“It hasn’t been long since our dog passed away due to health complications and old age. He was 16 years old. We haven’t gotten over his death, so we still keep his ashes in an urn at home. Maybe one day we’ll get another dog in the future, but now’s not the right time.”
This was my first interaction with emo (auntie), whom I met with Becker on a long and random walk that surprisingly extended over to Hanam City (far east Seoul). Noticing the unique clay-like facade of the restaurant, we stopped by to inquire about the food and, on the off chance, ask if they might be pet-friendly. They were not. And that’s when Becker, for the first time, sprang into action and convinced the emo (via kisses) to clear out the lone dirty plastic table near the parking lot—making us the first official customer and pet to dine here at 싸이숯불장닭.
After several visits for their makguksu 막국수 (buckwheat noodles), which was fantastic in every way, I was finally able to try out their signature dish: sutbul dakgalbi 숯불닭갈비 (chicken thighs cooked over charcoal). Having eaten my fair share of dakgalbi, I’m highly confident they serve one of the best sutbul dakgalbi around, even rivaling the ones in Chuncheon (aka the birthplace of dakgalbi). The juiciness of the chicken and accompanying banchan and sauces were really second to none. So, it wasn’t surprising to find out from the emo that everything is made in-house, including the unique dipping sauce using hanyak (traditional oriental medicine).
Taking great pride in the food, she was more than helpful to answer some of my annoying questions and here’s what I learned:
- her husband was a professional chef with over 20 years of experience, finally opening his own restaurant four years ago as a sort of “retirement.” he uses the freshest, healthiest ingredients available; fresh (not frozen) chicken are used, banchan are all made in-house, and all sauces utilize natural sweeteners (e.g. apples and Asian pears)
- menu designed around the locals, mostly laborers and elderly, wanting something delicious and reasonably priced. a single serving for dakgalbi is 14,000 won, but the quantity (upwards of 350 grams) and quality easily exceeds most of its competitors. among the three varieties (regular “fresh” 생, spicy 매운, seasoned 양념), highly recommend the yangnyeom dakgalbi 양념닭갈비 which is perfectly seasoned with a flavorful, balanced rub/marinade.
- the best dipping sauce ever utilizing oven-roasted chicken plus veggies and aromatics—including hanyak-jae 한약재 (oriental herbs)—boiled down into a rich soy-based sauce. kind of like a tonkatsu sauce but ten times more flavorful!
- foster parents to three stray cats who lost their parents in a traffic accident; they love attention and basically sit near the front entrance waiting for customers to give them some love, especially gamangi 가망이 (black one).
Food: ★★★★ ½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★ ½ out of 5 stars
Thigh Sootbul Jang Dak 싸이숯불장닭
Choi-dong 188-4 Hanam City, Gyeonggi Province (경기 하남시 초이동 188-4)
Hours: Open every day 11:00 am ~ 10:00 pm, closed every 2nd, 4th Sunday of each month
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/FY8Teoep