Local grub to warm heart & soul: Patjuk & Gamjatang
It's tradition to eat patjuk, or red bean soup, on the longest night of the year, which signals the beginning of winter. The vibrant red color is said to symbolize positive energy, driving away negative spirits.
Patjuk is a simple porridge made of red beans, water and small grains of rice. Small dumplings are sometimes added, as well as "saealshim," or sticky rice balls. For those unable to experience homemade patjuk, it can be found in a variety of traditional Korean restaurants and markets. The juk stalls in Gwangjang Market have been around for decades, and are a popular place to have this dish.
GETTING THERE: To get to Gwangjang Market, walk out Jongno 5-ga Station, exit 8.
Otherwise known as potato or pork bone soup, this one is my all-time favorite. The perfect soup for a cold day, it has a spicy flavor, hearty ingredients and a deep red color that comes from the chili pepper. It's comprised of meaty pork bones, sesame leaves, ground sesame seed, potatoes, kimchi, mushrooms, green onions and other ingredients, which are slowly boiled down in front of you until the meat softens.
The dish is often served without potatoes (creating constant contention around the name), though when theyíre included, they're one of my favorite parts. You have to work hard for this stew, as chopsticks are needed to remove the meat from the bone, but it's oh, so worth it. There are several gamjatang restaurants in the neighborhood around Yongsan Station.
GETTING THERE: Seobuk Wonjo Gamjatang is one of the better known places in Yongsan; it’s right across the street from Sinyongsan Station, exit 4.