Jonny Dumpling, You’re a Dumpling To Me

Jonny Dumpling is a sentient dumpling that sells out his unaware brothers and sisters to the maws of humankind. And boy are they delicious! There are three branches of Jonny Dumpling in Itaewon. The first branch often has a line, so I went on an off day to the third branch because I hate lines!

We had two dishes. First we had the #2 – 군만두 – 반달 (Fried Dumplings – Half Moon)

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Heeeeere’s Mandu!

I love these guys. They’re steamed dumplings that are fried on one side. This creates a really nice texture, both soft and crispy. It’s filled with a pork and shrimp stuffing, so if it’s not going to be a good choice if you are vegetarian or kosher.

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Soak up that deliciousness!

The second dish was the #1 – 새우 물만두 (Shrimp steamed dumplings)

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These had the same filling as the Half Moons, but the texture is different. If you like your mandu softer, they’re for you! But also not kosher.

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I’ll have to go back and try some of their other dumplings. Evidently they have some vegetarian options.

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Washed it all down with some Tsingtao.

If you want to visit Jonny Dumpling, you can find it in Itaewon. We went to the third branch at:

Seoul Yongsan-gu
Bogwang-ro 118

It’s on the second floor! Enjoy!

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맛있게 드세요!

Roasted Sparrow – On A Stick

Want a treat from the good ol’ days when kids played outside and killed small animals with stones? Then it sounds like ChamSaeJip is for you!

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These restaurants aren’t particularly common in Korea. In fact, many Koreans seem surprised to find out about these places. But I’ve been told by some older Koreans that grew up in the countryside that they would kill sparrows and toss them into a fire whole to cook and singe off the feathers. Since the Jongno area of Seoul is a haven for older people wishing to reminisce, well, I guess there is a big enough market for sparrows.

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For 10,000 won (about $10) you get two sticks with two roasted sparrows each. Splayed and gutted, but not deboned or beheaded, you can easily eat one sparrow with one bite. They come with gingko seeds, which are quite good.

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So how does it taste? It tastes like chicken. Crunchy chicken! Buy some beer to wash it down and you’ve got yourself a light snack.

If you want to try it for yourself, you can find it across the street from the Doosan We’ve Pavilion. Or you can punch in the address below!

종로구 청진동 43-2

Jongno-gu Cheongjin-dong 43-2

맛있게 드세요!

 

Korean Unification Restaurant – Neungna Babsang

IMG_4665Parallel the sleepless Jongno street is an alley packed with old folks, restaurants filled mostly with said old folk, and the occasional protest graffiti.

IMG_4232Not far from the yellow ribbon, next to a gamjatang house is a fairly unassuming entrance to Neungna Babsang (능라밥상) which I think roughly translates as… silk dining table? A finely laid dining table? Something fancy.

Neungna Babsang (능라밥상)

 

IMG_4670It’s a Korean Unification restaurant. Not quite sure what that means, but they serve some North Korean style food. Some real tasty North Korean food. The dining area feels staged and inauthentic. Don’t let that fool you!

IMG_4676Here are a few of the dishes I’ve tried thus far!

 

Gaeseong Mujjim (개성무찜)

Personality Steamed Radish! 

… I think…

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Oh, wait. So evidently Gaeseong is the name of a North Korean city. So this is a stew made with steamed radish in the style of the Gaeseongites. Those of you who followed the now defunct Sunshine Policy of South Korea, might remember that Gaeseong is the site of a South Korean industrial complex run by South Koreans, operated by North Koreans.

Wether personality or city, this dish is excellent. It’s a little spicy, with a little black pepper, tons of garlic, and a little ginger for a nice kick. Come with a friend or group though, this dish serves a minimum of two.
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Gamja Ogeurang Ddeokguk (감자 오그랑떡국)
Potato Wrinkled-Ricecake Soup

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Ogeuram Ddeokguk is a nice, thick ddeokguk. However, while it has some of the regular ddeokguk ddeok (ricecake), it also has a potato based lumpy/wrinkly ddeok. If you like ddeokguk, try this one out. Oh, right, and this dish is also heavy with garlic and I think a hint of ginger.
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Sogalbi Gukbap (소갈비국밥)
Beef Rib Soup

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Like the other dishes, the sogalbi gukbap here has plenty of good stuff, including the ever present garlic and ginger.

Sul (술)
Booze

Also for sale – booze! North Korean booze to be specific. Booze of various kinds!
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Evidently Dotori Sul is a ‘Well Known Liquor’. I haven’t tried any of these yet myself, but curiosity will eventually get the better of me.

Go North!

