30 (Fri) August 2013
-Jongro, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (Part 11)
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 that are least 50 years old or has been owned by at least 3 generations (see OKRKL).
Cheongjinok (청진옥) is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in dishes comprising beef by-products. Supposedly founded in 1937. According to OKRKL, the restaurant invented so-called “Seoul-style” haejang guk (I don’t even want to bother explaining how it supposedly happened). The menu also offers various anju (accompaniment for alcohol), ironically.
Prices are on the steep side. Whereas haejang guk is generally a cheap dish, often available for around 6,000 won, it’s 9,000 won here. The jeon average 15,000 won per plate, what a ripoff. Even the soju is 4,000 won, WTF.
Haejang Guk (해장국) is a broad category of Korean soup. The term “haejang” means, more or less, “hangover remedy.” In Korean drinking culture, all hangover remedies involve broth in some form or another, though almost always spicy, often based on doenjang (Korean style miso). Varying by region, many different soups traditionally consumed for that purpose would qualify. In Seoul, for example, one local version consists of beef broth with coagulated blood (“seonji”), sometimes tripe and other offal, as well as bean sprouts and cabbage (see also 4.110 Seonji Guk Bab). Despite its name, the soup is not limited to the morning after; in fact, it’s often served around the clock at 24-hr joints, where the sight of drunk men having a final round accompanied by haejang guk, as if preemptively, is quite common in the wee hours.
The haejang guk was terrible. The broth was weird, not at all beefy, but kinda bitter and medicinal. The seonji was crumbly and tasteless. The offal was awful. Both W and I left most of the bowl untouched. I’m willing to concede that neither us is a fan of innards in general. Still, while the place was pretty full, the customers within visual range, concededly younger customers, also seemed to be picking reluctantly at the food. On the way home, we seriously discussed dropping by somewhere else for another meal to wash away the unpleasant aftertaste (but couldn’t agree on a place by the time we arrived home, so we didn’t).
This was the last straw. The food has been competent at best, outright lousy in most cases, as here. And I’m so sick of the baseless, patently absurd origin stories and claims of invention. My exploration of OKRKL comes to a resounding close. I’ve lost the book itself in any case, so good riddance.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)