A Taste of Culinary and Literary History: Eateries of the Unexplored ‘Joongrimdong’

As part of Gastro Tour Seoul’s new Seoullo 7017 Tasting Seoul tours, we discover the hidden and non-touristic area of Joongrimdong. Joongrimdong is a neighborhood of Seoul with an important history, largely unknown to Koreans and overseas visitors alike. It is home to some of Korea’s most iconic novels and delicious local dishes, hidden from the public eye.

Together with the Seoullo 7017: Namdaemun and Myeongdong Tasting tour, the Seoullo 7017: Joongrimdong Tasting tour also starts at the new Seoullo 7017 walkway – a new, iconic urban walkway connecting the areas around Seoul station. On the tour, guests have the opportunity to stop at 6 – yes six! – different restaurants, and experience a variety of different flavours unique to both Korean and foreign cuisine.

Curious which local Korean foods you’ll get to try on the tour filled with? Read on!

1. Spicy Budae Jjigae – Hakrimhaksa Budae Jjigae

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개), is one of Korea’s most popular hot pot dishes, also often referred to as ‘Army Stew’. It is an American fusion stew that uses western, processed food like spam or sausages. The dish became popular towards the end of the Korean War, as food was scarce and the American military became a main supplier of processed food.

When eating Budae Jjigae in a restaurant you normally have one big pot in the centre of the table that is heated, before being divided among all guests at the table in smaller dishes.

What is unique about Hakrimhaksa Budae Jjigae, is that this restaurant offers budae jjigae in the style of the region of Euijeongbu. This budae jjigae adds sausages, ‘odeng’ or fish cakes, and spring onions, resulting in a fantastic taste and texture.

From the restaurant, the tour continues past Seoul Yakhyeon Catholic Church (서울 약현성당) located on a small hill overlooking the Seoul Station neighbourhood. The Gothic style church used in many K-dramas is the first established Gothic style Catholic Church in Korea.

2. Mussel Rice – Mirum

The next restaurant on the tour is located next to a very old area of Joongrimdong. The owner of this restaurant used to run an eatery Gwanghwamun, Seoul’s up-market neighbourhood, but decided to move his popular restaurant to the calmer neighbourhood of Joongrimdong due to neighborhood reconstruction. Here, guests can sample his fantastic signature dish; mussel rice ‘Hong-Hap-Bap,’ served with a quail egg, seaweed and a slice of apple.

3. Royal Jeon – Joong Rim Jib

Just around the corner lies the “Royal Pancake” restaurant, JoongRimJib. Jeon (전), or Korean pancakes, date back many years and are a popular choice of meal on rainy days. This is said to be because the pancakes being cooked in the pan makes a sizzling noise reminiscent of the sound of falling rain. As vegetables used to be rather expensive in ancient times, originally only rich people could afford to eat this snack.

Jeon used to be a very popular food at the royal court during the Joseon Dynasty. This restaurant owner’s ancestors actually worked directly for the royal court, which is why she serves these Jeon pancakes with many small dishes – just as they were served back in the day.

From the Jeon restaurant the tour makes a brief stop in the most famous coffee shop of Joongrimdong to learn how to drip a proper Americano with high quality beans from all over the world, including Columbia, Costarica and Kenya.

5. Fish Feast – Hyundae SooSan

‘The man that never sleeps’ is a good way to describe the owner of this fish restaurant. Every single day at 5am, the owner visits Incheon fish market (located 1 hour from Seoul) to select the best fresh ingredients for his dishes, ready to open at 5pm. The menu guests sample includes five beautiful and different fish beautifully served with fish eggs and fresh raw vegetables.

6. Korean Chinese – Haewon Gak

The last stop of the tour is the Korean Chinese restaurant, Haewon Gak, where guests can sample yummy sweet and sour pork and Korean black bean noodles (Jjajangmyeon, 짜장면). These black bean noodles were introduced to Korea by Chinese merchants back in 1905, and the typical Chinese inspired and localized dish soon evolved to suit Korean tastes.

For Koreans, this is rather a special dish, as it was not widely available 20 years ago, and was only served during special occasions like a Children’s day, Parents’ day, graduation or a school carnival day.

Sound delicious? Experience these unique dishes – and more! – on our Seoullo 7017: Joongrimdong Tasting Tour.

Veronica Kang