Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Silbi Jib: Insadong Gamjatang

My boyfriend, Dan, arrived in Seoul over the weekend and I wanted to make sure his first meal in Korea was a special one. Due to circumstances, though, I couldn't take him to any of my favorite restaurants; instead, we ended up ducking into a random spot in Insadong for lunch after I saw a sign advertising gamjatang for 5,000 won.

The inside of the restaurant was charming and graceful in the way that most traditional Korean restaurants are, and the panchan were what you'd expect for five dollars; four or five plates of kimchi, anchovies with peppers, and sweet radishes. I noticed a man eating alone, which was nice to see because that's typically frowned upon here. There were also English language menus available. Our grandmotherly server was exceptionally friendly, but when I heard her call out our order to the cook--"Two gamjatangs, not spicy!"--I was quick to politely request that she reverse the second half of the order. Although the majority of westerners I know love spicy food, Koreans have somehow been led to believe that even a dash of chili powder will singe our delicate taste buds.

Five minutes later, the lusty red bowls of gamjatang arrived, bubbling hot. Fortunately, our amended order spared no chili powder, which lined our bowls and made them glow. This was some of the best gamjatang broth I've ever had. They were also generous with the thick pieces of tender pork, which fell of the bone with the gentle prod of a chopstick. Halfway through the meal, I found myself doing a little dance on my chair without realizing it; the soup was that good. Dan got a stellar first Korean meal, and I have a new "go to" restaurant for gamjatang.

It's just past the GAGA gallery on Hweynamugil, towards the Tapgol Park end of Insadong.

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