2.201 Mandu Guk


25 (Mon) July 2011

Mandu Guk


at Pil-Dong Myeonok

-Pil, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with Mr K and Mr S

Pil-Dong Myeonok (필동 면옥) is a Korean restaurant.  Landmark.  Specializes in northern-style cuisine.

Incidentally, “ok” (옥) is an old Korean suffix meaning “house.”   It’s not used much in the modern vernacular except in reference to homes built along the lines of traditional Korean architecture (i.e., hanok) or to old-school noodle shops (i.e., myeonok).  After 6 decades of separation, anything associated with the north feels old-school, frozen in time, which is why many northern restaurants include “ok” in their names.  Come to think of it, Pil-Dong Myeonok contains the “ok” but not a northern town or region, just the neighborhood where it’s located here in Seoul.

For no specific reason, I had dinner with Mr K and Mr S, fathers of DJ’s friends from daycare.  Mr S prides himself on knowing excellent Korean restaurants, so he had chosen the venue.

In line with similar northern noodle houses, the menu was minimal with only 7 items: mul naeng myeon, bibim naeng myeon, on myeon, mandu, mandu guk, suyuk, and jeyuk.

What else could you possibly want?

Kimchi and radish pickles, made in the northern style, very light and white.
Suyuk (boiled beef shank) (3.0) + Pyeonyuk (boiled pork belly) (3.0): talk about simple.
Mul Naeng Myeon (3.0): the gochugaru, maybe a touch of southernization.

The mandu guk was excellent. The mandu themselves were very simple, all white as per northern sensibilities.  But then, the soup was served with a spicy/pungent mushroom and pork topping, very southern in feel – and very good.   Even the broth was richer/meatier than the typically austere soups of the north.  As someone who grew up on northern fare but subsisted predominantly on southern grub outside the home, I found myself liking the stronger flavors.  A great bargain at 9,000 won.

Classic northern-style minimalist mandu: pork, tofu, bean sprout, salt, pepper.

Having previously described two other establishments with northerly leanings – Pyeonggaok (평가옥) (see 1.067 Mandu Jeongol) and Pyeongyang Myeonok (평양면옥) (see 1.888 Mul Naeng Myeon) – the first of which I would recommend, the latter not so much – this place may be the best of the three.  All the dishes sampled this evening were quite good, albeit a bit southernized.

While I would recommend this place for the food, I should warn that the service tends to be rude and abrupt – especially the owner/manager sitting behind the cash register, who’s too busy counting the money to look up and say “Thank you.”

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

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