Authentic Korean Lunch at Seojichogaddeul Restaurant
Korean food is probably one of the healthiest foods in the world. Yes, there’s the Korean BBQ and the bulgogi which you’d drool over when you see them in most Korean restaurant menus. And you will notice that almost all side dishes are made of fresh vegetables, fermented and spicy vegetables, and just lots and lots of vegetables!
Our Korean Tour Guide outside Seojichogaddeul Restaurant
I must admit I’m no heavy vegetable eater but when I heard that we were going to have an authentic Korean lunch at Seojichogaddeul Restaurant in Gangneung, surprisingly I felt excited — not because of the idea that I’d get an overload of vegetables (uhm, no-no), but because our tour guide mentioned that Seojichogaddeu is known for serving dishes that is no longer commonly served by most Korean restaurants.
Seojichogaddeul photo by Hansik.org
Apart from being a famous restaurant, Seojichogaddeul is actually more of a tourist attraction. The restaurant is located in a traditional, 300-year-old house which emits that distinct “old world” charm giving you that feel like you’re in an old Korean village. It just transports you back to the past.
The restaurant is quite situated far from the city and the roads leading to it are quite narrow, at least for our huge tourist bus loaded with hungry and tired, yet extremely happy travelers.
Sun Dried Hot Chili
From the area where we parked, we walked along a concrete path lined with flowering plants. Upon reaching the restaurant, we were told to wait outside as our table and food were still being prepared. Just in front of the restaurant, we noticed a bed of chili pepper – that which they use for Kimchi — all being sun-dried.
Our Private room inside Seojichogaddeul Restaurant
After a few minutes, we were then invited to enter the restaurant. Prior to getting inside our private room, we were requested to remove our footwear. This is probably the norm in every Korean restaurant. And it’s most likely embedded in Korean tradition and culture.
Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Now, here’s the challenging part. Dining in this restaurant involves sitting on cushions laid in the floor and to be honest, I was having a difficulty sitting (well, not totally used to it) not because it’s really hard to do, but because I have a huge tummy LOL. But then again, that’s their way of living and I had to do it. So, I joined the rest.
The restaurant owner then started filling our table with a variety of dishes. Our tour guide was spot on when she said that most of the dishes served in Seojichogaddeul are quite unfamiliar. Even our Korean tour guide had to inquire each time we asked her what the dish specifically is. Apart from kimchi, the only familiar dish on the table was my favorite chap chae, a sweet potato noodles cooked with sesame oil and vegetables. Yum!
My favorite Chap Chae
The table was actually filled with mostly vegetable side dishes. Then, there were two kinds of fish, plus tofu. Meat was rare. In fact, the only dish that had meat in it was the vegetable soup with shredded chicken.
What we were actually into was a Banchan feast. Banchan, in English, means side dish. Its relationship with the main dish is extra tight so much so that it’s like your hamburger always matched with fries. Now, not too much of a surprise, the most common banchan is Korea’s ever-present kimchi which is a chili-pickled napa cabbage.
Crispy friend Chili
Our table was literally packed with different kinds of kimchi; some were spicy but surprisingly not salty, except for the Mackerel fish which is a tad salty. One of the most interesting side dishes they have looked very similar to our chicharon or pork rind, although this time its main ingredient is pepper, not pork. It’s probably everyone’s favorite because it has a mix of spiciness and sweetness in it. Delicious!
Unlike mainstream restaurants, Seojichogaddeul doesn’t serve soft drinks. Instead, they will let you try their rice drink which is said to aid in proper digestion.
For the dessert, Mrs. Choi served us a beautiful plate of Wha Jeon or flower rice cake. Decorated with edible flowers, this rice cake is made with rice, chestnut and dates. Wha Jeon is a traditional Korean dessert which consists of sweet rice cakes and edible flower petals. It is a traditional South Korean spring dessert, normally served at spring festivals, birthdays, family celebrations, and other special events.
A plate of Wha Jeon
Everything on our table was prepared by Mrs. Choi, the owner of this lovely restaurant who lives in a lovely traditional Korean house right next to her restaurant. Thank you Mrs. Choi, Korean Tourism Organization and AirAsia for this gastronomic feast!
AirAsia’s Manila-Incheon (Seoul) flights occur twice daily. It’s the shortest trip, but AirAsia also offers flights from Cebu to Seoul once a day, and two-way charteredflights to/from Kalibo (Boracay), Incheon (Seoul), and Busan. For flight booking and reservations, visit http://www.airasia.com/. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Address: 264, Nangok-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Special thanks to Korea Tourism Organization and AirAsia for making this trip possible.