Golmok Sikdang 골목 식당 (Jeju City, Jeju)

When you’ve been open for over 40 years and have just a handful of dishes at your restaurant, you’re probably doing something right. Well, at Golmok Sikdang (“Alleyway Restaurant”) in Dongmun Market, they’ve been doing something right with their signature dish, Gwung Maemil Guksu (Pheasant Buckwheat Noodles Soup), for decades and they’re serving it every day, rain or shine, 365 days a year. Situated at the back end of the market (parallel to Joong-ang Street), this small hole-in-the-wall joint is popular with the local elderly and mainland foodie tourists who want to sample one of Jeju’s seasonal, native dish. Unaware that pheasant was a local delicacy, I had to try out this much-talked about dish after a recommendation from a friend.

Golmok Sikdang serves a variety of pheasant dishes (grilled, shabu shabu, and stew), but their bread and butter is their generous serving of Gwung Maemil Guksu, which costs only 6,000 won. Buckwheat noodles are handmade and hand-cut upon order, then served in a thick pheasant broth with thinly sliced radish, scallions, toasted seaweed, and ground pepper. It’s a simple, no-fuss dish that can only be described as rich, comforting, and what Koreans describe as 담백하다 “dam-baek-ha-da,” meaning that it tastes good without a lot of extra (and sometimes unnecessary) seasoning. As for the actual pheasant meat, which were cut into small minced pieces, it was not gamy in taste or smell like I had thought it would. To be honest, the meat itself tasted like chicken and the broth tasted like buckwheat noodles, both good signs that the restaurant has pretty much perfected this dish. Another positive is the banchan (side dishes), which were freshly made and complimented the bowl of guksu just right. In fact, the kkakdugi (radish kimchi) was so good that we were literally sipping the sweet liquid (국물) right out of the bowl. Although I was a little skeptical coming into the place, I left leaving a few pounds heavier, full satisfied, and totally humbled by a dish/restaurant with so much history behind it.

Like many seasonal dishes in Korea, some people believe that certain ingredients will boast or improve’s one health. The two main ingredients for this dish are no different.  Eating pheasant is supposed to increase one’s vitality and virility, especially wild game birds. While on the other hand, Maemil (buckwheat) is popular with the elderly as it’s easy to digest and fairly nutritious. Maemil is also considered very healthy as it’s a low-calorie, gluten-free alternative to rice and wheat-based dishes. It is believed to boost metabolism and lower cholesterol due to its richness in magnesium. Throw in the two ingredients together and you have a winning combination for success.

Dongmun Market, as with most traditional markets, have some delicious food to be had and experienced. If eating pheasant doesn’t float your boat, make sure to visit Sarang Bunshik 사랑분식 (translated Love School Food or Love Snack) for some seriously good Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes), Kimbab (Rice Rolls), and Twigim Mandu (Deep Fried Dumplings). It’s another small operation with lines queued all day. Never a big fan of long lines, I can say it is definitely worth the wait. Take out is available upon request.

“Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences.”  ~ Peter Farb and George Armelagos

Food: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars

Golmok Sikdang “Alleyway Restaurant” (골목식당)

1347-1 Ido-1Dong, Jeju City (제주 제주시 이도1동 1347-1)

Phone: 064-757-4890 

Hours of Operation: Open 365 days a year from 7am ~ 10pm

Click here for an interactive map via Naver:  http://me2.do/FGR0Kfab

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Gwung Maemil Guksu (Pheasant Buckwheat Noodle Soup) @ 6,000 won.
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Fresh and delicious banchan (side dish): Kimchi (Spicy Fermented Cabbage) + Kongnamul Muchim (Seasoned Soybean Sprouts) + Kkakdugi (Radish Kimchi)

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From left to right: Gwung Gui (Grilled Pheasant), Gwung Shabu (Pheasant Hot Pot), Gwung Tang (Pheasant Stew) all 20,000 per one serving. Gwung Maemil Guksu (Pheasant Buckwheat Noodle Soup) @ 6,000 won.

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It took us a while to find the restaurant (all the signs look the same at Dongmun Market!) but finally found after circling around the block a few times.
[On the left] This halmoni grandmother has been visiting the restaurant for many years after doing some shopping at Dongmun Market. She, by default, joined us at our table and we had the most pleasant conversation during lunch. [On the right] The current owner proudly displays her infectious smile and was super friendly to all the customers. The restaurant has been open for over 40 years, but she has held the reign for the past 16 years keeping the tradition alive.

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