4.206 Jeonju Gobdol Bibimbab

Cycle 4 – Item 206

30 (Tue) July 2013

Jeonju Gobdol Bibimbab

2.5

at Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan

-Myeong, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with DJ

Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (Part 5 of 11) (see also OKRKL)

As an on-going project, GMTD is undertaking to review restaurants featured in the book Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (한국인이 사랑하는 오래된 한식당), which includes 100 restaurants (28 in Seoul) that are least 50 years old or have been owned by at least 3 generations.

Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan (전주 중앙회관) is a Korean restaurant.  According to OKRKL, it was established in 1959, the 24th oldest restaurant listed in Seoul.  Launched in the city of Jeonju under a different name, adopted its current name in 1969 – “hoegwan = meeting hall” – moved to Seoul in 1974, settled into the present location in 1982.

Ready for this?  OKRKL claims that the restaurant invented bibimbab.  Supposedly, the original owner took what was a simple dish, ubiquitous in Jeonju, consisting of rice mixed with bean sprouts and, hoping to make it more tasty and healthful, added a wider variety of ingredients to the mix.  But that’s as far as the explanation goes, one sentence dropped in an otherwise mundane paragraph about the restaurant’s relocation history.  Considering that BBB is one of Korea’s most iconic foods, easily within the top five, an origin story would seem to merit a few more words.  Yet another dubious origin myth from OKRKL, which has no qualms about propagating bullshit.

In fact, other much more reliable sources date the first printed reference to or description of BBB or something like it as far back as 1849 (see for example Naver on bibimbab), though popular belief would have the dish itself going back much farther without any specific geographical origin.  Not a single source mentions Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan, by the way.

At Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan, the BBB included two twists.  First, instead of the typical gochujang as a condiment, either dolloped on top or provided separately (e.g., in a squeeze bottle), the rice came already mixed in a secret proprietary sauce, which I’d wager is essentially gochujang with some sugar, sesame oil, etc.  Next, instead of the typical earthenware bowl (“dolsot”), the food came in a hand-carved stone bowl (“gopdol”).  In two on-line dictionaries, the Korean term for “gobdol (곱돌)” is translated as “agalmatolite” in English, a soft carving stone.  In any case, the stone was excellent for absorbing and retaining heat to keep the food hot to the last bite.  In fact, unaware of the stone thing at the time of the meal, I was wondering how the bowl could remain so hot for so long

Overall, the BBB here was a respectable representation of the dish.  Twists aside, the toppings were well-balanced, well-made, and varied if a bit gimmicky.  Dolsot BBB isn’t really my thing, however, as I prefer my BBB cool, like a salad.  Decent array of sides, including a small bowl of soup.  A bit steep at 10,000 won, but not too bad considering the whole package.

(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)

(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)

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