Here it is, the most eagerly awaited post of the year; the second annual Soju Sunrise Food Awards, showcasing the best foreign food that I think Seoul has to offer. No doubt squadrons of restaurateurs are reading this with fear in their souls, whole chains poised to collapse if they aren’t mentioned in my year-end review. What can I say? With great power comes great responsibility.
As with last year’s favourites – quite a few of whom return this year – I don’t present this list as a definitive “best of” but rather a compilation of my favourites, the places I return to again and again, the places that made 2016 worth persevering with. No doubt in each category there are better places around, and you should feel free to set me right in the comments – but these are the places that pop up again and again on my Instagram feed.
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and see you all in 2017!
Ever since my first visit to Japan a couple of years back, I’ve been hooked on ramen. Coming from the west of Scotland, there wasn’t a whole lot of Japanese food around, so I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Seoul can’t compete with Tokyo for quantity or quality, of course, but there are some decent ramen places around, and one of them is Ramen Truck.
I know jack-all about ramen except what I’ve picked up from three visits to Japan, the last one of which was spent slurping down bowls of the stuff in various parts of Tokyo. As the saying goes, I don’t know much, but I know what I like. And I like Nagomi Ramen. A lot. It’s like a Japanese guy strangled a pig with a fistful of noodles and squeezed until there was a bowlful of happy juice in front of me.
It’s in Hongdae, and so well-hidden you’ll need a map to find it – which, luckily, you’ll find at the bottom of this capsule review. On my first visit years ago, I remember being really happy, but Hongdae is a long way to go for lunch, so despite retaining a good memory of the place, I hadn’t been back.
But I was in Hongdae during the day this week, so I got hold of a compass and some orienteering gear and managed to track it down.
The menu is quite short, offering just four types of ramen.
I went for the char siu ramen, since I love the meaty broth and the charred pork on top. At 8,000 won, the most expensive option on the menu.
It was superb. According to other blog posts about this place, this is Kyushu-style ramen, with a stock based on pork bones with added chicken or vegetable broth to lighten and modulate the overall flavour. Whatever.
The broth was very meaty and just the right kind of oily – I’d have happily drunk a bowl of this without any noodles or anything else. There was plenty of roughly chopped garlic in there, a goodly amount of spring onion (scallion), lots of thin noodles lurking under the surface, and no bean sprouts – which I don’t mind, but which I feel are overused in some other places.
Look at that pork. Definitely the best and most generous serving of pork I’ve had in any ramen shop in Korea, there was more pork in this ramen than I get in Menya Sandaime in Itaewon (my normal lunch go-to) even when I order with the “extra pork” 추가 option, which I usually do.
Unbelievably, the menu says you can get extra char siu for another 2,000 won. Does that apply to the char siu ramen as well, I wonder? If it does, I don’t know where they’d fit it in the bowl.
A little dish of pickled thingummybobs comes on the side, and they have small pots of kimchi on the table, to which I helped myself freely.
I’m calling it: Nagomi Ramen is without doubt the best ramen I’ve had in Seoul. No doubt some reader with a PhD in Applied Noodleology will be able to advise me on why I’m wrong and where I should go instead, but in the interim, head to Nagomi and enjoy.
- Category: Japanese
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: I’ve only tried the char siu ramen (차슈면), which is the one on the top right if you don’t read hangeul. I’m sure they’re all good, but that’s the one I vouch for.
- Subway: Hongdae (역) exit 9.
- Directions: Yeah, you’re just going to have to look at the map, which I promise you is accurate. Easiest is probably to come out of Hongdae exit 9 and walk along the main road and take the first road left after the main street up to Hongik University. After that, turn third left when you see the CU Mart. You might need to ask someone, or paste “나고미앤겐로쿠” into Naver Maps and follow the little blinking dot on your phone to porky heaven.
- Hours: 11:30am – 9pm every day.
- Address in Korean: 서교동 370-24 지하 1층 Tel: 02-324-8545