Cycle 4 – Item 234
27 (Tue) August 2013
at Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choidepo
-Gongdeok, Mapo, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Old Korean Restaurants Loved by Koreans (Part 10 of 11) (see also OKRLK)
This project is to review restaurants featured in the book Old Korean Restaurants Loved by Koreans (한국인이 사랑하는 오래된 한식당), which includes 100 restaurants (28 in Seoul) that are least 50 years old and/or have been owned by at least 3 generations.
Choidepo is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in dweji galbi.
The restaurant was packed at the time of our visit. Around 1930, Tuesday, we managed to grab one of the last seats in the house. And quite a large house it is, more like a complex comprising the original building plus three expansion wings made by busting through the walls to the adjacent buildings on the other side. This indeed felt like an “old Korean restaurant loved by Koreans.”
According to OKRLK, the restaurant invented dweji galbi. Supposedly, the founder was inspired sui generis to marinate pork in a bulgogi-style sauce and grill the meat over yeontan (charcoal cylinders), which were commonly used back in the day to heat homes, thereby creating a new dish. The dish proved so immediately/immensely popular that scores of copycats emerged, prompting him to add “wonjo (원조) (original)” to the restaurant’s name and then later “jinjja (진짜) (real),” when the copycats themselves also claimed to be the wonjo.
I don’t buy it.
For dweji galbi purported to be the granddaddy of them all, it didn’t taste like any of its progeny that I’ve tasted elsewhere. Nowhere near as sweet, though GK felt that it was very sweet. A hint of spice. Plus some seasoning/flavoring that I couldn’t place. At least it was unique, apparently made in house, not from some mass-produced/bottled/distributed factory marinade that many cheap BBQ joints prefer to use – hence, those other places kinda taste the same.
Next, mul naeng myeon at Eulmildae, just a few blocks away.
GK wasn’t so impressed here – my own opinion of the Eulmildae MNM continues to drop with every visit, this time to 2.0.
Afterwards, we wandered around the back alleys until settling on a faux traditional pub.
The al tang (알탕) (fish egg stew) was okay.
For the final stage, we ended up in the famous grub/booze market Gwangjang Sijang – I’ll do a proper post on this iconic venue someday – though most of the stalls were closed by the time that we got there (around 0200?).
The jeon was pre-cooked then reheated on the griddle upon order.
When GK expressed his interest in the kimchi jeon, the sweet old lady made a fresh batch and gave it to use for free.
Eventually, we called it a night (around 0300? 0400?). Most regretfully. GK will be returning to Sweden in a couple days, and we won’t have time for a fourth bash before he leaves. As we shook hands to say goodbye, we swore that this wouldn’t be the last. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we meet again
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)