I love dakgalbi. For some reason – I don’t know why – the Korean tourist and food promotion agencies don’t believe me. Their marketing campaigns concentrate, usually witlessly, on the undoubtedly healthy properties of bibimbap and the much more dubious health-promoting properties of kimchi. Whenever the authorities are asked what they think foreigners want, the usual foods come up again and again – see this 2010 post at ZenKimchi, for example – but dakgalbi is often nowhere to be seen. A shame, because for me it encapsulates so much of what Korean food is about – a huge bubbling dish, cooking at the table and waiting to be shared, red as the fires of hell and hopefully just as hot. In addition, I don’t review enough Korean restaurants on this blog, and one of my resolutions for 2016 is to write up some more of them (this is not a kimchi-free zone ㅋㅋㅋ).
Dumplings… Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Uzbek, Polish, and whatever other nationalities independently or collectively came up with this miracle food, you have my everlasting thanks. As the years creep on and I begin to look more like a dumpling, I seek out these glistening sacs of gorgeousness wherever I can find them. So imagine my delight to encounter Stacked, a brand new dumpling bar at the foot of Itaewon’s hottest food street overlooking Noksapyeong station.
The cafe opposite Bonny’s Pizza has undergone more changes than David Bowie in his pomp. For a long time it was the home of the late lamented Indigo, a veritable Haebangchon institution. More recently it morphed into Good to Go, briefly housed the popular Italian restaurant Il Gattino, and then became Fat Cat, before adding a very shortlived “food truck” counter serving up sandwiches and subs to the late-night crowd.
Taking up the funky space once occupied by the late lamented Hassdog is a new-ish venture called Head Lock Sandwich (헤드락), which has been operating for a couple of months now. The concept is simple: prawn sandwiches (or shrimp, if you prefer).
[UPDATE, JULY 2017: This location has now closed, unfortunately.]
Such is the pace of change in Haebangchon, the little favela I have called home for nearly five years, that I’m a bit jaded by the plethora of new places around here and Gyeongnidan that open up, serve mediocre or baffling food, and then close a year or so later. So when a small restaurant pops up that’s selling good-quality, honest and non-bullshitty food, it’s worth giving it a little love.
Bukcheon, just north of the city centre, has changed quite a lot in the time I’ve been here. Five or six years ago it was a “hidden gem”, but now it’s anything but. Hordes of tourists stalk the streets with selfie sticks as tour guides squawk instructions at them. And, as usual in these situations, the rush to commercialise the area has destroyed quite a lot of its quirky appeal (see also the hanok village in Jeonju).