12.128 Hella Zzamzza


13 (Thu) May 2021

Hella Zzamzza


at Zzamppong Zizon

-Bansong, Dongtan, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-


Zzamppong Zizon (짬뽕지존) is a Korean-Chinese restaurant chain.  Founded 2015.  Currently 63 branches across the country.  Specializes in jjambbong. The term “jijon” – here, stylized as “zizon” – originated as an honorific title for royalty, meaning “most exalted,” kinda like “Your Majesty,” but now refers to anything proclaiming to be the best.

Our book fair is being held today and tomorrow in a school located in the same building.

SIDEBAR: The Korean alphabet has 4 letters that can be doubled for stronger emphasis in pronunciation: ㄱ/ㄲ, ㄷ/ㄸ, ㅂ/ㅃ,ㅈ/ㅉ.  When the doubled letter is transliterated into English, the English counterpart is also doubled, even if doing so doesn’t really make a difference in the English pronunciation and looks strange.  For example, “짬뽕 = jjambbong.” 

SIDEBAR: The Korean alphabet does not have counterparts for certain English letters, such as F, R, TH, V, Z.  When such letters are transliterated into Korean, the Korean letter designated to sound most similar is substituted.  For Z, for example, the Korean character ㅈ (pronounced like the English letter J) is used.  So, for example, the clothing brand Zara is written as “자라” and pronounced “JARA” (yes, I know that Zara is pronounced “Thara” in Spanish; in that case, hypothetically, because Korean also doesn’t have a letter for the TH sound, ㅌ would stand in (sounds like a T), so the brand would be written as “타라” and pronounced “TARA”) (ㄹ is more of a rolled R, and so coincidentally comes closer to the Spanish letter R).  Marketers have taken this linguistic mechanism and reversed it, so that Korean words with ㅈ are transliterated into English not with J but with Z, which presumably is intended to look cooler, even though it doesn’t, and the pronunciation becomes less accurate.  For example, “짬뽕 = jjambbong = zzambbong = zzamppong (no reason why the “bb” is changed to “pp”).

The self-service bar – located at the entrance, so it’s the first thing that customers see upon entry – offers coffee, fruit drinks, water, side dishes, napkins, utensils, aprons (to shield against jjambbong broth splatter), and steamed rice.

Whereas jjajang myeon and jjambbong are the twin juggernauts of Korean-Chinese cuisine, together comprising perhaps 60% of orders in most Korean-Chinese restaurants (another 10% might be fried rice, which comes with jjajang sauce on the side and a bowl of jjambbong soup).  They are equally popular, driving customers crazy with the dilemma of which one to order, hence the invention of jjamjja myeon.  Curiously, however, more restaurants seem to specialize in jjambbong these days (see for example 11.356 Haemul Wang Jjambbong), even in Manila (see 10.271 Chadol Jjambbong) – “specialize” means that “jjambbong” is included in the name of the restaurant, though old school restaurants offering hand made noodles still lean towards jjajang myeon (see for example 3.215 Suta Wang Son Jjajang Myeon).

I have never seen a restaurant in Korea that offers free rice – a bit later, the steamer was refilled to the top with rice – what a great idea.

My theory – which I am making up right now as I type – is that jjambbong is more difficult to make, thus the louder proclamations of mastery.  Every component of jjambbong – broth, proteins, vegetables, noodles – needs to be just right, or imperfections will immediately come through.  By contrast, the thick, sweet, rich black bean sauce of jjajang myeon is more overpowering, more forgiving – like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

In addition to the standard flour-based noodles, jjambbong is also available with rice noodles or rice or sujebi or sundubu.

The menu offered 2 versions of jjambbong, though they actually the same thing: (i) Jijon Jjambbong (“Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup”) and (ii) Jiok Jjambbong (“Hell Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup”).  The server confirmed that the components are identical in both, the only difference being that (i) is milder than (ii), which can be adjusted for spiciness, levels 1-4.  That means (i) and (ii) could be combined, with a 5-point scale of spiciness.

The jjamjja myeon – Hell, level 1 – was okay.  The jjajang half was a bit spicy, otherwise meh, still pretty good.  The jjambbong was fine if unremarkable; in fact, having found the broth rather flat, I was surprised to find heaps of shelled clams and mussels in the bottom of the bowl, making me suspect that they were thrown in at the end.  The best part was eating the shellfish with steamed rice.

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