Hanok Jip 한옥집 (Seodaemun, Seoul) & Eating Korea by Graham Holliday

It feels like yesterday (two years to be exact) that I was helping Graham collect information for his soon-to-be-released book on Korean cuisine, Eating Korea, wandering like hungry nomads on Jeju Island and Seoul. Serving as a translator and local food guide, there were some memorable moments during our time together, the biggest being an interview and dance session with local haenyeo (female free divers) followed by a feast of freshly caught sea creatures. Although much time has passed and I currently find myself in the boonies of Gangwondo, I still remember Graham’s meticulous note-taking prowess, reminding me of a detective gathering clues to solve a grand mystery. After getting an early read of his galley (pre-published edition), I can say he’s solved most, if not all, the mystery surrounding Korean cuisine. For anyone who’s a fan of Korean food, you will thoroughly enjoy this book that covers every aspect of hansikpast, present, future. And if that’s not good enough, just use it as a primer for some of the most beloved Korean restaurants, including this featured post: Hanok Jip 한옥집.

Graham Holliday:

I visited all nine provinces and about twenty cities, towns, villages and hamlets while researching and writing Eating Korea: Reports on a Culinary Renaissance. For every place I visited I had a plan; someone to meet, something to eat and somewhere to eat it. But, everywhere I went to, my plans changed as fresh advice steered me in an unexpected direction. These were always welcome deviations, none more so than in the case of Hanok Jib Kimchi Jjim.

I happened to mention to my landlady that I was writing a book about Korean food and she insisted we go there to eat kimchi for lunch. “You’ll understand why when we get there,” she told me. I hadn’t eaten kimchi like that in twenty years, and ‘aged kimchi restaurants’ like this simply didn’t exist twenty years ago. I was so enamored with the place, I devoted an entire chapter to the time I spent there.

Book excerpt:

“The owner has opened a number of places,” Jin-Young told me as we walked up a slight incline to the front door of Hanok Jib Kimchi Jjim (한옥집-김치찜). “But this is the original.”

Jin-Young was a thirtysomething Korean woman. I rented an apartment from her in Seoul; she insisted on taking me out to eat, and I was happy to accept. We took off our shoes and left them in the collective pile at the step up to the wood-effect floor. A waitress wearing a yellow apron shepherded us to the only spare table, in the farthest corner of the restaurant. The place was lined with framed certificates, awards, newspaper and magazine clippings, reviews of the restaurant, and menus and pictures pinned haphazardly to the wall. If the name of the restaurant didn’t already give away what they served, the aroma wafting through the interior most certainly did—kimchi (김치).
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Ordinary air appeared to have vanished from inside this restaurant. It had simply run away. In its place was a thick, sour, garlic-laced miasma. The room shuddered with it. It seemed to shriek at me. You’re back, you wanted it, I’m here, it said.
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This was a first. To me, kimchi had always been a side dish or the basis of a stew called kimchi-jjigae (김치찌개). I’d never met the lone-gunman variety of kimchi restaurant before, and this one looked like it meant business.
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I pinched my way past three tables of cross-legged eaters and sat down on the floor opposite Jin-Young.
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“This place only serves aged kimchi,” Jin-Young told me as the food began to arrive on a large, battered metal tray. “Old, stinky, and aged.” It sounded like a geriatric bed wetter’s lonely hearts ad.
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The waitress placed each dish on the table as if she were laying out a display of shiny precious things in a jewelry shop. After the side dishes, she put the main event in the center. A long, bloody rag of kimchi spread out like a dead octopus on an oval plate. The glorious stench hazed me; my eyes leaked and my nose cried. The kimchi spirits bounced around the room like deranged pinballs. It was wonderful. Finally, I was back.
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Eating Korea will be available on March 14 on Amazon: https://goo.gl/2tmoZc
For Eating Korea photos, check out Graham’s Instagram page: noodlepie

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars


Hanok Jip (한옥집)

178 Naengcheong-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (서울 서대문구 냉청동 178)

Phone: 02-362-8653

Website: http://www.hanokjib.co.kr/

Hours: Open every day 10am-10pm except national holidays

Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/x0KBZSP7

 

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