Ddeokbokki and Traditional Tea

Before I start today’s post, I just wanted to let you know that there is a new page on my blog –>  ‘How to read Hangul‘.  If you’re at all curious about the symbols I use occasionally here, go check it out!

On Thursday after class, myself and a group of classmates headed out to 슴청동 (Samcheong-dong) to have an adventure.  One of members, Xuan Rong had heard of a famous 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki – spicy rice cakes) restaurant called ‘Eat, Rest, Money, Leave’  먹쉬돈나 (Meokswidonna).  Apparently on the weekends you have to queue up for at least 45 minutes, so we tried our luck on a Thursday afternoon.

And we still had to wait for approximately 10 minutes.  While we were waiting in the line, down the back alley,

and standing along the signed up wall,

one of the waitresses would come out with these order pads for us to write down what we wanted before getting in the restaurant.  This certainly isn’t the kind of place you go to hang out for hours on end (which is perfectly fine in many other restaurants).

The restaurant’s rule is that you order at least one order of ddeokbokki per person with a minimum of two people per group.  If you go on your own, be prepared to be turned away.  They have a wide variety of ddeokbokki to try!   치즈 (chijeu – cheese), 해물 (haemul – seafood), 볼고기 (bulgogi – marinated beef), 부대 (budae – sausage), and 야채 (yachae – vegetables).

Here is a small part of the sign near the door informing you of the different ways you can eat your ddeokbokki.

So, after you’ve picked out your ddeokbokki, your 면 type (myeon – noodles), and any additional toppings you might want (오뎅 [odeng – fish cakes], 만두 [mandu – dumplings], 계란 [kyeran – eggs], 김말이 [kimmali – sweet potato starch noodles, wrapped in seaweed, and deepfried], ect), you give your piece of paper back to the ladies when you get into the restaurant, and they get your order ready.

The whole thing comes to you mixed together in a massive pot and put it on one of those table top stove elements and you let it get to a boil.  Everyone has their own little bowl, and once the sauce starts to boil and thicken, it’s ready to eat!

Our first order included a order of the cheese, seafood, and bulgogi ddeokbokki, together with mandukyeran, and an order of ramyeon.  It was great, and not too spicy!  I’ve had some ddeokbokki that is almost painful to eat because it has been too spicy.  My table placed another order later, adding on an order of cheese and vegetable ddeokbokki, together with udon, odeng, and kimmali.  All together, the grand total came out to 24,000 원 –> 6,000 원 each.

Also, the restaurant was PACKED the entire time we were there.  When someone left, a new group was immediately ushered in.

After we finished at Meokswidonna,  we started walking through Samcheong-dong towards a traditional style tea house.

Now, this place was a bit of an adventure to find…If you find your self walking past this mural, you’re almost there.

Take a sharp right at the ‘Swarovski’ sign,

and continue down that back alley.

Soon you’ll  come across this little wooden sign.

Then you walk up the steps towards the hanok (traditional Korean house), where you can enter 가화당 (GAwhadang).

I immediately loved this little tea house the minute we walked through the gates.  The house had glass walls that showed off the stone garden foyer, tables that were right on the floor, and legless chairs!  When we got there, there was only one other person in the house.  Granted, there was only 4-5 tables in the entire place, but each one could fit more than 4 people per table.

The menu had both traditional Korean teas, as well as some Japanese teas, and a small selection of herbal teas and coffee.  Xuan Rong, Tim, and I all ordered traditional teas :

복분자차 (bokbunjacha – raspberry tea),

오미자차 (omijacha – tea made from berries of Schisandra chinensis),

and 매실차 (maesilcha – plum tea).  Yoshihiro ordered a sweet leaf tea and Silvia ordered camomile.  We also ordered one order of 약과 (yakgwa –  fried honey cakes).

Fun fact: Korean tea is prepared by infusing fruits, leaves, roots, or grains in hot water.  Yes, I just stole that from Wikipedia, and no, I do not regret it.  I find Korean teas to be quite strong and sweet, and I really like them.

The tea house was actually run by a Japanese woman, and when Yoshihiro ordered his tea, he was pointing to the Japanese writing besides it.  This got them both going off taking in Japanese.  Because of this little instant friend bonding, she decided to give us extra bonuses.  Like including one extra honey cake on the order (originally there should have been only 4 cakes, but we got 5; enough for each one of us to have one), and two plates of traditional style Korean rice cakes.  Lucky us!

Our experience at the tea house was great.  Besides the sore knees from sitting on the floor, I have no complaints.  The decor was beautiful, the tea house was peaceful, when we stayed there for hours talking, the woman never urged us to leave (in fact, she brought us all a cup of plain green tea near the end as extra ‘service’), and the tea was both delicious and had wonderful presentation.

Traditional-style tea houses are a bit more expensive then going to your local Tom-n-Toms or Hollys Coffee, but you’re paying for the ambience.  I really enjoyed it, and can’t wait to find more interesting places to explore here in Korea!

Till next time!

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