Traditional comfort food that delivers a pungent kickHow many people can resist a good home-style country meal?
Among Koreans, precious few, particularly if it’s a rich, dark doenjangjjigae, a spicy Korean miso stew, with a hot, steaming bowl of rice and side dishes just like mom makes.
About a 10- to 15-minute walk from the Gangnam subway station in southern Seoul sits Sigol Yache Doenjang, or Country Vegetable Doenjang, which has been dishing out the stuff for a decade.
Its rustic exterior exudes a homey aura. Its interior is quaint, with rows of tables and chairs on the first floor and floor seating upstairs.
Walk inside and you’re practically bowled over by the powerful aroma of simmering doenjang. To some, this may be unpleasant. But to lovers of the pungent stew, it’s a sign that the broth is just right. Sigol Yache Doenjang uses fermented bean curd and a minimum of water to achieve the sharp aroma.
The soup is served with rice and seven or eight side dishes, and costs just 5,000 won (about $4).
While countless other restaurants serve doenjangjjigae, Sigol Yache Doenjang also provides a large bowl filled with lettuce and vegetables so customers can make their own bibimbap with sesame oil and a dollop of Korean chili sauce, or gochujang.
The rice and veggies contrast with, and complement, the doenjangjjigae so perfectly that the combination is practically addictive.
The side dishes are another attraction. They’re traditional country fare, just like every good Korean mom makes.
Many customers love the steamed egg, saying it’s the very best of the restaurant’s side dishes. Others praise the dried anchovies, with the salty fish bathed in a sweet brown sauce. There also is cucumber kimchi, radish kimchi and bean sprouts in chili, which is believed to cure hangovers.
The restaurant also serves samgyeopsal, or grilled pork, for people who don’t want stew.
Sigol Yache Doenjang’s owner, Park Yong-rae, is a country girl who grew up in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province. So what makes her doenjangjjigae so special? She’ll never tell. It’s a family recipe.
Sniff the air, sip the stew. For comfort food, and a heady dose of nostalgia, Sigol Yache Doenjang is the place.
Sigol Yache Dwenjang
Theme: Spicy miso stew and
traditional side dishes
Telephone: (02) 3482-7626 Address: Behind Kyobo Book Store, Gangnam subway station (line No. 2). Take Exit 7, walk toward Sarang Church.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Credit cards: Accepted
by Lee Ho-Jeong