At the very least, a typical Korean meal will include rice, soup, a protein dish, and several types of banchan. A pretty hefty meal by most standards. But, for a truly “complete” meal, there’s another level of Korean cuisine we call jeongsik. It’s an elaborate (usually visually stunning) full-course meal with more food than you can imagine eating. If you add the prefix “han” (meaning Korea/Korean), you get the most epic spread of traditional Korean cuisine meticulously filled from corner to corner—a custom that dates back to royalty where leaving any “open” space on a table would be considered a sign of disrespect. This custom is still prevalent at most old-school restaurants where they will literally carry out an entire wooden table right to you (check out Mabang Jip 마방집).
A toned-down version that falls under the umbrella of jeonsik are restaurants that specialize in a specific dish, such as this family-run restaurant in Hanam City focusing on healthy options of dolsot jeongsik. Although not technically true dolsot—the stone pot most associated with bibimbap—the rice is individually cooked in metal vessels with options of medicinal herbs 약초, mulberry leaves 뽕잎, and thistle leaves 곤드레 to impart a natural taste of the countryside. Think earthy, slightly woody, and healthy. The other dishes were equally impressive, especially their namesake cheongukjang and kongbiji jjigae. Full of rich flavors and simply sublime, reminding me of handmade varieties that I used to eat regularly in Gangwon Province.
No way did I think I could finish the entire meal, but after an hour of pure bliss (and gluttony) I was praised by the emo “auntie” who said I did a “great job” by finishing the spread. And with great pride, she told me most of the dishes utilize garden-grown vegetables and sauces made the traditional way, reaffirming why the food tasted clean, light, and delicious. Pictured is the bbong-ip dolsot jeongsik 뽕잎돌솥정식 for a very modest 14,000 won plus a side order of jeyuk bokkeum 제육볶음 for only 5,000 won.
Food: ★★★★ ½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Mother-in-law’s Cheonggukjang 시어머니청국장
Address: Chungoong-dong 88, Hanam City, Gyeonggi Province 춘궁동 88 하남시 경기도
Hours: Open every day 11:30 am ~ 9:30 pm except Mondays
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/xay7F2gV