Besides the central district of Jongro, I’ve been fortunate to discover tons of terrific restaurants in and around Cheongnyangri, specifically near the traditional market. Just off the top of my head, I can think of memorable dining experiences at Hyesung Kalguksu, Hongneung Jokbal, Halmoni Naengmyeon, and Namwon Tongdak — all located within minutes walking distance from each other. Well, here’s another humble eatery that deserves to be on the list, already popular with locals and even more so after an appearance on a hit TV program called Wednesday Food Talk.
Tucked away in a nondescript alley near the market, Gwangju Sikdang serves a mighty mean bowl of cheonggukjang, fermented soybean soup. It’s the younger brother to the more well-known doengjang jjigae — albeit with funkier flavors and textures stemming from the shorter fermentation period of the soybeans. Here, though, it’s not as pungent in smell and taste compared to other places. The beans, a nice balance of whole and crushed, are creamy and rich, mellowed out even more with diced onions, radish, and tofu. Such a simple combination makes you wonder how such a dish can pack so many interesting flavors and textures. One reason why is the restaurant makes their own soybean paste, giving the paste more richness and earthiness — stuff you definitely can’t purchase in stores.
My friend and I cleared this two-person serving in record time, fully satisfied and impressed that such a meal can be had for 6,000 won per person. I personally couldn’t stop thinking about one of the banchan, godeungeo jorim (spicy braised mackerel), which tasted like it was cooked to order instead of sitting in a pot all day. These seemingly minor things are just a few reasons why people flock here to Gwangju Sikdang.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
Gwangju Sikdang 광주식당
Cheongyangri-dong 773, Dongdaemun-gu (서울 동대문구 청량리동 773)
Hours: Open every day 7:00 am ~ 10:00 pm except Mondays
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/xognKUpo