seoul eats: gangnam myeonok (강남 면옥)

I’m coming very near to wrapping up my Seoul-related posts, so I thought the perfect way to start bringing it all to a close would be to write about the very first meal we had upon landing in Seoul.  It was a Tuesday evening and we’d just flown for more than 12 hours in total.  We hadn’t slept a wink on our direct flight from Vancouver, choosing instead to watch a bunch of movies and halfheartedly attempt to get some shut-eye, except it was like our internal clocks were already in disarray.  Tired and having that general feel of “ick” after spending too much time on an airplane, we experienced some roadblocks on the search for the mobile phone rental kiosk (“conveniently” located at the butt-end of the biggest terminal I’d ever had to walk through) and purchasing bus tickets to Gangnam (first time we got the wrong ones, oops).

We finally boarded the express bus that would take us to our destination, the COEX mall in Gangnam, to meet up with Rachel and Jason for dinner.  Except the time it took for us to get our shit together at the airport and the horrendous traffic caused us to be about an hour late to our intended arrival time.  We learned later that Jason was getting anxious waiting for us, as he’d already picked out a restaurant to take us to that was closing very shortly from when we arrived.

It was tight, but we made it to Gangnam Myeonok (강남 면옥) in one piece and with enough time to sit and have some food.  It still hadn’t quite sunken in that we were finally in Seoul, most likely due to the crippling sleepiness that was starting to plague me.  But I’m always up for food no matter what my state so I was looking forward to my first Seoul meal.

menuThe offerings at Gangnam Myeonok aren’t extensive; as with some Korean restaurants, they stick with just a few key items.  Jason read online that their specialty is the galbi jjim (갈비찜), so along with a bowl of meul naeng myun (물냉면) to share, we ordered a hearty serving of the galbi jjim.

banchanAn assortment of banchan was quickly served to us.

brothAlong with a complimentary bowl of broth that was refreshing and full of enoki mushrooms (my fave).

ribsBehold our glorious earthenware pot of galbi jjim.  I’m more used to the more stew-like galbi jjim with the savoury braising liquid that you can pour over a steaming bowl of rice and just have at it, so I wasn’t sure what to make of this version at first.

ribI admit it was delicious, but I found the meat to be slightly on the chewier side.  The first word that pops into my mind when I think about galbi jjim is “tender”.  I didn’t find this to be all that tender, although the seasoning was spot-on.  Still, I was so happy to be in Seoul and eating the food of my people RIGHT IN THE MOTHERLAND that I ate without further questioning this galbi jjim.

meulnaengmyunThe meul naeng myun (a cold noodle dish usually served in a beef broth) was light and refreshing, a nice complement to the heartier galbi jjim.

kimchibapAfter you devour every last bit of the galbi jjim meat, you can ask them to fry up some rice in there for you in the sauce left in the earthenware pot and ta-da!  You get this sizzling bowl of fried rice topped with seaweed shards.  But sadly, they put kimchi in it, and this girl does not do kimchi.  Yeah, I’m a disgrace to my country for hating on kimchi, but it’s who I am.  Don’t try to change me!

My belly happily full of food, I was about ready to pass out on whatever surface looked flat and even.  We headed to our digs and settled in.  Having had our first taste of Seoul food, we were excited to see what treasures we’d uncover on our gastronomic journey.  If my previous posts are any indication, I’d say we were pretty successful in finding some real gems.

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