Three Gamjatang Restaurants in Seoul: Taejo Gamjaguk

by Jordan Redmond / Photo by Blair Kitchener
Groove Korea Magazine
In amongst the fish sellers and vegetable vendors of Donam Market is the tented original location of Taejo Gamjaguk. Having ladled-out its first gamjatang in 1958, it’s incredible to consider the changes that this establishment must have seen in a country where time moves so impossibly fast. Keeping with the theme of time on fast-forward, once having been ordered, the gamjatang (again, the only thing on the menu) materializes almost instantly. Waiting on the soup to cook down into a more potent concoction, one notices the yellowed newspaper clippings from long-passed features and atop a menu posted on the wall, a square of paper that exhibits the restaurant’s ever-upwardly ticking age. At this point, the paper states the number “60” which was clearly glued on top of the number “50” as the restaurant has trudged headlong into its future. Nevermind the fact that it isn’t yet 2018, this place seems as immovable as a boulder. The gamjatang here (again labeled as guk or “soup”) is less spicy than usual and, one would think, therefore less exciting. But surprisingly the usual red pepper heat is not at all missed. Do not neglect the sujebi, or small petal-shaped pieces of dough, as they are an outstanding vessel for the rich broth. The restaurant has another location, new and shiny, just a few blocks away. On the wall there is a kind of calendar marking when each of the three generations of owners took charge of the business. Currently run by the third generation, there is a marker for when the next son will take over. Whoever gets the honor has nothing to worry about business-wise. This is truly great meat-and-potatoes food that can (and has) lasted the ages.
Address: Seoul, Seongbuk-gu, Dongsomun-ro 18-gil 5

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