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Jotaro's Food Review
Korean Traditional Food @ Gyeongju Wongjo Kongguk (경주원조콩국)
We were on a cycling tour of South Korea; our slower pace of travel opened up to us many wonderful sights and also several good Korean food.
Riding around Gyeongju, we chance upon this small restaurant, one that is so unassuming that if driving by it would have been unnoticed. Like most buildings in Gyeongju (which is on the UNESCO Heritage Site List), it was one of traditional Korean design. We were later to find out that this place has been around for more than fifty years; and the food served were a specialty made from beans and tofu - healthy food which they have been serving for decades.
Inside it was pleasantly cosy, with warm pinewood finishing on white walls giving it a very homely feel. Seating was oriental akimbo style on the floor around low tables.
In a throwback to Korea's medieval age, on the walls were this miniature pots...
... and to appeal to Gyeongju's rustic countryside, hanging there were also straw shoes and the like.
The setting was nice - homely, warm and rustic; but how was the food?
We ordered a few of their specialities - a soup, a stew and an omelette, let's see how good their are.
From the "Warm Bean Soup" menu we ordered the top of the range Ground Black Bean Soup. This warm thick soup came with with chewey glutinous doughnuts (which I liked very much) with sprinklings of black sesame seed and was sweetened with honey. A truly unique dish.
Another speciality: the Uncurdled Tofu Stew (Jigae). Spicy, slightly sweet and a bit sour it came with white rice. The tofu was soft, slightly musky and it's subtle flavour contrasted well with the strong, spicy stew.
Now, now, most must think this as the usual Korean Pancake. This one is special to this restaurant; it's the Seafood Biji Pancake (Jeon). Korean pancakes are usually made with flour or rice flour, this one here is made from biji, which is the left over pulp after making soy milk & tofu. The biji is boiled and then beaten into a batter with egg; seafood and vegetables are then added prior to frying.
I am not a great fan of Korean pancake, but this one tasted great and was tenderly soft. I will be hunting for this when I next go to Korean restaurants.
We were surprised to see this fried fish (I think it is a species of small mackerel) which came as a side dish to the tofu Jigae. Slightly salted and deep fried, it had a very good fishy taste and tender, moist flesh with a nice crusty skin.
The Ground Bean Soup menu, there are three choice. We went for A, the other two uses perilla seeds as part of the ingredients. Perilla leaves and seed provide good nutritional value.
The Uncurdled Tofu Stew (Jigae); note the raw egg is serve separately. Crack it to add to the soup.
The Seafood Biji Jeon (pancake) menu.
Wongjo Kongguk serves very good and healthy Korean food; and this is recognised by the number of Blue Ribbons (South Korea's equivalent of the Michelin Stars).
Excellent, with this beneficial food we will definitely be in shape to cycle even more!
Wongjo Kongguk Restaurant (경주원조콩국)
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