I’m not sure what the furthest or longest I’d ever traveled for a meal was before Saturday, but I know it wasn’t three hours one way. It’s monsoon season in Korea right now, which means the weather is muggy, hot, and rainy. The forecast for this past weekend did not look good, so we contemplated taking a two hour subway ride out of Seoul to the city of Chuncheon to eat dak galbi (click here if you don’t know what dalk galbi is). Chuncheon is where dak galbi originated and is supposed to have the best dak galbi restaurants in Korea. We’ve been wanting to go there for a long time since our absolute favorite dish is dak galbi, so we figured we should take a day trip there.
We talked ourselves out of it toward the end of the week because it seemed a little silly to go there just to eat lunch. Since we had thrown that plan out the window we went to eat dak galbi on Friday night with some of the other teachers. I had mentioned our plan to one of our Korean coworkers who is from Chuncheon earlier in the week and she surprised me later that night while at noraebong (karaoke) by saying she wanted to take a road trip there in her car the next day. I was elated. Not only would we get to eat dak galbi in Chuncheon, but we would also take our first road trip in Korea! I wished I hadn’t just eaten dak galbi though.
She picked us and two of the other teachers we work with up around 10:30 in the morning and it took us about three hours to get to Chuncheon because of traffic. The first thing we did was pull into a restaurant by the river. We sat outside on the covered patio and feasted on the best dak galbi I’ve ever had.
The ddeok were so tender. I know that probably means nothing to many of you reading this because ddeok may not be something you’ve eaten before, so let me try to explain. Ddeok is made from rice. It’s basically a solid thick rice noodle. They are usually chewy and dense making them a little difficult to get used to. It’s an odd texture with no taste which is why they are always served in a sauce. I didn’t know ddeok could be tender. The ones we ate in the dak galbi must have been fresh and homemade.
The sauce was perfect and the amount of chicken they gave us was incredible. They didn’t skimp on the chicken at all.
You can get extras or sides stirred into dak galbi. Usually we order ramen to be stirred in, but this time our Korean friend ordered udong (aka udon) noodles. They came with extra sauce and a dash of flakey seaweed. The udong was just as tender as the ddeok. It was perfect.
I wish blogs came with a sniff and taste option. You must taste and smell dak galbi for yourself to really understand how awesome it is. We love it so much we almost bought an electric dak galbi pan at Homeplus (a massive super market chain) today. It was only 30,000 Won…I might just buy it if I can figure out how to make dak galbi on my own.
Our Korean friend also told us that we can order dak galbi from Chuncheon and have it delivered to our home. It comes raw and you cook it yourself. You’re probably thinking that the delivery fee on that must be insane, right? It’s not! The fee is only 4,000 Won! That’s less than 4 bucks! We will definitely be doing that in the near future.
After lunch we drove around for a bit and passed a guy stopped at a stop light who looked either dead or passed out in his car while in reverse. We pulled over to investigate and it turned out he was very intoxicated. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Remember what I said about the drinking culture here? It’s go big or go home. And if you go big, then you probably won’t make it home. It’s very self destructive.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at a cafe by the river drinking coffee and ice tea, taking pictures, and eavesdropping on a man and his mistress who were having an argument. It wasn’t so much us eavesdropping as it was our Korean friend translating since we didn’t understand what they were saying. She filled us in on all the drama though.
It turned out to be a lovely day. The sun came out and the storm moved south and hit Jeonju, the other city we had been thinking about visiting that weekend. It took us around two hours to get back to Seoul, making it five hours round trip for a single meal. It was 100% worth it. Despite having had dak galbi Friday night and then again in Chuncheon on Saturday, Dave and I found ourselves wanting more on Sunday. The stuff is addictive.
Can anyone beat traveling five hours round trip for a single meal?