Pizza rolls, egg rolls, spring rolls, gyoza and mandu, the good, the bad, and the ugly progeny of dim sum — Chinese dumplings steeped in tradition seemingly tucked away within shrouded steamers in hidden alley joints when not in China. Living in Asia, heck, living in the connected world, you’d expect traditional Chinese food around every bend — it’s delicious. However, it’s not as ubiquitous as it maybe ought to be, especially considering Korea’s geographic proximity to China.
Luckily for Seoul residents, there is a hidden steamer joint located in the midst of Garosugil’s plastic surgery cathedrals and opulent dessert cafes. This is Joo’s Dim Sum and, to those in the know, Joo is a hero serving up texturized dim sum, noodles in rich broth and steaming tea to Sinsa’s hungry paying customers. It’s perfect food to eat during the cold weather months. It’s great food for every other weather occasion, too.
Joo’s Dim Sum is not your standard Korean dumpling shop. The dim sum at Joo’s is hand-crafted by chef Lee Byung-joo, who reportedly studied the culinary traditions and ways of dim sum in Beijing, China, before opening his shop in Seoul. He artfully constructs thin wonton wrappers for each of his dumplings before filling them with delicacies like pork, shrimp, crab, chilis and mushrooms, depending on which dim sum item is ordered.
Speaking of, the dim sums on offer at Joo’s are pork-filled xialongbao dumplings, which are three for 3,500 won, spicy pork and chili wonton dumplings, which are five for 6,000 won, and the delectable shumai dumplings stuffed with shrimp and topped with shredded shellfish, which are three for 4,000 won. All the dumplings at Joo’s are served with hot tea, cabbage salad, and Chinese-style kimchi.
Joo’s also specializes in clear and spicy noodle soups — necessary accompaniments for dim sum eats. Their headlining noodles are of the dandan sort. Dandan noodles are a Sichuan Chinese variety served in a lightly spicy red chili-oil soup with pork and scallions. Joo’s are a steal at 7,000 won. They also serve a clear wonton noodle soup for those less tolerant to hot chilies. The wonton soup is composed of al dente Chinese noodles, scallions, green leafy vegetables and a couple of large pork dumplings in a light chicken broth for 9,000 won.
However, if you’re leaving your apartment now to seek Joo’s steamy heaven, beware it has a loyal fan base and limited seating. Regulars and newcomers alike stand in line outside Joo’s Dim Sum waiting on a table for an average of 20 minutes. The dining space is small, with just a handful of tables plus a bar. Good things are often worth the wait. Any diner would be hard-pressed to find a dim sum gem of this caliber elsewhere in the city.
Address: 540-15 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Phone: (02) 6018-9888