Soondae with soju warms up winterFor many years, the Seoul city government has been searching for ways to get rid of hawkers on its streets, but the plastic tents with steaming tteokbokgi (rice cakes in hot red chilli pepper sauce), odeng (fish cakes) and soondae (Korean blood sausage) have proved to be stubbornly resilient.
The soondae sold by these hawkers, usually costing 2,000 won to 3,000 won ($2-3), have been much loved by the young and old of Korea for decades and are made of three main ingredients ― pork blood, intestines, and clear noodles. Then there are the “gourmet soondae” found in restaurants which specialize in North Korean style soondae. These delicacies use rare intestine parts and higher quality ingredients for their filling, instead of the basic noodle-and-blood combination. One of these restaurants is Bakam Soondae in Yeonhui-dong, northern Seoul.
Many kinds of soondae are featured, from old-style, or yetnal soondae (closer to the street soondae with noodle filling), red pepper or gochu soondae, which was quite hot, with 30 different kinds of vegetables and spices mixed with pork blood and wrapped with large intestines, to wang soondae, the most expensive dish, which uses the pig’s blind intestine. All are available alongside soondae stews (great for hangovers).
I ordered the mixed soondae, 20,000 won, with all of the above-mentioned soondae included, plus steamed pork liver. I remembered how, back in my university days, my guy friends would order soondae as a side dish when drinking soju. Half-way through the dish, I realized why.
I don’t know if it was the blood, the chewy intestine or the oil (the soondae, after being steamed, had been seared in oil), but the dish was so heavy that I felt as though a whole pig had crept into my stomach. And it was not a small one. After a few bites, my tablemate and I ordered a bottle of Andong soju (a distilled variety of soju) to dilute the grease and heaviness of the main dish. Even with the alcohol assisting our digestion, we both needed an acupuncturist the next morning and our faces were still a bit bloated. Nevertheless, the quality of the soondae was satisfactory, with the stuffing having the right balance of vegetables, spices and blood (although the liver was a bit dried out).
This is definitely not a light, summertime kind of dish. I would imagine that the restaurant’s soondaes would make a perfect companion for a winter “sports TV night” with the guys, accompanied by a few green bottles of liquor.
For more information, call (02) 337-7894, or visit www.basoondae.co.kr.
by Cho Jae-eun