Note: Last year, I was diagnosed with cancer a month after my birthday trip to Seoul. So, to celebrate my remission this year, my husband took me back “to make new memories, hon.”
My Seoul 2015 series begins here.
In this series:
Plenty of street art to be found here because Hongdae is the hub of all things indy and expressing one’s individuality.
It seems strange at first, admittedly, the idea of eating ribs with cheese; but once I try it, I wonder why it took me so long. At popular James Cheese & Back Ribs, they take this idea and run with it to great success.
We have two orders of ribs and kimchi rice. The table is set up with a portable burner on which a cast-iron platter is placed. Even uncooked, it mesmerizes, the half-cooked ribs’ sticky, ochre coating glistens and the shreds of mozzarella wait expectantly.
The restaurant is small but supremely hip as you can see in the photo’s background. Our bleached blond server makes quick work of the mozzarella – mixing, lifting, and stretching it out until it’s one stretchy, mouthwatering mass.
The scissors provided are helpful in ways that a knife never will be. We wrap strips of mozzarella around each rib, a mouthful makes for a most scintillating encounter; appetites stoked by the sight of soft meat, melting cheese. The corn and omelet side dishes are added curiosities that are equally delicious.
My Bin and I eat, enraptured.
When there’s nothing left of the meat, the server returns with a bowl of kimchi rice. Whatever is left of the cheese is mixed with it, and an egg is tossed in to further flavor and lubricate the fiery mess. Too good.
Gangnam is gargantuan and jam-packed. A frenetic energy pervades, and the city girl in me is giddy. It’s remarkable how visiting a foreign city again cements its place in my heart.
The big buildings beckon, beacons of commerce and wealth. Somewhere in my head, I hear Psy singing the soundtrack to this “Opa Gangnam style!” lifestyle.
Gangnam nightlife. Ahhh, where shall we eat tonight?
My obligatory intersection shot showcasing a street pulsing with people.
Sometimes we feel the need to escape from the frenzy on the surface so we duck down below to the underground shopping center at Gangnam station. Oddly, it’s as fevered and wild down here as it is up there. So we go with the flow, and what else: shop.
A new discovery
One of our new discoveries on this trip is Yoogane, a restaurant specializing in dak galbi. Essentially a stir-fried dish of diced chicken in a gochujang-based sauce, lots of fun ingredients are tossed in for variation and customization.
Left to right:
- A massive metal cover surrounds the hot plate to avoid splatters. In goes the scallions, onions, gochujang, and my beloved tteok (rice cakes).
- Garlic, rice, and seaweed join the stir-fry party.
- Mix! (say three times, fast).
- As my Bin and I learn from our meal at James Cheese & Back Ribs, there’s very little that can’t be improved with more mozzarella.
- The now red-hued rice is placed atop the mozzarella. The server waits a moment and then…
- … flips the mixture over: voila! Melted cheese rice! My Bin and I descend upon the dish, our greed feeding our hunger brought on by hours spent exploring Gangnam. Much a melding of soft (rice, tteok, cheese, minced chicken), there’s a current of spice running throughout that satisfies and makes us want more… until there’s nothing left except some crisp crumbs clinging to the pan.
They say that Hongdae is where all the student-artists hang out but Samcheongdong is where all the successful ones end up. The proliferation of art galleries attests to this but the area is so peaceful and genteel. I highly recommend coming here if you want a few hours of quiet exploration. There are boutiques and cafés aplenty.
Nearby is the Bukchon Hanok Village where 900 hanok are situated. Traditional Korean homes with tiled roofs and varied wall patterns, passing through this area harks back to a more tranquil time. It’s an unexpected pleasure to get lost here.
Steep stairs lead up to some incredible views…
…before you walk down again.
In the midst of the hanok village is a place serving tea and for me, my favorite hot red bean porridge. As my Bin and I sip and savor, time seems to stand still. Our trip is coming to an end and we can’t help but marvel at how we’ve fallen in love with Seoul. Again.
A final meal of bulgogi and assorted other Korean barbeques before we head off to the airport.
Establishments mentioned in this article
James Cheese & Ribs
Locations in Myeongdong and Hongdae. To get to the Hongdae location I went to:
From the Hongik University stop, leave the station from Exit 7 and turn right. Walk less than 50 meters and the restaurant will be on the right. After you eat, turn right from the restaurant and keep walking until you hit the Hongdae Shopping Street.
Yoogane – various locations in Seoul.