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Korea's soul food: Top gukbap places in Gangnam

By Kim Da-sol

Published : April 13, 2024 - 16:00

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Nongmin Baekam Soondae's gukbap (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Nongmin Baekam Soondae's gukbap (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

When it comes to Korea’s favorite soul food, gukbap -- a bowl of rice and boiling hot soup -- ranks up there for its deep, rich taste. The broth, typically made by simmering beef or pork bones for hours, and various toppings such as meat, liver and intestines make for a flavorful, hearty one-dish meal.

Sundae gukbap, or blood sausage gukbap, is a popular form of the dish, which is enjoyed across the country. It is a nutritious meal with a balance of protein and carbs and is enjoyed with indispensable side dishes like pepper, sliced onion and radish kimchi, or kkakttugi. Gukbap can also customized with different seasonings can be added into the soup at the table. The most common options are chopped chives, ground sesame seeds, salted shrimp or gochugaru (red pepper powder).

In Seoul, sundae gukbap broth is usually clear, while dwaeji gukbap, a style of gukbap with a similar broth base that is popular in Busan, is often enjoyed with the addition of gochujang (red pepper paste) and doenjang (soybean paste), which give the broth a thicker texture.

Nongmin Baekam Soondae

Nongmin Baekam Soondae, which opened in 1963, is one of the most popular gukbap places in the Gangnam area at the moment.

Not just office workers nearby, but so-called “broth-lovers” travel to Gangnam just to taste the unique broth cooked up at Nongmin Baekam Soondae. The restaurant is not hard to find, and is located in the food alley near Exit 2 of Seolleung Station on Subway Line No. 2. There is always a long line of people in front of the restaurant.

The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. sharp, but on Saturdays, you will find a line of people waiting well before that. Nongmin Baekam Soondae is closed on Sundays.

Here, sundae gukbap, the hearty Korean soup with pieces of sliced, or Korean blood sausage, is the star. At a glance, it doesn’t look too different from any other gukbap but what differentiates the flavorful soup at Nongmin Baekam Soondae is the thick gochujang-based paste -- dadaegi -- at the bottom of the clay pot.

Although various cuts of pork are used to make the soup, the distinct meat odor is removed for a clean taste that goes well with a bowl of rice and radish kimchi. Because the paste is served together inside the soup, the first sip of the soup might taste a bit salty or spicy, so don’t forget to enjoy it with the rice.

Address: 40-4 Seolleung-ro 86-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday

Price: 10,000 won for regular size, 12,000 won for extra-large size

Hyundai Sundaeguk

Hyundai Sundaeguk’s location exemplifies why this tiny street grub spot has survived decades, offering memorable flavors to countless people over the last 30 years.

The restaurant can be found in Nonhyeon-dong’s famous Yeongdong Traditional Market, where the residents come to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood, as well as stop for a quick bite with a bottle of soju after work.

While the restaurant's five tables barely fit into its small space, the gukbap is like food a grandmother would make for her beloved grandchildren -- not sophisticated, but a true taste of home.

The pork slices, both fatty and lean, are especially tender.

Because the place is frequented by office workers nearby who want to have a quick dinner with a bottle of soju, Hyundai Sundaeguk also serves a plate of assorted boiled pig head meat (dwaejimeori gogi) and pressed cold meat (pyeonyuk) for 18,000 won.

Address: 161 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.,Monday to Saturday

Price: 9,000 won for sundae gukbap