If you want to try Neungna Babsang, you can find it here:

Neungna Babsang
Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 197-1
2nd Floor

능라밥상
종로구 낙원동 197-1
2층

Club Zion – Ethiopian Food and Coffee

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A Shining Restaurant at the Foot of a Hill

I think I must have passed Club Zion dozens if not hundreds of times due solely to it’s name. I’m not a club person and could probably count the number of times I’ve been to a club on one hand, so it never crossed my mind to pop in.

Ah, but thanks to the power of the internet, I found out that this was much more a bar and restaurant than anything I would associate with a club. And while it is at the foot of ‘hooker hill’ in Itaewon, it wasn’t *that* sort of establishment. Well, at least not on the surface.

I went with three friends, three of us blatantly American and the fourth an older Korean friend of ours. We call him “Uncle Paul”. Because he asked us to. Since the establishment was new to us, we were initially a little hesitant, but we ducked inside and picked out a table. It was initially awkward as the restaurant was filled only with Africans who – for a brief moment – all seemed to look at us, as if surprised by our decision. I’m actually used to this with more backwater Korean establishments, but these folks lost interest pretty quickly and went back to their conversations and playing pool.

Oh, there’s a pool table there.

The menu is concise, which makes it great for those not knowing what they’re getting.

All the dishes here revolve around Injera – the Ethiopian flatbread. It’s spongy and soft to the touch and soaks up the sauces and juices really well. Fred initially thought it would be really light, but it soaks up the juices and fat really well. Turned out to be quite filling. Out of the four of us, I was the only one to finish their piece of bread! We had the following dishes:

Beye Ayenet

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Beye Ayenet is the main vegetarian dish, providing a variety of things to eat. Some of which were identifiable! Some chick peas, cabbage, maybe some beets or egg plant. Oh! And some potatoes and carrots.

 

Awaze Tibs
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Lamb sautéed with onions, green peppers, and other goodies. The injera really soaked up the sauce on this one.

 

Qey Wot

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Almost a soup, it was a tad salty, but quite delicious. Similar spices to the Awaze Tibs, but unfortunately seemed to lack the onions and peppers. It’s served in a bowl rather than dumped on the bread like the other dishes. To end the meal, we enjoyed some…

 

Ethiopian Coffee

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The cups are really tiny – like espresso. It’s strong, but smooth. But if you don’t like it bitter, you can always add some sugar. They conveniently serve the coffee with a comparatively large dish of sugar. For each cup ordered. I think there was as much sugar in the sugar dishes as coffee in the cups. I added a tiny spoon full of sugar, leaving me to wonder what they do with the rest of that sugar. Perhaps best not think about it too much.

They had some sort of advertisement for the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which looked interesting. They even had a table on display that looked like it was for that purpose, though why I didn’t take a photo of it is beyond me.

Getting There

*EDIT* – Club Zion only serves dinner on the weekends! Weekdays they are just a bar I guess.

Zion Club served some delicious dishes, so I’ll probably want to go back some time to try the others out! If you want to try out their Ethiopian cuisine, it’s easy to find the place. Take exit 3 from Itaewon station and hook a right at the first light. It’s on the left side of the road on the very first intersection. You can’t miss it!

Or you could punch any of these coordinates into your handy-dandy map app!

(traditional)
Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-dong 126-16

(new)
Usadan-ro 14 gil 3

Or in Korean:

용산구 이태원동 126-16

*or*

우사단로 14길 3

Enjoy! I know I’ll be back.

Netherlandia and the Pheasant Dumplings

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Coming up with a name for your restaurant is hard. A common method is to just name your restaurant by what it serves. In Korea this works really well when many restaurants have basically one item on their menu. But what if you want something more sophisticated, something with a bit of a panache? That’s when we name it after a place or person that sounds exotic. So what’s a great name for a restaurant that specialises in pheasant dumplings?

Netherlandia of course.

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Some friends and I traveled down to Pyeongchang last week to enjoy the weather, bike, hike around to celebrate Jo-anna’s birthday. Along the way we stopped by a place for a late breakfast. The combination of the name and the fact I hadn’t yet had pheasant dumplings made this a clear choice.

Pheasant dumplings, or Gwong Mandu (꿩만두), are basically mandu made with minced pheasant meat.

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It’s quite good, but not extraordinarily different or exceptional. If you’ve had Korean styled steamed dumplings you have the basics. That said, they were very good specimens of mandu, so I would still recommend it if you have the chance. Just don’t go out of your way for it.

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Netherlandia also serves pheasant in fried dumplings (군만두) and my favorite, manduguk. Average dish cost is about 6,000 won.

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The restaurant also sells homemade wine. Nothing sophisticated, but if you like home made wines, it’s nice and sweet.

