A traditional full-course feast, minus the usual full-course priceIt’s relatively easy to find eateries that sell Korean dishes like bibimbap and naengmyeon in Seoul. But where, oh where, can one find places that sell a home-style hanjeongsik, or a traditional full-course Korean meal, without the heftiness, extravagance or expense of the usual restaurant offerings?
The answer is near a university. Seoul’s college districts have bistros galore that specialize in hanjeongsik ― without the cost or pretentiousness of Insa-dong or the downtown area.
Near the front gate of Ewha Womans University, BaB (a play on the Korean word for “rice”) is a sure-fire hit for those looking for a home-style Korean meal with a wide assortment of side dishes and a piping hot bowl of jjigae, or stew. And it will cost you just 5,000 won ($4.20) a person.
BaB offers just two main courses, the hanjeongsik and the bibimbap. The former gives a choice of a pungent doenjangjjigae, a spicy Korean-style miso stew, or its kimchi cousin, accompanied by nine side dishes. The side dishes vary according to the season, but at BaB you always get nine!
Recently the side dishes included small bindaetteok (a kind of pancake), a selection of vegetable dishes, kimchi and minced potato. There are no artificially flavored dishes dripping with fat, or dressed with Spam or packaged Vienna sausages. Just good, old-fashioned Korean side dishes just like mom would make at home. And, unlike many restaurants, the cooks at BaB don’t skimp on ingredients for the mouth-watering stews.
A mung-bean grilled pancake is also available as a hefty appetizer or in lieu of rice at the price of 5,000 won.
Bibimbap is served with seven fresh, seasoned vegetables and herbs rather than the nine side dishes. These include green lentil jelly and fried kelp, which are piled in a bowl of steamed rice to create an “incredible harmony,” the chefs at BaB like to say. Rounding out the bibimbap is a tasty seaweed soup.
After the meal, for just a few won more, try some Korean omija, citron, jujube tea ― which is served with small rice cakes. The rice cakes and the tea, which is served hot or cold, really cleanse the palate.
BaB is run by a group of ajummas devoted to serving nutritious, natural, fresh food. Their dishes leave you feeling full, but not too stuffed, and satisfied, but not satiated. In other words, just like you’d feel after a meal at home.
by Choi Jie-ho
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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