Myeongdong Kyoja

Even though it's probably on every single "Best of Seoul" list in the history of ever, to prove to you that I do sometimes actually eat Korean food I'm going to tell you about Myeondong Kyoja.

Our first night in Seoul we went down to our hotel lobby and asked the concierge what was good near by. We were exhausted and confused and when the concierge asked Dan what kind of food we wanted Dan replied "easy". The concierge got out a map of the neighborhood, put a big red circle on it and then explained how to get there.

"This place is simple, it has some dim sum like dishes, you will like it"

We crossed the street from our hotel and plunged into the crowd in the Myeong-dong shopping area. The sign is subtle for a place so universally loved but not unnoticeable. The first time we went we had absolutely no idea that there were two more floors of dining room above us and that on a weekend afternoon there could still be a line out the door. The menu is simple, though I wouldn't describe it as particularly dim sum-like. At the Myeong-dong location there's the Galguksu for which they're most well known, the Bibimguksu which is my personal favorite, Kongguksu which I still haven't tried and Mandu which are much more similar to a Chinese style dumpling in flavor than a typical Korean dumpling.

Our first visit Dan got a bowl of Galguksu and I got a bowl of Bibimguksu. We had no idea how large the servings would be and learned that a bowl each is more than enough. The Galguksu here has some of the richest broth I have ever had. It's a little different each time we go. Sometimes it has a little bit of a char to it and sometimes it doesn't but it's always fantastically thick and rich. You can get an extra serving of the house made noodles but even though I've seen Koreans manage to put away the whole bowl and the extra serving, I've never managed to finish mine. There's usually red pepper powder on the table if you prefer your soup with an extra kick but I recommend grabbing kimchi to go into your bites of noodles. The kimchi at this location is incredibly spicy, super garlicky and not too fermented. It's my favorite kimchi in Korea.

The Bibimguksu is the perfect Summer dish. Cold chlorella noodles (I thought they were Soba originally), mixed with a gokuchang that puts store bought versions to shame and finished with julienned cucumbers and sprinkling of sesame seeds. The Bibimguksu is incredibly refreshing and has a balance of flavors I have yet to find elsewhere in Seoul. If you're going on your own and wondering how you could possible choose between the hot soup or cold noodles, don't worry, the Bibimguksu comes with a small side bowl of chicken broth so you can still get a taste of both. Just don't make the rookie mistake I made the first time we went and mix the cold noodles into the broth, it doesn't do any favors for either dish.

The dumplings here are pork, like most dumplings in Korea, but their flavor is much more like a Chinese pork and scallion dumpling than the typical Korean pork and tofu or pork, tofu and kimchi Mandu. I'd be lying if I said they're the best dumplings I've ever had but I'll give them a solid "good". They're definitely more my thing than the street Mandu I often grab in Myeong-dong.

After we moved to our approved temporary housing in Gangnam we learned there is also a South of the river location. The menu is the same except you can also get a spicy version of the Galguksu. Even though both Dan and I agree that the broth isn't quite as rich at this location, sometimes the already spicy version of the Galguksu really hits the spot. Unfortunately I don't think the kimchi is as good at this location either. It's a little less spicy and a little more fermented which isn't really my preference. That being said, if you're never going to make it to Myeong-dong, the Gangnam location is still definitely worth a visit.

 

Myeong-dong locations

Unfortunately the Gangnam location (Called Kangnam Kyoja) doesn't show up in any searches in English. Go out Gangnam Station exit ten and take the third left. Walk two short blocks and it will be on your left. The address is 1308-1 Seocho-dong.

AAAAAAAND. Last but not least it looks like you can find Myungdong Kyoja in Los Angeles and Anaheim! The menu looks much more extensive and obviously I have no idea if it's as good as the Korean locations.