Most people already know how great Korean fried chicken is, but unfortunately, KFC doesn’t necessarily count as a real meal to most locals, which means we’re left to search for a proper meal (i.e. one served with rice) before heading to the second round. Well, one particular meal that I’ve enjoyed for quite a while now is a terrific combination of Soondubu Jjigae 순두부 찌개 (Spicy Silken Tofu Soup) and Jeyuk Bokkeum 제육볶음 (Spicy Stir-Fried Pork), both signature dishes at an old institution in City Hall called Sogongdong Ttukbaeggi Jip 소공동 뚝배기 집. And, at 5,000 and 10,000 won respectively, you will be hard-pressed to find a better deal in all of Seoul.
Sogongdong Ttukbaeggi Jip is a large chain specializing in both delivery and dine-in service. Back when I worked in Apgujeong, some colleagues and I used to order one of their many offerings served in scorching hot ceramic bowls, keeping them warm well after the meal was over. From my memory, the food itself was very reasonable and filling while prices were on the inexpensive side. When I found out that they served “upgraded” dishes at this sit-down branch, I was skeptical and excited at the same time – skeptical because it’s hard to find really solid soondubu and jeyuk (let alone at the same place), and excited because their original branch (bonjeom 본점) opened in the early 60s but “closed a few years back,” this according to the owner. When asked how old his business was, he had a hard time remembering and came up with “decades,” which was a solid indication that the food would be fantastic. And it was.
We ordered the aforementioned dishes at the owner’s recommendation. First, the soondubu jjigae. It was hearty, full of flavor, and had considerably less broth than normal varieties (a big plus in my book). The tofu was plentiful and silky, so delicious with plain rice or eaten alone. The sharp red hue from the broth had me worried about the spice level, but the sweat that followed was from the heat of the ttukbaeggi, not the chili peppers. Needless to say, I liked this dish a lot and could easily see myself coming here for this dish alone. Next, the jeyuk bokkeum. This was a totally different breed than what I am accustomed to. Instead of being smothered (sometimes drowned) in a gochujang-based sauce, this dish is stir-fried using copious amounts of chili flakes (gochugaru) and chili oil to give it extra heat. The fatty pieces of pork combined with pajori-like veggies (mixed scallions) really worked well together, kind of like eating Korean BBQ without the tedious wait.
I don’t hurl out superlatives that much when I write reviews, but the combination of both dishes was by far the best I’ve had during my time in Seoul. For that reason, it’s my go-to spot when I find myself in the central part of Seoul. If you enjoy these classic dishes as much as me, you won’t be disappointed at this humble restaurant in the heart of City Hall.
Food: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Sogongdong Ttukbaeggi Jip (소공동 뚝배기집)
47-7 Seosomun-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울 중구 서소문동 47-7)
Hours: Open 10am-9pm every day except Sundays
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/x241h78N