3 (Sat) April 2021
Yellow Cucumber Pulled Skin
at Dongbuk Hwagwa Wang
-Changsin, Jongro, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
After the meandering Insa-Dong debacle last month (see 12.060 Dubu Bossam), I insisted that we avoid exploration and make a triumphant return to one of our old favorites. I hadn’t been to Dongbuk Hwagwa Wang in nearly 5 years – not since a quick visit to Korea in May 2016, while I was based in Manila, a month before the family would move to join me there. In the post, I accurately anticipated that it would be the final visit so long as we were living in the Philippines (see 7.127 Yangjangpi).
Without looking at the menu, I ordered yangjangpi, my favorite dish at the restaurant. Curiously – curious in retrospect, not at that exact moment – the server asked: “Do you want the one that’s 20,000 won or 10,000 won?” MtG and I, both thinking the same thing, presumably what most people would think – that is, did we want the larger 20,000 won size or the smaller size at 10,000 won? – agreed on 10,000 won.
When the server brought the dish, it turned out to be something else. While comprising yangjangpi (potato starch noodles), the toppings were not (a) the standard medley of seafoods and vegetables in mustard sauce that we had intended but (b) cucumbers and dry bean curd skins in a light chili vinaigrette. Looking at the menu, 20,000 won for (a), 10,000 won for (b). Me: “By 10,000 won, we thought you meant a half-portion of the 20,000 won dish.” Server: “We don’t do half portions here.” Indeed, as customers with years of experience there, we should’ve known better. Though in fairness, “yangjangpi” by default means one thing in all other restaurants in Korea.
For the first time ever, as I sit here writing this post, I am trying to figure out the etymology of “yangjangpi.” The restaurant’s menu refers to the noodles in Chinese as “拉 (nab)(pulled) + 皮 (pi)(skin)” but in Korean as “yang (兩)(double) + jang (張)(expanded) + pi (皮)(skin).” Both would seem to describe the method of making the noodles. My poor research skills were unable to determine why the terms are different. One source suggests that yangjangpi was once called “yang (洋)(ocean) + bun (粉)(color) + pi (皮)(skin) + jab (雜)(mixed) + chae (菜)(vegetables)” but doesn’t explain further.
The menu describes (a) as “五 (oh)(five) + 色 (saek)(color),” and (b) as “黃 (hwang)(yellow) + 瓜 (gwa)(cucumber).”
Beyond etymology, I still have no idea what the actual dish is like in China, if it exists at all.
I am utterly grateful to be blessed with leisure time enough for looking into such trivial matters.
So great to be back. Still the only restaurant that I know of in Seoul that offers home-style Chinese cuisine – presumably northeastern in style, as the name of the place would suggest, though I don’t know anything about the region except that lamb seems a popular meat. At prices ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 won, with manageable portions, an extended meal can include several dishes, one after the other, until full or until the booze runs out.
(See also FOODS)
(See also PLACES)