Review: Dureban (두레반) in Gangnam
What is it about the hot sweaty weather that makes me crave the flesh of the pig? This time last year, almost to the week, I was engaged in a batshit crazy scheme to travel round Seoul looking for the best dwaejigukbap (돼지국밥), or pork and rice soup, that I could find, eventually plumping for one near Sinsa station as my favourite. (I don’t propose to go back over the finer points of this great Busan dish – you can find lots more explanation of what it is and how it should be served at that old post.)
Recently a well-known gukbap franchise opened a store a few moments’ walk from my work, so I’ve popped in there a couple of times to have some soup over lunchtime. But to be honest, it’s a pale imitation of the real thing and I always leave feeling a bit meh. So when I had an unexpected long lunch break today, I decided to do a little Naver-ing to see if there was anywhere nearby that I’d missed. And there was.
Dureban is just a block from Gangnam-gu Office station on the confluence of line 7 and the Bundang line. It has immediately vaulted to the top of my list, and I intend to become something of a regular, because the 돼지국밥 here was great.
The soup is served bubbling hot, as is customary in Korea. While you wait for it to descend from boiling to merely scalding, you set about adding your seasonings to taste. Salty, fermented baby shrimp (새우젓) add saltiness and umami; gochugaru (고추가루) adds some heat and depth; ground perilla seeds (들깨) add, well, 들깨ness.
Unlike many other places I’ve visited, though, Dureban also provides you with your own chives and chili to add as the whim takes you – useful for those of us who like to personalise our lunch to taste.
As the bubbles subsided and the steam cleared, I began to realise that the plethora of condiments wasn’t the only point in this place’s favour.
The soup was absolutely crammed with pork. A couple of the places I visited last year were good, but a little skimpy on the swine, with little shavings of pig where big chunks should be.
Here at Dureban, there’s a combination of the two – generous thinly sliced pork meat throughout the bowl, but two or three larger chunks lurking in there too, with just the right amount of fat. With a nice bit of kimchi on top, they were just begging to be despatched, and quickly were.
The broth is great here – not transcendent, but far better than some of the weak, blander bases I’ve tasted in the past. By now the sweat was building on my forehead, but I finished every drop.
There’s a sundaeguk on the menu too, as well as some other meaty dishes for the evening visitor, but I can’t speak to those.
Dureban was great, and as I exited through the outside “tent-bar” style annex (below), which would be great for night-time drinking, I found the bus stop back to my office not four paces from the front door. It’s like God wants me to come back. I will.
- Category: Korean
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Dwaejigukbap (돼지국밥)
- Subway: Gangnam-gu office (강남구청역) exit 3.
- Directions: Come out of exit 3 and double back to the intersection before turning left. Dureban is 150 metres or so on the left, look for the black sign as above.
- Hours: Uncertain, though open lunchtimes and Saturdays, at least. Try calling them on 02-514-8229.