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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Korea Roundup 2011: Jeonju Kongnamul Haejangguk Serves Sizzling Bean Sprouts Soup

Yes, it's true. I have a thing for hole-in-the-wall joints. Of course, it's now become a cliche but this one has earned its place in the hole-in-the-wall hall of fame.

It's called Jeonju Kongnamul Haejangguk and serves its namesake, kongnamul haejangguk, a humble bean sprout soup that has already plopped the rice in there for you and is supposedly good as a hangover cure. But you don't need a hangover to have this delicious soup on a cold, winter day. When the rice is added in the soup before it arrives on your table, it's usually called a certain kind of guk bap. This one could interchangeably be called kongnamul guk bap, or bean sprout soup with rice.

I loved the sizzling sound (and the sight of the bubbles and steam emanating from the bowl!) of the soup when it got to my table, as I quickly tried to bury the egg yolk so it would cook slightly.

Let's take a step back for a sec before going into the soup. I was already impressed with this place after we ordered and the banchan, or side dishes, started to arrive.

They were simple but clearly made with care and were packed with flavor. My favorite banchan was the buchu, which was like a flattened version of green onions but as thin as chives, except without a hollow middle. Man, that's hard to explain.

As you can see on the left, they're like flat green onions. They have a much milder flavor than scallions. They are similar in flavor to saebal and are best consumed raw seasoned with some sesame oil or as pancakes. These were seasoned with a very light dressing with a lot of wild sesame seeds that had the smokiest flavor that really enhanced the buchu, with the added bonus of crunchy texture that brought it all together.

The myulchi bokkeum, or dried anchovies pan-fried and seasoned with some spice, sweetness and sesame oil and seeds, went well with the brothy soup.

The maneul jjong, or garlic stems cooked and seasoned with some red pepper flakes, gave the soup some more spice. These had a slight garlicky flavor but not too strong.

It also had sliced dashima, or kelp that was barely seasoned but gave a good balance of mild flavor. I'd never had dashima sliced so thinly so it was an interesting "cut," so to speak and easier to eat. Must try it at home.

As for the soup itself, the broth was based on myulchi or dried anchovies. Koreans love their dried anchovies -- adding them to make broth and use anchovies of all sizes to make side dishes.

The kongnamul, or bean sprouts, were so fresh and had a deep soybean flavor that the soup didn't need too much stuff except for the egg that was cracked at the end, plenty of chopped green onions and of course, rice.

It was very comforting and a great meal that I'll definitely be returning to. The place only serves four dishes.

Jeonju Kongnamul Haejangguk
(031) 265-9086

1 comment:

LearningByReading said...

Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful recipe with delicious looking pics. Will pas on to my wife!!