Kyochon Chicken – Namyangju, KOR


Kyochon Chicken
Namyangju, KOR

After a busy day this past summer checking out various tourist sights in Seoul, I hopped back onto a train back to the suburbs to where I was spending some nights sleeping early on in my journey.   On the short walk back to the residence from the station, I noticed a boisterous establishment that seemingly was a pub/fried chicken kind of joint. I suggested to my travel mate that we go check it out – despite having finished eating a hearty dinner an hour before – but was told there was a better place they knew about, and the family I was staying with vouched for it. Sounded good to me.  It allowed some more time to digest our dinner and was really convenient too, as all it required was a phone call, as they delivered!   A change into some more comfortable clothes later and soon enough the door bell was ringing.

Reportedly there is an outpost of this popular Korean-style fried chicken known as Kyochon Chicken in Koreatown (Los Angeles) as well, but its the first I’d heard of it.  Not being able to read anything around me probably had something to do with it.  The logo I’d seen before though around the Korean capital city.  It seems to be mainly a delivery/takeaway kind of business model.  I think the places that serve Korean chicken that I’ve seen here in the GVRD are kind of like that (lots of “to-go” orders), but have seating areas as well where the beer (that goes so well with these things) flow freely.  As this was a second dinner, I just asked that we get a dozen or so and I wanted to try the original flavor, so not enhanced with the sweet-spicy sauce that really makes Korean-style chicken so yummy.

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Cheontong Son Kalguksu – Gyeongju, KOR


Cheontong Son Kalguksu
206-3 Cheongun-dong, Gyeongju City
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
+82 (0)54-745-3010

Returning to another report on another stop from my August stay in South Korea.  I remember this lunch well, as we were racing to leave Gyeongju City as the powerful typhoon ravaging the coast was approaching fast and already the rain was falling horizontally due to the swirling winds.  We spotted Cheontong Son Kanguksu from the road as we approaching this area that was populated by a few restaurants.  The lights seemed to be on inside but nobody could be seen, so one brave member of our party stepped out into the falling rain and knocked on the door to see if they were indeed ready for customers.  Perhaps it was the weather and the lone female proprietor felt sorry for us, as it seems she was still doing her preparation work, but she let us inside and told us to make ourselves at home.

The wet, humid weather made it perfect for something hot to try and warm up our cores.  Kalguksu or hand-cut wheat noodles served in a bowl of rich, mainly seafood (shellfish)-based flavorful broth, topped with a mix of thin sliced vegetables.  While the ambiance was nothing special, perhaps even on the dilapidated side and I could spot a few flies spinning around in the air, I was just grateful to be indoors and away from the storm.  Although being in a fully glass encased building was not something one should probably do when powerful winds are ravaging all around.

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Cheongtong Bapjip – Namyangju, KOR


Cheongtong Bapjip
Sampaedong 358-2,
Namyangju City
Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
031-577-5700

Whenever I travel and have the opportunity to indulge in some well known dishes that have made their way to North America, I make sure to partake in them whenever I can.  The only time I’ve ever turned down an offer was when I was in Manila two years ago and came face-to-face with a dare to try balut.

Why do I do this?

Partly to experience how its made in the “home country”, and pick up any hints as to what has been adapted by the Canadian version, and to become aware of any obvious misinterpretations.

Throughout these experiences and discoveries, I’ve come to learn that more often than not, despite how connected our planet has become in the present day, there are two factors that seem to stand out for me.  One, the availability of certain ingredients in “authentic” dishes that are just too rare/expensive/bothersome/perishable for transport to ever retain its presence in the North American versions of these dishes.  Two, the acceptance of some ingredients by North Americans is a hard one to overcome, for whatever reason: flavor, scent, appearance, source, etc.

I guess there are some things that will just take more time to become mainstream enough to be readily available and acceptable.

