Try low-class fare in a high-class settingNot many people know that the owner of the Delhi chain of curry restaurants in Seoul also owns a small Korean restaurant, called Cheongho, in the back streets of Apgujeong-dong.
The eatery specializes in two authentic and well-loved Korean foods: homemade noodles in soup and meat dumplings, or mandu. For just 4,000 won ($3.50), you can get a hearty bowl of kalguksu (noodles in soup) made with a strong bone broth. With it you can get a plate of meat dumplings that are about as big as tangerines.
The mandu at Cheongho are so popular that the restaurant even sells them frozen to go (18,000 won for 30 dumplings) so you can enjoy them at home as a late-night snack.
Cheongho wasn’t always a modern restaurant ― until last year it was just another typical sikdang (diner). When the owner, Park Sung-jun, remodeled and made it more upscale, he also added a special recipe: He started serving a broth made from a kind of wild mushroom that grows on dead beetles’ bodies. The mushrooms are believed to have medicinal value. And when cooked in a soup, they add a bit of brown color and a pleasant toasty taste. So for as little as 5,000 won, you can get great tasting noodles in a bowl of dongchunghacho kalguksu, and perhaps enjoy some health benefits, as well.
The best side dishes to go with the kalguksu or manduguk (dumplings in soup) are the Cheongho patties, or jeon. Kimchijeon (3,000 won) is poured in thin patties and roast ed on the grill; the slightly fermented taste of chopped kimchi inside the orange patties adds a great zest to the meal.
The traditional bindaetteok (soy patty) is served with guljeot (oyster pickles) in red chili-pepper sauce (8,000 won). The mild flavor of ground soybeans and pungent spice of the pickles are the highlights of this quintessentially Korean food.
If your party has more than three people you should try the mandu jeongol (dumpling stew), which is cooked over a gas range at the table. The dish costs 15,000 won for two people, 20,000 won for three and 25,000 won for four.
Another good choice is a plate of suyuk (boiled meat) served with mustard sauce, which costs 15,000 won.
The best drink to accompany these favorite Korean foods is dongdongju (1,500 won per glass) or, of course, a bottle of domestic beer (3,000 won).
Theme: Korean noodles and dumplings
Telephone: (02) 545-4487
Address: 636-21 Sinsa-dong, a two-minute walk from Jaseng Oriental Medicine Hospital at the south end of Seongsu Bridge
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Credit cards: Accepted
by Ines Cho