The return of Namsan Kimchi Jjigae
In the community of Noksapyeong — amid an array of cuisines from all parts of the world — a sleeping giant has been stirred to once again offer what it does best. After a recent renovation, Namsan Kimchi Jjigae has a new, earthy atmosphere to perfectly match its accompanying fare.
The menu is simple. In fact, the owners only dish out one exceptionally prepared bowl of kimchi jjigae. Korea’s wintertime soup staple, in its own right, is a seemingly simple item. However, this restaurant’s recipe has created something more than the traditional ingredients of water, kimchi, onions, garlic and a typical protein. Namsan’s jjigae comes in the form of a piping hot bowl filled with tender cabbage and savory slices of pork marbled with fat to add a tremendous burst of flavor.
The meal arrives fast. Since the establishment and accompanying kitchen are about the size of a studio apartment, I barely had time to sit down and get settled before a fiery-red bowl of jjigae and banchan, or side dishes, were placed on the table. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary water, tea or coffee because the sweats will inevitably hit in full force.
With the dish going for 6,500 won ($5.70) it’s no wonder customers include families, businessmen, couples and expats alike. Everyone is there for one reason: to immerse themselves in the same dish. At least, that was my experience. I was in a trance-like state, with beads of sweat dripping off my brow, perfectly content at that moment of culinary pleasure.
Upon entry through the automatic doors, there is a small seating area on the first level with four stools adjacent to the stovetops where the jjigae is prepared. All meals must be prepaid at the cash register. Customers can either sit down by the countertop, which offers a great spot to people watch, or they can head upstairs, past the John Hancocks of Korean celebrities on the wall to the more spacious second level. There you will find tables for two to four people with a total capacity for 25 or so customers.
Judging by the foot traffic on a weeknight, people can’t seem to get enough kimchi jjigae in their bellies. Make a promise to drop in and plop down next to a fellow jjigae fan, and allow the fiery broth to melt away the stress of a September night in Seoul.
Take exit 2 out of Noksapyeong Station. Cross the road and then walk about 200 meters. The restaurant is located next door to Thunder Burger.