You can find Netherlandia here:

 

Netherlandia
410 Uhang-ri, Ucheon-myeon
Hoengseong-gun, Gangwon-do

Or in Korean:

원조네덜란드꿩만두
강원 횡성군 우천면 우항리 410

I AM BAGEL

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One could compare the gentrification of low-laying neighbourhoods like Samcheongdong to the zombification of a populous, eager to sell their souls for the hip young generation to drop by and spend their – or their parent’s – hard earned moneys. In this destruction of the local to the infection of syphoning cash, one store owner realises that the only good name is an ironic name: I AM BAGEL

The Post Apocalyptic Bakery

To be fair, I’m not actually against gentrification, so long as it provides some level of diversity and doesn’t ultimately harm the less fortunate residence of the area. While Samcheongdong is oversaturated with expensive restaurants and over-priced cafes, the other side of Gyeongbok Palace is just starting down that path. Jihye and I decided to explore those various districts. Already there are a handful of cafes and restaurants sprouting up midst the small brick apartment blocks and town houses.

As we wandered up Okin-gil, in Nusang-dong, we came across I AM BAGEL and, being hungry, decided that it might just hit the spot.

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While you could just order a fresh bagel and spread, we decided to have a open mushroom sandwich, a Cobb salad with an Americano and Grapefruit juice to wash it down. While not outrageous… it wasn’t cheap.

IMG_4031 I’m a sucker for a nice bagel and mushrooms. Smother it with melted cheese and I’m in heaven.

 

IMG_4029The Cobb salad was scrumptious. The wooden bowl complimented the meal.

IMG_4030The interior has an industrial look to it. It all works well together, but I do have one gripe about my whole experience.

The grapefruit juice was utterly terrible. I don’t know how you mess up grapefruit juice, but they managed to remove the essence of the grapefruit and left a watery, pulpy, disappointment. I can’t tell if this is due to the restaurant being cheap, the workers being inexperienced, or some other unknown factor, but the lack of the delicious sourness left a sour note in my experience.

Grapefruit disaster aside, everything else worked well. If I’m in the area for a hike up Inwangsan, I’ll probably drop by again.

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And yes, they do serve pickles for those so inclined to cleanse their palette in this way.

If you want to check out I AM BAGEL, try meandering toward this address:

아이앰배이글
종로구 누상동 20-4

or

I AM BAGEL
Jongno-gu Nusang-dong 20-4


I think we can improve the photo.

I AM BAGEL with zombies

Much better.

SALT – Art Cafe

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SALT is a hybrid. It’s a mini art gallery/ cafe/ restaurant. Most notable for their bibimbap, which you can get for take-away if’n you don’t feel like staying in one place.

While the art space is alright, it’s more of a minor attraction for me, though I am glad they created glass barriers that protect the artwork from food splattering and creates a mini corridor you can walk through to enjoy the pictures.

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The unfortunate thing about this lovely space is that it’s in the basement (no windows) in a part of Jongno that isn’t the most attractive. Not the worst part of Jongno mind you, but not a place I would go out of my way for. Luckily it’s not far from the Chungye-cheon, so if you’re walking by, pop up for a visit.

The main dish here is the bibimbap. You can get other dishes of course, but the bibimbap is quite well done, and very fresh. They have three main kinds of bibimbap.

Spicy pork, sesame oil beef, and ‘mother’s’ bibimbap.

Mother’s Bibimbap

This is a quick, basic rice with veggies and an egg. No meat, no extras, just straight up wholesome bibimbap. And it’s cheap owing to the lack of meat.

Bibimbap I (Spicy Pork)

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Served in a big bowl, the spicy pork and gochu sauce is served on the side so you can add as much or as little as you want. The greens are delish, but I found, at least when I tried it, the chef added too much of the titular salt to the pork. I’ll try it again in case it was a fluke.

Bibimbap II (sesame oil beef)

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Served in the same style as Bibimbap I, this style replaces the gochu sauce with a sesame oil mixed with soy sauce. I found I prefer this dish as it has a much lighter yet filling feel to the spicy pork. Likewise, the beef isn’t over salted. It’s a delight and I would highly recommend this one!

Personally, whichever dish I choose, I find that I like to mix in the sauce or oil first and munch on the bibimbap, only adding the meat when I’m about half-way finished. Though in large part this is because if I have meat in my dish, I really like to have meat in my dish. I made a gif for you to illustrate:

Bibimbap-eating2

 

SALT also serves coffee. It’s not special, nor is it bad, just standard espresso based drinks. You can also get yourself some table wine if you want to feel a little fancier.

If you’re interested in visiting SALT, you can visit their FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/CafeSalt7

Or you could actually go there:

SALT (Cafe Gallery)
종로구 종로16길 32-4 동산빌딩

SALT map