Cycle 4 – Item 332
3 (Tue) December 2013
Curry Rice with Pan-Fried Pork Bellies
at Oksu Bunsik
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Bunsik (분식) is a category of Korean cuisine. Technically, the term refers to foods made with flour, such as ramyeon. Nowadays, bunsik more broadly includes any item prepared cheaply and quickly, even if no flour is involved, like gimbap. A classic pairing is gimbap + ramyeon, the cheapest and quickest items offered – the Bunsik Bifecta. Or so the story goes, bunsik suddenly became mainstream during the 1960s, at a time when flour was not yet a staple, as a result of the government pushing flour consumption in the face of severe rice shortages. As such, bunsik retains a strong connotation of being a cheap/quick alternative.
Bunsik restaurants – often referred to as “bunsik jib (house)” – are commonly found near schools or factories. Once mom & pop affairs (mostly moms), they’re fast going extinct, as corporatized chains take over.
Oksu Bunsik is a Korean restaurant. An original old-school bunsik jib. It’s been around since at least the early 00s, when my parents first moved into the neighborhood. Nothing new-fangled about the menu, the 11 items include: 3 types of gimbap, 2 types of ramyeon, 2 types of ddeokbokki, 2 combos of ramyeon/ddeokbokki, plus odeng and sundae, which are more street food than bunsik, but close enough. Quick. Ordering one of everything would cost 28,500 won total, averaging 2,590 won per item. Cheap.
Alas, the food was terrible. The ramyeon was okay – how hard is it to make instant noodles? The gimbap, meh but passable. The sundae was crappy, all squishy and flavorless. The ddeokbokki was the worst example of the dish that I’ve ever tasted in my life – even Nanny 2, who never ever complains about food, had to agree when she tasted the leftovers. Ugh. I’m surprised that the place has been around for so long.
For whatever reason, I never once thought about going there, even though I passed by every day for years. DJ suggested that we give it a shot, you know, as part of the matriculation process – he’s entering 1st grade in February. Good thing, because he can warn his new classmates and steer them elsewhere.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)