An eyesore belies its shabbiness with an edifice of Korea’s bestFor 20 years, word of mouth has brought students down the hill from Sookmyung Women’s University to Kkachinae. Located on the first floor of a weathered building on a street that is always teeming with coeds, the restaurant is not much to look at. There are seven worn-out tables and the walls are covered with graffiti.
“We’ve thought about changing the sign or fixing up the interior a couple of times,” says Hwang In-ha, Kkachinae’s manager, “but each time our loyal customers stopped us.”
Apparently they do not mind the slightly dingy atmosphere; the place is packed at almost any time of day.
Why? Well, in part, because Kkachinae is known for creating new tastes by mixing and matching ingredients used in traditional Korean dishes. According to Mr. Hwang, his mother-in-law, who at age 72 still comes in every morning to check the quality of the ingredients, invented jjol-soon, a spicy stew of uncurdled tofu and glass noodles. The stew, which costs 2,500 won, or $2.10, is the restaurant’s signature dish. The combination of the soft, silky tofu, the chewy noodles and the spicy soup is divine.
The menu also features five kinds of ramyeon, each for 2,500 won. Do not expect your typical, off-the-convenience-store-shelf instant noodles, though. They are each cooked in a distinctive broth created by the Kkachinae kitchen staff.
Eight different rice dishes cost from 3,000 won to 3,500 won. Omubab, an omelet filled with fried rice, is among the most popular. The neat, sweet-and-sour package makes for a hearty ― and tasty ― lunch.
The donkatsu, a Japanese-style breaded pork cutlet, is another delicious and filling standby. It costs 4,000 won.
Soft ice cream is also on the menu for dessert for 2,000 won, but do not limit yourself: There are plenty of other places for dessert in the area.
Those who come to know Kkachinae seem to keep coming back. Kang Sun-young, who has been eating here for eight years, says the restaurant is Korean fast food at its best. “This place is the essence of a simple Korean eatery,” she says. “With just 4,000 or 5,000 won you can taste some real Korean snacks.”
Hours: Everyday, 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Telephone: (02) 3273-9393
Location: Central Seoul, Cheonpa-dong; near Sookmyung Women's University station, subway line No. 4.
Credit Cards: Not accepted
by Eugine Oh