Post by MELISSA TAIT
A few weeks ago, my Korean co-worker pulled me into an alley when we were going out for dinner. I was slightly alarmed but we quickly entered a pork soup restaurant with a cauldron of broth and pork bubbling outside. We were seated near the wall of the restaurant under many signatures of Korean celebrities who must have patronised the restaurant and bestowed them with a signature.
‘Wow,’ my colleague said. ‘I didn’t know it was so famous.’ I asked him who the celebrities were but it seemed a bit too arduous to translate them all.
Our meal arrived in seconds, we had the house speciality of pork and rice soup. The pork is floating on top in a white broth, that must have been cooking for hours on the street outside the restaurant. The rice is a little surprise under the soup and there are spring onions and other flavoursome vegetables floating in the soup. I went to take a bite but my colleague said that you have to add the chilli and salt or tiny salty shrimp to make it taste better before you eat it. Being able to control the spice and other flavours really added to the charm of the dish and it was filling and warming. It comes with many sides including two types of kim chi, onion, garlic and green peppers to dip in hot sauce. The pork soup was W5500, a good deal for a meal that would keep me full for several hours.
This week, I was craving pork and rice soup again so I found my way back to the alley and restaurant. The cauldron was bubbling again outside and I sat in the same seat, against the wall. I looked up to find the autographs gone. Hmm, maybe they redecorated. I ordered the soup and it came again in rapid speed with the same sides. I reached for the chilli pot but it wasn’t there. Hmmm, odd. I stirred my soup and found that the chilli sauce was just under the surface. I enjoyed the meal much the same, ate it quickly, paid W5,500 and left.
On the street outside I noticed there were two pork rice and soup restaurants laid out exactly the same next to each other, with the same cauldron out the front, the same layout and same key dishes. The autograph one was on the left and the one I had just eaten at had a large neon sign stating that they were ‘The first and most delicious pork soup restaurant in Korea’, and opened in 1948. While I was a little perplexed I was encouraged overall. I had just found two awesome restaurants with a tasty signature dish, in an alley of similar restaurants. Now I think of that street as Pork Soup Alley and
take my time deciding if I should go to the original or the famous.
Directions to the Seomyeon food street where you’ll finde these restaurants:
TO THE NORTH END: Seomyeon station exit 1. Go out and take your first right, then your first left down the alley with all the street food stalls.
TO THE SOUTH END: from Seomyeon station, go into the Primall and go to mall Exit 4. Turn left and then take your first right at the small alley with lots of bubbling soup pots. It’s the same alley/street as Fuzzy Navel, but further north (towards Seomyeon station).
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