중앙데일리

Time for traditional tea and scrumptious fall snacks

[CUP]

Oct 12,2009
Sweet red bean porridge, right, with ginger slices and tea made from 10 medical herbs. By Ser Myo-ja
Grabbing my trench coat from the closet a few days ago, I exclaimed (in my mind), “Yes! The time has come!”

Time for autumn tea. Signs of the arrival of fall are everywhere. The wind blows in the morning and evening, and skies are blue and clear. Ginkgo trees turn golden on the streets of Seoul, and I make my annual visit to a small traditional Korean cafe in Samcheong-dong, carefully coordinating my steps to avoid smelly fallen ginkgo fruit.

Unlike its neighbors, touting coffee and waffles, Seoulseo Duljjaero Jalhaneunjip (or “Second Best in Seoul”) has specialized in traditional herb teas and drinks since April 19, 1976. The interior is simple and modest, perhaps what a teahouse would have looked like in the 1970s.

The menu is very simple, carrying only six items, mostly teas and drinks. Over the years, I have tried all of them, and the very best is the danpatjuk, a bowl of sweet red bean porridge (5,500 won, $4.72). The silky smooth porridge arrives in a small bowl with its lid closed to keep it warm and moist, with elegant garnishes of boiled chestnuts, ginkgo (not smelly), beans and cinnamon powder. Inside the porridge hides a huge piece of rice cake.

Often, red bean porridge made at home includes grains of rice and is thicker, but the porridge served here is made with no rice and has such a fine texture that it almost tastes like soup.

I use my spoon to scoop out a chunk of the rice cake swimming inside the porridge and carefully top it with the chestnut. After the first mouthful of chewy rice cake coated with the warm, sweet red bean sauce, I can’t put down my spoon until the bottom of the empty bowl appears. The rice cake would have tasted very bland without the warm porridge, but together, it melts in my mouth.

Another famous tea at this cafe is Sibjeondaebotang, a traditional tea made of 10 medical herbs brewed for a whole day (5,500 won). The cup of steamy tea is topped with pine nuts and accompanied by a small dish of sugarcoated ginger slices. Though it tastes a bit bitter at the first sip, the sweetness of the spicy ginger snack complements the tea perfectly.

One can even have the tea with the essence of deer horn for 2,000 won more. By adding the greenish jelly, the tea can be upgraded into a cup of tonic for some, but I have to admit that I haven’t had the courage to try it yet. (My husband has, and simply said he liked it either way without elaborating.)

After the warm bowl of danpatjuk and the cup of herb tea, the autumn winds do not feel so chilly anymore. As I left the cafe, I could not help but admire the humility of the owner’s philosophy. If this is the second best in Seoul, what could the very best be?


Seoulseo Duljjaero Jalhaneunjip

Location: 28-21, Samcheong-dong, Jongno District, Seoul

Hours: 11 a.m. ? 10 p.m.

Telephone: (02) 734-5302


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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