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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seongbuk-dong Maemil Sujebi Nurungjibaeksuk (Seoul)

Frankly, this big, modern, two storey building evokes more a factory than a restaurant and more often than not, looks too packed with people. I don't know how many times I sneered at it but today I eventually decided to give it a try.

And I'm glad I did.

As the name clearly explains, the speciality is buckwheat (Maemil / 매밀) dough flakes in soup (sujebi / 수제비), and the location is Seongbuk-dong.

You can't ignore the place if you follow Seongbuk-dong-gil (that's the main road) all the way : the strategic fork where you either take off or land depending on where you're coming from (respectively East from Dongsomun-ro, or West from the Samcheon Tunnel and Samcheonggak).

In this very spot, at the feet of the Seoul version of Beverly Hills with its packs of residences for diplomats, a small park was recently created to celebrate peace between Seongbuk-gu, its sister cities, and all countries boasting a diplomat residence in the gu. As a result, they planted more flag poles than trees.

As I took a seat in the factory, looking through the window at this colorful installation, I almost heard the unmistakable clik of a tourist trap when it snaps shut on your spine. To cheer myself up, I decided that at least the food couldn't be terrible : maemil / buckwheat specialities are a commodity nowadays, and don't require much effort.

Neither did the decoration of the place, obviously - I guess the bulk of CAPEX, beyond land, went into the gigantic neon sign outside...

Almost without stopping, a chain worker moves 3 side dishes (banchan / 반찬) from a rolling cart to the table : gimchi, ggakdugi (깍두기 - that's radish gimchi), and white mul gimchi (물김치 - that's water gimchi). Each one is OK, but the red and white combo adds to the weird impression of being cast in a Jacques Tati movie.

Enter the maemil bindaetteok (매밀 빈대떡).

Now this is good. Plus you can use each portion to wrap young shots with a touch of chogochujang (초고추장) sauce.

I try both maemil sujebis versions : in wild sesame broth and with clams. Both deliciously rustic, but with a deeper and more original twist for the wild sesame.

I have to come back for dinner, and try their piece de resistance : a yummy combo featuring chicken soaked in guess what.

Seoul Village 2009

Seongbuk-dong Maemil Sujebi Nurungjibaeksuk / 성북동 메밀 수제비 누룽지백숙 (restaurant)
281-1 Seongbuk-2-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel : +82.2.764.0707

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