It feels like over the past month, I’ve explored almost every town, tourist attraction and shopping district that Seoul has to offer. But that’s OBVIOUSLY not true because just this past Saturday I went to a place called Samcheongdong that I’ve never heard of before. It’s actually really close to Insadong and the KyungBookGoong; you can almost think of Samcheongdong as an offshoot of Insadong, because this is where all the artists moved to when Insadong started to get too commercialized and touristy. Samcheongdong is definitely quieter and darker, but there’s still a lot to do with all of its cafes and galleries and there’s a freeing, artsy flair here that’s lacking in Insadong.
Because it’s so close to the KyungBookGoong, there are definitely influences of the more traditional Korean buildings here; some cafes and restaurants have taken the buildings just as they are and juxtaposed Italian or French cuisine inside of them.
Still, the majority of the restaurants and bars have been remodeled to resemble Western-style buildings, but each with a quirky, unique twist. Seeing the varied jumble of architecture as you walk down the street definitely makes for an interesting walk.
Before we actually explored Samcheongdong, the first thing my mom, my sister and I did was head to Samcheondong Sujebi for lunch. This place is an old-school restaurant well-known for its sujebi, so we wanted to get there before it got too crowded.
You know a restaurant has to be good when there’s only 5 things on the menu – it shows that they stick to what they do best. You can choose from 2 types of sujebi and 3 types of Korean pancakes, and everything is reasonably priced (mostly around the ₩10,000 range).
Halfway into our scallion pancake, it came. The big kahuna. A huge POT of sujebi. We didn’t realize that this restaurant plates everything into one serving, so 2 orders of sujebi (which was more than enough to feed the 3 of us) arrived in one biiiiiiig ceramic pot on our table.
For those of you who don’t know, sujebi is a cousin to the popular kalgooksoo dish. The sujebi has an anchovy and clam-based broth that gives the dish a savory, seafoody protein flavor. It comes with a bunch of vegetables (zucchini, carrot, onion, scallion) and nori sprinkled on top, but the best part of sujebi are the noodles (if they can be called that). The noodles in sujebi are pieces of hand-torn dough that are almost reminiscent of thick mandoo skins; they’re chewy and give the soup the majority of its bulk, as the flour from the dough makes the broth thick and semi-opaque.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by my mom’s cooking, but I can’t say that this sujebi tasted AMAZING. It tasted well, homemade, which in itself is a good thing – it was comforting and warm and was perfect for a rainy day like Saturday. But I’ve actually had mom-made sujebi where my family and I tore the dough into the soup ourselves – now that was good eats. I guess Samcheong Sujebi is reputed for being so delicious because of that homemade taste, but that just can’t beat homemade taste with MOMMY’S LOVIN’, CAN IT?
After our lunch, we went outside and explored Samcheongdong more thoroughly. We went into a bunch of stores and checked out the side alleys, being on the lookout for any appealing places that we might want to stop at.
While walking down the street, I noticed that there are a looooot of policemen around here. My mom explained to me that because Samcheongdong is really close the to the “Green House” (it’s like the White House of Korea, except it’s green – it’s where the President works and spends the most of his time) security here is really tight.
After the policeman scare, we decided to go to a book cafe to calm down a bit. Notice that it’s not just a cafe, it’s a BOOK cafe. That means that there are books inside; you know stacks of paper bound together by thicker paper that you read sometimes.
The things on the menu were considerably more expensive than at a normal cafe, but it’s because that when you go to a book cafe, it’s expected that you stay in there for a long time, reading and relaxing while eating your food. I guess you can think of it as library and a bistro smooshed together. After hemming and hawing (we were having a hard time deciding because of the prices) my sister and I decided to get a waffle set which came with a coffee for my mom.
This was actually my first time eating a waffle, so I can’t really say that I’m a good waffle-judger. But it tasted good, what else is there to say? The waffle itself was freshly made, so it was warm, even with all the stuff on top of it. It was just the slightest bit crispy on the outside and the inside was still moist and bready. I honestly think it would’ve been perfectly fine by itself, because all the bananas, strawberries, oranges, kiwis, chocolate, ice cream (vanilla and green tea) did make eating it a little difficult. The ice cream on top was really good with it (temperature contrast!) but towards the end, it made the waffle kind of soggy – not to say that it tasted bad soaked in all that ice creamy deliciousness. The portion size was also perfect for 3 not-so-hungry people – it wasn’t overwhelming, just enough to satisfy our sweet teeth.
We stayed in the cafe, waiting for the rain to stop while browsing through books. Once it stopped storming outside, we climbed up the streets to get a bird’s eye view of Samcheongdong.
We had to go home early that day, so we ended up leaving early but I still felt that we had seen most of Samcheongdong. As a place that’s still developing, I can’t wait to see how much this place has changed the next time I come to Korea.
And I just thought I’d share this with you guys… Interesting Korean Dunkin’ Donuts flavors.