Dolsot Bibimbap at ₩ 11,000, about $8.75 and the Yukhoe Bibimbap at ₩ 15,000, about $12.
Gogung Insadong 44 Insadong-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul
After lunch we wandered around Ssamziegil Mall, through all the little shops; but mostly people watching.......
Kids are the same everywhere, aren't they?
Soon enough, our afternoon nap came calling and we headed back to our apartment amongst the highrises of Jongno-gu........
We'd already put in a good amount of mileage, but little did I know we'd put in another big chunk this evening.