A comforting favorite for change of seasons

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A comforting favorite for change of seasons


For a hearty introduction to the seasons of falling leaves, snow and piercing wind, many Koreans resort to jokbal, or pork hock. It might sound exotic for non-Koreans, but to locals, the dish remains a dependable friend ― the kind you sometimes take for granted but that you always come back to for consolation.
Eating a slice of boiled hock signals the end of light, summery meals and an opportunity to cuddle up with Korean-style comfort food that is the antithesis of anything leafy, green or delicate. The dish is also a favorite take-out for late night drinking with friends.
One stretch of a long street in Jangchung district, northern Seoul, has 12 restaurants that serve up jokbal and almost all have the word “wonjo” (meaning original in Korean) in the title. Three have been there for more than 40 years and the most well-known is “JangChung Fatty Grandmother Food,” which is even setting up for franchises in other countries. Another is “Wonjo Jangchung-dong Halmeonigip” (“Original Jangchung district Grandma’s House”), which has been renovated over the years and has the most modern interior out of all 12 restaurants, with menus in Korean, English and Japanese.
On a late Sunday night, I visited the latter for a small-sized jokbal set (20,000 won; $20.90, 25,000 won for medium, 30,000 won for large). The pork slices, which are boiled at high temperature with ginger, green onions, garlic and rice wine, consist of a lean meat layer and a thick, fatty skin that turns gelatinous after hours of cooking. The highlight of jokbal is the thick skin, which looks and tastes almost like a chewier version of brown lard. Taking a bite dipped in pickled shrimp sauce, the fat layers melt like creamy ice cream against the lean meat under your tongue.
Although the jokbal wasn’t the best quality pork I’ve ever had, it was just good enough to come back to in my weaker hours, when I need comfortable, far from polished but trustworthy company.

by Cho Jae-eun

Wonjo Jangchung-dong Halmeonigip is in Jung-gu, northern Seoul, near Dongguk University subway station, line No. 3, exit 3. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. everyday. For more information, call (02) 2279-9979 or 2275-1064.
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