Yonggeumok 용금옥 (City Hall, Seoul)

Continuing the theme of Seoul’s oldest and best restaurants, here’s a place that’s been serving a mean bowl of Chueotang 추어탕 (Mudfish/Loach Soup) for over 80 years. Their signature dish comes in two varieties: one with whole mudfish intact and the other grounded into the soup. As recommended by the lovely halmoni (grandmother) owner, I tried out the ground version and really enjoyed it for its surprising heartiness—especially when combined with rice, noodles, and leeks. The taste itself was similar to other red chili pepper based soups but had a subtle bean flavor from the soybean paste. With some luck, the owner allowed me to sample a few pieces of the small, eel-looking fish and totally got a kick watching me eat it for the first time. Along with some interesting facial expressions that I was making, I had the hardest time chewing through all the spiny bones from the fish (the fish itself was fine). To be honest, I couldn’t believe people actually ordered this version risking fish bones and sprine being caught in their throat (no joke). All fun aside, the owner told me that the older folks prefer the original version while the younger clientele enjoy the less adventurous one. Another fun fact revealed to me was that they have been using the same ingredients and recipes since the first day they opened back in 1932. There’s definitely not many places that can say that. 🙂

Chueotang and the area surrounding Yonggeumok are synonymous of the Korea of old. Here are some interesting facts about the two:

  • Chueotang has been a popular dish with farmers and common folks residing in Namwon. For Namwon-style chueotang, check out Namwon Chueotang.
  • The soup is considered a hangover-reliever as well as stamina food, meaning it’s very popular with men and the senior citizen crowd.
  • Mudfish is high in protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins, oftentimes served to hospital patients suffering from high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and obesity.
  • It is believed that eating Chueotang enhances one’s skin and appearance since mudfish inhabit nutrient-rich muddy waters.
  • Yonggeumgok and its surrounding is known for being the Gangnam of 1930’s, being popular with politicians and high-profile dignitaries.
  • The area is still famous for its vast number of haejangguk (“hangover soup”) restaurants making it a hot spot for loyal patrons.
“People like consistency. Whether it’s a store or a restaurant, they want to come in and see what you are famous for.” ~ Millard Drexler

Food ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

 

Yonggeumok (용금옥) 

Address: 165-1 Da-dong, Joong-gu, Seoul 서울 중구 다동 165-1

Phone: 02-777-1689

Hours: 10:30am~10pm.on weekdays; closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month 

Directions via Naver map: http://me2.do/G2XaQHEj

 

 

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Chueotang 추어탕 (Mudfish/Loach Soup) @ 10,000 won.
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The chueotang spread.
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Although optional, I enjoyed plenty of sliced leeks and rice in my soup.
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Taking a hearty bite of fried tofu, rice, noodles, and mushrooms,
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I can finally say I’ve eaten mudfish/loach now. Interesting looks creature, no?
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The interior is small, but it has history written all over it.
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The hanok-style gives the place a homey feel to it.
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They’ve made headlines over the years.
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Yonggeumok runs in the family—three generations and counting.
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Chueotang @ 10,000 won. They have a handful of anju (food paired w alcohol) for those in the drinking mood. The jeon (pancakes) are supposed to be solid here.

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