My longstanding quest for the ideal bibimbap

by on October 13, 2013 at 3:44 pm in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Since the mid nineties I have been looking for a bibimbap that would stand above all others.  A year ago I found it in Seoul, and yesterday I retraced my steps and visited again.

As I entered, the woman in charge appeared to recognize me and gave me a stoic look of “Oh, you again.”

This is vegetarian bibimbap, with egg, and you need to shake your lunch box many times.  She will do it for you.  They also serve a superb bean sprout and seaweed and rice noodle soup, and if that description doesn’t excite you, you need to get to Korea as soon as possible.

As a sideline, they sell Korean antique furniture out of the side room.

It is very close to Changdeokgung palace area, up the nearby street (first pass the Hyundai Cultural Center) with lots of shops and restaurants and old Korean roofs.  French people walk there.  I was told by another customer that the address was Jongro Gaedong 44, but on the other side of the street I saw the numbers 91 and 93, in any case this building is just short of The Cup Story and Uncle’s Bob stores.  (02) 744-8130 and 010-9942-9967 are given on the business card.

It is worth visiting Seoul to eat this woman’s food.

And after you finish, it is about a ten minute walk to the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, where they have an excellent rice cake museum.

Angus October 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Wait. I thought you said not to eat at fancy places with beautiful women. What gives?

Jim W October 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

When I lived in Seoul in the early 1980s, we relied heavily on real estate offices to get around. Properties were not numbered geographically, but by the order in which they were built. That’s why you can see 91 and 93 across the street from a 44.

Mark Thorson October 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm

They do that in Japan too. The Japanese probably introduced that system to the Koreans during the 1895-1945 occupation.

Bryan Cheron October 13, 2013 at 11:23 pm

The occupation was from 1910-1945, but yes, the address system is from Japan. The Korean government is taking steps to change this, but it’s hard to overhaul something so deep-rooted and ubiquitous.

Erik October 13, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Seoul has the best food of anywhere I’ve been to in the world, and I’ve traveled on five continents.

I especially like the street vendors and restaurants around the Dongdaemun subway station. They have motorbikes going all day taking that food to local office workers. Best I had in my week there, but it’s hard to go wrong in Seoul…

TYC October 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Seoul has recently remapped street addresses.
Its old address is Gyedong 44-1 (Jongno-gu) and its new one is Gyedong St. 94.
The place is not fancy. It is a converted traditional house in a residential area.
I think it is mainly catering for local students (nearby elementary and secondary).
The particular bibimbap is in a unique style that replicates how student re-cook(?) their lunch boxes at the school in 70′s. They normally bring steamed rice in a tin box, and other side dishes in separate containers. Before lunch hour, put everything in the tin box and place it on the stove (for heating during winter) for a few minutes. Then shake it before eating – an instant bibimbap. By the way, the price tag for the bibimbap at the Golden egg restaurant Tyler visited is $4 all inclusive.

responsible D November 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Tyler, thank you for the pointer to this restaurant, and TYC thank you for clarifying the address. My girlfriend and I visited on Saturday after touring the nearby palace and really enjoyed it. The old woman in charge shook my box for me.

Al October 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Is the shaken bibimbap a regional specialty? I’ve visited Seoul, Busan, and Koreatown in Los Angeles without knowing about this style.

David. October 13, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Next time try Ahn’s Kettle House on Hooker Hill in Itaewon. Best cheese ramyun in N Asia.

Al October 14, 2013 at 12:21 am

It seems like bibimbap is just the rice dish with certain characteristic ingredients. However, some stores place the bibimbap in a Dosirak, which is basically a korean bento. So if you are searching for this style of bibimbap, specifying “shaken Dosirak” may yield more recommendations than searching for bibimbap.

Justin October 14, 2013 at 1:19 am

Thank god because I am sick and tired of sub-par rice cake museums.

dan1111 October 14, 2013 at 2:30 am

+1

Ray Lopez October 14, 2013 at 3:27 am

Food for thought: how much of the foodie craze is driven by cubicle bound Westerners who don’t know how to cook? C’mon people, bibimbap cannot be that difficult to make. Bibimbap (비빔밥, Korean pronunciation: [pibimp͈ap̚][1]) is a signature Korean dish. The word literally means “mixed rice”. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating.[2] It can be served either cold or hot.

El October 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

The simplest dishes are the hardest to perfect! And sure, bibimbap is technically easy to make, but how many non-Koreans would make 5-7 different kinds of toppings and have all the Asian sauces & ingredients on hand? If you’re not Asian and you are able to make bibimbap semi-authentically, you’re probably going to be called a foodie too.

It is true though that an appallingly large number of people can’t cook these days – or, at least, are overly impressed by brownbagged pasta with basic tomato sauce.

Ray Lopez October 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

Yes, well said. They say that Béarnaise sauce is also easy to make–but one small mistake in a several hour long process will spoil the entire sauce–not unlike playing a chess game and making the wrong move!

DW October 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm

You may think it’s hard to mess up bibimbap but that is because you’ve never been to Kobecue.

Guzman Diaz October 14, 2013 at 5:31 am

I wish I knew about this when I was living in Seoul! In any case I went through the trouble of finding the ways to get there in case anyone wants to check it out.

If you want to update the post with the right location. Couldn’t find the number, but as you say, 92 and 91 are in front.

황금알식당 (Hwanggeumal Shiktang)
종로구 계동 (Jongno-gu Gye-dong)

Here’s the restaurant on Naver Street View: http://me2.do/GD1j3enA
Directions from Anguk Station on Line 3 (안국역 3호선) http://me2.do/GIUMwMmh
Also a picture of the map if you want to embed it: http://i.imm.io/1ilPQ.png

Note my romanization might be off, just trying to make it easier to pronounce if required to ask :)

Chun October 14, 2013 at 10:47 am

I know this area (not the restaurant). I went to high school there. It is a rare area which the Korean government designated as traditional Korean housing conservation area.

brad October 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Surely the world’s best bibimbap must be of the dolsot (stone pot) variety. The socarrat at the bottom is the best thing ever.

Mogden October 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Yes, it is hard to imagine a fine bibimbap without that crusty goodness.

Stevie October 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Why not just make the trip down to Jeollabuk-do and see how bibimbap is “supposed” to be made in Jeonju? I’m sure this place is good, but there’s similar bibimbap to be had all over Seoul. Jeonju on the other hand…

Oscar October 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

+1, No bibimbap I’ve had in Seoul can compare to the quality that’s common throughout Jeonju.

Peter Orosz November 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

I had the best bibimbap of my life at 신뱅이 in Jeonju, where they make it with flying fish roe. It’s right by the school in the hanok village: https://plus.google.com/106761401989168274636/about

Here’s what it looks like: http://cink.hu/a-tokeletes-bibimbap-nyomaban-1458699129/@orosz

Dean October 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Any recommendations state-side for those of us who roam the US but can’t quite make it to Korea? Thanks!

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