Cycle 4 – Item 121
6 (Mon) May 2013
at Ssanghak Banjeom
-Ssanghak, Yangdong, Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
Stayed an extra day to oversee landscaping at the cabin.
W had left yesterday with the kids in the car, so I took the train home at the end of the day. The closest station is in Yangdong, a town about 20 km from the cabin – by rural standards, that’s “next door.”
Ssanghak Banjeom is a Korean-Chinese restaurant. A hole-in-the-wall joint in a hole-in-the-ground town.
About a decade ago, after I’d just relocated to Korea from the States, my aunt and uncle moved to their new farm and abandoned their old house on a nearby property, which my cousins and I took over to use on weekends. We cooked most of our meals at the house – that was when my interest in outdoor cooking began – but occasionally we’d drive into town, where we’d sometimes eat at Ssanghak Banjeom, the only restaurant of its kind within a 50 km radius. The food was pretty good, probably due to the high likelihood that the kitchen used lard for everything, as countryside kitchens are wont to do, or at least they were back then, giving everything an extra layer of porcine richness. Good times.
This time, the first time that I’d been there in years, the food wasn’t as good as I remembered. Not that I had much choice, the town boasting maybe 5 restaurants in all, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of going elsewhere for dinner. With just 30 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive, I ordered jjajang myeon, which was the only item other than fried rice that could be ready in that time – because customers tend to be few and far between, most rural restaurants start entirely from scratch at the moment of the order, so service can be excruciatingly slow. In any case, the jjajang myeon was disappointing. Maybe they stopped using lard.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)