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Family Businesses with Inherited Recipes
Date 04-12-2019 09:22
Family Businesses with Inherited Recipes

The Japanese occupation of Korea (1910 to 1945) and the Korean War (1950 to 1953) led to the disappearance of almost all the renowned restaurants that had preserved and followed recipes for generations. Fortunately for us, there are still a handful of traditional food restaurants serving dishes based on recipes that have been unchanged for generations.

The digital revolution has accelerated the pace at which trends change, but there are still restaurants and diners in Korea willing to stick to family recipes they have used for over half a century. The Korean word for these businesses is nopo (老鋪). These restaurants and diners offer tastes and recipes that are still high in demand irrespective of coverage on social media. These are the restaurants and diners Koreans first visit as children with their parents, and later bring their own children to.

Chueotang North Korean Style: Yonggeumok, Seoul

Yeonggumok first opened its doors in 1932 and has been thriving for nearly 90 years across three generations of owner-cooks with a single dish known as chueotang. Chueotang is a distinctive traditional Korean stew made with mudfish, which is often first boiled and ground finely, and then stewed down with leafy vegetables for hours. The chueotang at Yonggeumok features a wide variety of vegetables, including taro stems, oyster mushrooms, black mushrooms, leeks, bean curd and fried bean curd. The stew is at once spicy and refreshing. The family recipe calls for only a restrained use of mudfish in order to ensure a refreshing taste. The stew is served with steamed rice and cold noodles. While there is no fixed order to eating these, patrons generally dip the noodles in their stew first and mix their rice in later. Seoul-style chueotang is made with mudfish that is not ground. These days, however, chueotang with ground mudfish is far more popular.

Address: 24-2 Dadong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Tel. +82-2-777-1689
Price: KRW 10,000 for chueotang

Addictive Gingery Broth: Buseoknaengmyon (Subok Sikdang), Seosan

This family-owned business offering cold noodle dishes known as naengmyeon has been running at the same location and in the same original building across three generations. The restaurant won three ribbons from the Blue Ribbon Survey. The restaurant enjoys a cult following thanks to its unique noodle broth made with ginger, produced in abundance in Buseok-myeon where the restaurant is located. The gingery broth is so addictive that patrons continue to come to the restaurant generation after generation. The dishes on offer are generously portioned, heartily-flavored, and rustic. What would be called a “double” portion elsewhere is considered a single portion here. The only two items on the menu are mulnaengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodle in cold broth) and bibimnaengmyeon (starch noodle in spicy dressing). Restaurants offering the same dishes and with similar names have cropped up one by one nearby, so it takes some care to find the right one.

Address: 15-10 Chuipyeong 2-gil, Buseok-myeon, Seosan, Chungcheongnam-do
Tel. +82-41-662-4128
Prices: KRW 6,000 for mulnaengmyeon; KRW 7,000 for bibimnaengmyeon

Bibimbap Recipe of the Century: Cheonhwangsikdang, Jinju

Cheonhwangsikdang has been serving bibimbap for over 100 years across three generations. A woman named Kang Mun-suk began to cater humble homemade food to local vendors and shop owners in 1915. Wishing to maximize the efficiency of the cooking and serving process, Kang developed a bibimbap recipe, which has gone on to become the recipe for the famous yukhoe-bibimbap in the region. Because Kang’s diner was located nearby the local district court, judges appointed from Seoul and even some of the former Presidents stopped by to have bibimbap. Bibimbap is served here in a traditional-style brassware bowl. It features raw seasoned beef with vegetables and herbs in season served on a bed of white steamed rice. The flavorful seonjiguk served alongside is especially popular. The original building was blown up in an air raid during the Korean War, but the owner continued to serve the local clientele by building a makeshift diner with logs imported from the United States. A rustic-looking table made with one of the logs during that period still remains in the center of the restaurant today.

Address: 3 Chokseok-ro 207-beongil, Jinju, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Tel. +82-55-741-2646
Price: KRW 8,000 for bibimbap

Cradle of Famed Suwon-Style Long Ribs: Bonsuwongalbi, Suwon

Bonsuwongalbi first began serving a local clientele in Yeongdong Market in Suwon in 1974. The family business, which began as a humble diner, was more famous for its galbitang (beef rib and broth soup) than grilled galbi. The huge ribs served in piping hot bowls of hearty soup drew locals’ attention. It was thanks to the sheer popularity of this soup that Bonsuwongalbi joined the ranks of the leading galbi houses in Suwon. Grilled beef ribs here are prepared first with a marinade made with salt, sugar, sesame oil, whole roasted sesame seeds, ground black pepper, minced scallion and garlic, ginger, starch syrup, and cheongju (refined Korean rice wine). Once well marinated, the ribs are cooked on a grill. The owner continues to abide by the family recipe of seasoning the ribs with salt instead of the usual soy sauce. Salt helps to preserve both the appetite-arousing color and flavor of beef.

Address: 41 Jungbu-daero 223-beongil, Paldal-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do
Tel. +82-31-211-8434
Prices: KRW 46,000 for unmarinated beef ribs (per portion); KRW 43,000 for marinated beef ribs (per portion)