Last month I visited Seoul, South Korea, Here's a look at something I ate from my trip. For more, check out the rest of my Snapshots from South Korea.
"This is it," Rob said while pointing to a window full of bubbling mini-cauldrons of stew on top of a gas range. My eyes grew wide. Some girls are enticed by windows full of jewelry or shoes; I'm all about the seething pots of stew.
Or rather, I'm all about the single-dish restaurants. Ddukbaegi Jip, or Hot Pot/Stew House, is the haven of stew that stood before us. This small, homey restaurant only serves four items: boiled snails with doenjang (fermented soybean paste), doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean soup), soondubu (soft tofu stew); and kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew). Our group of five just stuck with the soups, although I'd assume they've perfected their snail-cooking technique as well.
Aside from banchan (peppers, kimchi, stewed soybeans, watercress), each order of stew came with a bowl of rice. The rice was topped with shredded seaweed and hidden under the rice was a pile of soybean sprouts.
My favorite was the soft tofu stew (₩3,500; $2.80) mostly consisting of huge, silky soft, jiggly blocks of tofu in a thin, spicy red pepper flake and paste-flavored broth with vegetables. Since getting tofu stew was the main reason I wanted to go to Ddukbaegi Jip, I'll admit that I paid less attention to the other dishes. But they were all hearty and satisfying in the way that the combination of spicy, chunky stew plus gobs of sticky rice is. Here are the other stews:
Kimchi stew (₩4,500; $3.60) featuring our favorite spicy, fermented cabbage product.
Fermented soybean stew (₩3,500; $2.80) made with doenjang.
And if you want to add more spicy/sweet flavor to your dishes, just reach into the communal pot filled to the brim with gochujang, a thick fermented paste made of glutinous rice powder, fermented soybeans, and red pepper.
This is the kind of place I love: specialized, inexpensive, efficient, delicious, and filling. If you're wondering why five people shared three bowls, it's because Ddukbaegi Jip was just one stop during an afternoon eating binge. Eat soondubu for a snack or a meal; it's all good.
Thank you to Emily Koh for helping me translate.