Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A sunny afternoon in Jeongja-dong, Seongnam (Food and sightseeing)

An article in the Korea Joongang Ilbo clued me into this upscale neighborhood that lies south of Seoul. The paper runs articles on various area from time to time and this one looked good because of it looked like a prime place to spend an afternoon. Though the article didn't talk as much about the nearby Tan stream and park as it did the food, both deserve special mention. We'd come to Jeongja-Dong primarily for the food and found ourselves enjoying the surround area as well.

We'll surely come here again to spend an afternoon or evening. The area's every bit the ideal for urban living: multi-use apartment buildings, abundant green spaces, wide sidewalks, shops, restaurants, and schools were all within walking distance of the subway station. The stream boasted large grassy areas and long, straight bike and walking paths. Jeongja-dong looked like the visions of neighborhoods detailed in the book Suburban Nation; indeed, the place felt like Korea than it did the USA. Living here doesn't come cheap, but the convenience factor's strong.

View from a convex bridge

A shot of one of the apartment courtyards.

This Is Jjamppong

Jjamppong's something I've eaten a few times and always found it a bit too spicy. JB the coteacher's a fiend for it, so I've eaten plenty of it with him. The dish is fiery, yet after having spent more time in the country, the time felt right to give the dish another go. It helped that Rochelle had never eaten it before. She wanted to go there, so we did. This Is Jjamppong makes it a bit differently, as we saw when we looked at the menu.

From the article:

A special jjamppong (Chinese-style hot noodles with vegetables and seafood) place should be added to the list of fusion cuisine list, located a few walks from Naroo. Ordinary jjamppong comes with a spicy broth that is purported to ease hangovers. This Is Jjamppong, however, adds a little twist by adding cream. Kim Dong-han, who lives in the area, has become a believer in cream jjamppong, eating it every time he has a hangover. 

“When I first looked at the cream jjamppong, I wondered how it would be different from Italian cream pasta,” said Kim. “However, the cream jjamppong surprisingly had the spiciness of ordinary jjamppong and soon became the go-to food for me to cure hangovers.”

Out of eight different types of jjamppong, the cream jjamppong is the one that surprises customers the most based on its dramatically different taste and appearance. 

We ordered the aforementioned cream jjamppong and the "clear" jjamppong (맑은 짬뽕) that came with a white broth instead of the red broth. I ordered the clear one to temper the spiciness. The staff looked pleased to have us there and nearly fell over themselves asking if we were okay with eating spicy food. That was nice of them and they liked it when I told them I'd heard about the restaurant in the newspaper. 

The food arrived and we started eating to find that perhaps they'd dialed back the spices for us because neither dish registered much on the spice scale. Perhaps they used different noodles? It doesn't matter much to me, for I enjoyed both variants. It made sense that the "clear" jjamppong wouldn't have as much spice to it because of the different broth. The cream jjamppong tasted great: a cross between the venerable Asian dish and a fettuccine Alfredo. It was rich and hearty with flavor. We liked that one.

Total cost? A reasonable 15,000won.

Directions: go straight out of exit 3 of Jeongja Station. Keep walking until you see it on your right. The sign is in Korean, so look for 이것이 짬뽕, which means "This is jjamppong" in Korean.

The Seongnam Cafe Street

This area's packed with places to eat. To get there, follow these directions that Rochelle found:


Jeongja Station (Seoul Subway Bundang Line), Exit 5.
From the subway exit, turn around and cross the road.
Turn left onto Neuti-ro Street (느티로), and go straight for 60m.
Turn right before the Paragon Apartment Building 101, and go straight for 160m.
Cross the road at Paragon Apartment Building 104 to arrive at Budang Jeongja-dong Café Street.

We did just that and hung out at Azabu to munch down delicious fish-shaped pastries for a while.

As a side note, this trip marked one of the few times where we didn't have trouble finding anything. Normally every excursion to a new place involves checking maps, asking directions, and wandering slightly aimlessly, but not this time!

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