With a friendly recommendation from someone who really knows traditional Korean food, my friends and I headed to Eungahm-dong (northwest part of Seoul) for some old-school gamjaguk, better known as gamjatang (spicy pork spine soup) to most. Upon arrival, you’ll first notice it’s right in front of a sijang (market) with competing gamjatang restaurants lining the busy street. Daerim Gamjaguk is the first of the bunch, and it’s always a packed house.
Open for over 35 years, the young-at-heart elderly couple have been satisfying locals and gamjatang-lovers with their very meaty and comforting spicy soup in a no-frills, soju-goes-down-like-water atmosphere (beer goes down equally as well). Supposedly, their time-tested recipe has been unchanged for all those years and they still get their meat sourced from the local butcher. My first observation when the mini-cauldron came out: these are by far the biggest pieces of pork spine bones that I’ve ever eaten – and even better, they’re actually full of tender meat, cartilage, tendons, and other yummy gelatinous pieces hidden between the vertebrae. As for the broth, it wasn’t as spicy as I thought despite its sharp red hue, instead it was nicely mellowed out by various greens like perilla leaves, cabbage leaves, crown daisy, and a hefty dose of crushed sesame seeds. It’s the perfect soup that I’d be completely happy eating alone with plain white rice. Another notable observation was their almighty kimchi and kkakdugi (cubed radish) – fresh, crunchy, sweet and slightly tangy – varieties that you only find at the top seolleungtang (beef bone soup) establishments. If the huge pot of gamjaguk doesn’t satiate your appetite, don’t let the remaining broth go to waste and order some bokkeumbap (fried rice) for an additional 2,000 won per person. You won’t regret it! 🙂
Note: Gamjaguk vs. Gamjatang. When asked what the difference was between the two, the owner said the former was an informal, casual way of expressing the dish whereas the latter was more formal, highlighting the dish’s humble beginnings. In addition, gamjaguk/gamjatang is oftentimes mistakenly referred to as spicy potato stew (gamja=potato), but actually the word gamja refers to the pork bone itself, not potatoes. The original gamjatang did not have potatoes.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Daerim Gamjaguk 대림감자탕
603-74 Eungahm-dong, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul
Hours: Weekdays 7am ~ 5am, Weekends 24 hours
Click here for an interactive map: http://me2.do/GYkujCpX