by Michael Jones.
In two months we will be leaving Korea. We will miss many things about Seoul, especially our friends, but we will also miss our favorite Korean foods. With a deadline in mind, we have made it our mission to find some of the best Korean restaurants in Seoul. Our first goal was to find a spectacular example of Dakdoritang (닭도리탕), also known as Dakbokkeumtang (닭볶음탕). Dakdoritang is a spicy chicken stew and is one of our favorite dishes. A whole chicken is cut into pieces and thrown into a pot filled with potatoes, onions, garlic, and scallions. The sauce is made from a base of gochujang (red chili paste) and then other ingredients are added such as: soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Every restaurant probably has a slightly different recipe and I would feel inadequate trying to list everything that goes into this wonderful soup. The only definite thing I can say is that you should try it.
Our search for Dakdoritang led us to a place called Gyerim sikdang (계림식당). This restaurant is located in a narrow alleyway near Jongno 3-ga Station. As soon as you enter the alleyway the smell of garlic fills the air as it wafts through crowds of hungry people and neon signs. On both sides of the alley restaurants are piled up and tempt potential customers with smells of roasting meat, boiling soup, and the clink of alcohol-filled glasses. In front of Gyerim sikdang there is always a line of eager and hungry people.
The restaurant is small, intimate, and about as authentic as it gets. Gyerim Sikdang is packed with locals winding down after a long hard day at work. Here blue collar and white collar workers sit shoulder to shoulder as they enjoy a phenomenal bowl of soup. The soup comes in small, medium, and large, but we always pick the large size. I would suggest the large for 3-4 people. The soup is served in a large golden pot and topped with a heaping spoonful of minced garlic. The garlic stands out nicely against the dark red of the broth, green scallions, and golden potatoes. The steam tickles the nose and makes the eyes water, but the taste is worth any discomfort. The chicken is tender and is easily pulled off the bone. The garlic balances the spiciness of the gochujang and the slight sweetness combines to make a truly delightful broth. Long after the chicken and potatoes have disappeared, it is enjoyable just to eat the broth. It seems to taste better the longer it boils in the pot and if you’re still hungry you can add a portion of noodles for 2,000 KRW. If you get them, the noodles are thick, covered in flour, and soak up the delectable flavors. Gyerim Sikdang is a wonderful place to share a meal with friends and is definitely our favorite Dakdoritang in Seoul.
Price: 22,000 for 2-person serving
32,000 for 3 person serving
44,000 for 4 person serving
Extras: Fried Rice, white rice, and 갈국수 noodles.
Address: 서울 종로구 돈화문로4길 39 (종로3가)
Directions: Go to Jongno 3 ga station, line 1. (종로3가역), exit 12.
Walk down to the 2nd big street on your right and turn right (종로26길)
Turn right into the first small alleyway on your right.
Walk down until you see 계림식당 on your right. There should be a sign for 닭도리탕.
We're just a couple addicted to great food. We love Anthony Bourdain!