The Euljiro Eulogies: Saejin Sikdang 세진식당

[The Euljiro Eulogies: Saejin Sikdang]

Metal shop owner: “I’ve occupied this spot for over 30 years but have been in the business for over 50, mainly selling small tools and equipment at reduced prices. I’m 80 years old and, honestly, I’ve never seen so much foot traffic in my life; I am guessing it’s due to the recent redevelopment. Where were you guys before all this started happening? I think it’s funny people are coming now.”

Me: “I’m sorry. I have been coming here for quite some time to find and document local restaurants. I know about the famous ones like Eulji Myeonok 을지면옥 and Chosunok 조선옥, but can you recommend any personal ones that you enjoy going to? I would like to visit them before they are disappear.”

Halaboji (grandfather): “There’s one that’s hidden and hard to find called Saejin Sikdang 세진식당. They make the best saengtae jjigae 생태찌개 (spicy pollack stew) and everything on the menu is delicious. I am a regular there.”

Me: “I know that place! I didn’t order that spicy stew because it was in the middle of summer, but I really enjoyed the ojingeo bokkeum 오징어볶음 (spicy stir-fried squid). It was one of the best dishes in my life.”

Halaboji: “That’s not surprising. The kitchen staff are old and experienced, so they don’t put out any bad dishes. When you have free time, go for the spicy fish stew, it tastes better in cold weather.”

Me: “I heard that you have to add a shot of soju in the dish, according to two regular customers I met while dining there. Is that true?”

Halaboji: (chuckles) That’s right. Only regulars know about that. It takes out the fishy smell and smoothens out the broth. You know your stuff.”

Saejin Sikdang has been open for over 20 years, satisfying regular customers with their signature dish, saengtae jjigae 생태찌개. Intoxicatingly spicy and refreshing at the same time, it’s a dish full of pollack, fish roe, fish sperm, baby shrimp, radish, tofu, zucchini, and crown daisies (ssukgat 쑥갓). It’s most-often enjoyed with soju, maekju, and/or makgeolli (fermented rice wine) — good company also helps. Other standout dishes include ojae-bokkeum 우제볶음 (spicy stir-fried pork and squid), ojingeo bokkeum 오징어볶음 (spicy stir-fried octopus), and ojingeo sookhwe 오징어숙회 (parboiled octopus). All dishes are reasonably priced, making it a popular watering hole for local metal shop workers and office workers needing reliable anju 안주.

Korean food to me is survival, said the granny I’d been talking to. This is how I make a living, and I’m lucky to have regular customers who enjoy my food. It took me a long time to make the dishes as good as they are today. It was by trial and error, and I know I’m lucky to have been in business for so long. ~ the owner of Byukdam Pocha 벽담포차 Eating Korea p. 265

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Saejin Sikdang 세진식당

Ipjung-dong 106 (서울 중구 입정동 106)

Phone: 02-2265-0098

Hours: Open for lunch and late dinner hours, closed on weekends |

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