Nestled along the banks of the mighty Han River quite close to where the north and south arms converge together, is a stretch of walking/bicycle paths and fields that are popular with families out visiting the countryside from Seoul, especially on weekends.  I can understand this human need to get one with nature, as when I lived in the city of Calgary, I would often hit the road and go to nearby Bragg Creek, Kananaskis, or even out to Canmore/Banff just to get away from the concrete jungle after a busy workweek.  Being in Asia this time, the way the city slickers were out and about in Namyangju‘s beautiful  parks and public water lily gardens, reminded me of how busy Hong Kongers head out to the New Territories to get their quiet waterside, “resort” experiences.

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Sodamgol – Youngin, KOR


Sodamgol (Sinbong branch)
Sinbong-dong 582, Suji-ku
Youngin City, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
031-276-7373

Korean royal court cuisine (in Korean, gungjung yori) is an elaborate affair that involves the presentation of numerous dishes in an extensive meal that originated in one of the golden eras of the peninsula’s lengthy history and is steeped in Confucian traditions.  The dining style that was for the ruling class of the Jeseon Dynasty has been adapted in the modern era and can be found served in many restaurants in Korea today for those wishing to adventure into a culinary time machine.  Fortunately on this recent visit to the Asian nation, I was presented with the choice of indulging in this branch of the country’s cuisine.   Actually, I was given a choice between two locations: one described as being more upscale in a fancier setting but with weaker food, and the other in more homey conditions but with better food.  I chose the latter and thus we ended up at the Sinbong branch of Sodamgol.

With various set meals (priced per person), our group of six opted to all get the same, making it much easier for the restaurant to handle.  At the different price points, the items would differ.  What follows below is a summary of what was included in the 16,000 won/person listing (so about C$14 each).  Also note, the portion sizes are representative of what was served to each table of three, aside from the rice and chigae that we each received our own bowls of.

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Hanubang – Namyangju, KOR


Kwangrung Hanubang
Changhyun-ri 220-1, Jinjeop-eup
Namyangju City, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
031-529-9988

In Korea and not in the mood for barbecue?  Possible?  Yes, well at least on this mid-morning in the outskirts of Seoul where I began my day.  With the humid weather already beginning to test my personal tolerance levels and with the lunch hour quickly approaching, a random stopover led us to this slightly gaudy, castle-looking building that housed a restaurant known as Kwangrung Hanubang.  The nearby area is populated by many residential apartment complexes and appears to be building up into a major suburban district that is well connected by major roads into the capital city.  No doubt, this restaurant (one of many along this busy street) is a popular place for locals to dine.

Proudly featuring domestic Korean beef sourced only from the prized Kwangreung region of the same Gyeonggi province, the signage outside on the pop-up stands and also inside on the various frames that were displayed and given by local and regional associations and food industry organizations,  it was clear that the beef was something to definitely take in.  Despite the temptations, and believe me they were strong, we were looking for a light lunch amid the air conditioned environment and did not order any, much to my amazement in hindsight.  Nearby, other groups were happily grilling and the aromas were intoxicating but we managed to hold off, knowing our day was still long and opportunities to eat still lied ahead.

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Coffee Mama – Namyangju, KOR


Coffee Mama
Various locations
Location visited: Namyangju City, South Korea

Asian desserts.  For some they are a welcomed treat.  For others, I’ve heard words like strange, confusing and not appealing as descriptors or reactions.  I will take a stab at this topic despite not being a huge sugar-goodies fan and say that one of the main causes for this seesaw result is the source of the sweetness within many Asian desserts.  That being azuki beans.  I think for most westerners, the concept of sweet tasting beans is unusual and hard to comprehend, given that beans are generally used more for savory dishes in North American cuisine.  This juxtaposition is a concept that for some, that I think is hard to overcome.  Its perhaps more a mental hurdle than anything else, that perhaps more experience can help people overcome.

When it comes to after-meal sweets in Korea, one of the things that pops into my mind right away is the summer favorite known as patbingsu.  In English, I’ve seen it being referred to as red bean sherbet.  But really, its a compilation of shaved ice, ice cream, diced fruit (strawberries, banana, etc.), jelly, bits of rice cake as staple elements and toppings.  And for added texture, some places even add in some dry cereal flakes.  I’m sure there are even more creative approaches and touches that some places add, but these seem to be the standard set from my own experience.  Of course, the a fore mentioned sweet azuki beans are always involved.

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