On a budget? Head for Hanyang

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On a budget? Head for Hanyang

The restaurant may be called Hanyang Buffet, but it is nothing like the elaborate spreads at hotel buffets.
In fact, to get to Hanyang Buffet one must pass through a dirty, narrow alley that has more craters than the surface of the moon. And Hanyang Buffet is not a single restaurant, but a group of five tteokbokki, or spicy rice-cake, houses sitting together in a small marketplace near the rear entrance to Hanyang University.
Hanyang Buffet offers only a few dishes; the specialties are tteokbokki and sundae, stuffed pig intestine.
So what is the hook? It is dirt cheap; you cannot get portions this big at this price anywhere else in Seoul.
A full meal for two hungry men, which includes three dishes and beverages (alcoholic, of course), usually costs less than 10,000 won ($8.50). Unfortunately, Hanyang Buffet does not sell beer, but there is plenty of soju, grain wine, and makgeolli, a milky rice wine, to go around.
Tteokbokki and sundae each cost 1,500 won for a generous serving.
Also on the menus are steamed eggs with vegetables, broiled sundae, broiled chitterlings and kimchi jeon, a kind of kimchi pancake. These all cost more than 1,500 won, but none is more than 4,000 won.
To be honest, the tteokbokki is made of wheat rather than rice flour and therefore loses that chewy texture that distinguishes better tteokbokki, but a boiled egg and a delicious fried meat-filled dumpling to dip in the rich, spicy red chili sauce make up for the squishy tteok.
The broiled chitterlings are another distinctive offering. Not only are the chitterlings chewy but they are also spicy, mixed with jjolmyeon, or a rubbery transparent noodle.
Another distinctive character of the Hanyang Buffet is the setting. The restaurants do not feature marble floors or fine crystal, but customers can wax nostalgic while sitting at one of the well-worn picnic-style tables, drinking out of cups that look like they should have been thrown away a decade ago.
The roof is covered with a huge piece of tent cloth, held in place with wooden boards, giving the place a simple, down-to-earth market atmosphere.
The place is down right shabby, but at these prices how can you complain?

Hanyang Buffet
Theme: Korean
Telephone: none
Hours : 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Price: 1,500 - 4,000
Location: Across from the rear entrance to Hanyang University.
Parking: none
Credit cards: not accepted

by Lee Ho-jeong
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