Central Seoul 2, Korean Eats

Transcendent Cuisine Poom: Seoul

Poom Seoul’s Shitake Mushroom stuffed with shrimp

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Seoul Magazine. Reprinted with permission

Poom Seoul: Transcendent Cuisine
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel- especially when you have top-notch ingredients and a perfect location.
Located on Namsan mountain, Poom overlooks the majesty of Seoul from the center. The journey to the restaurant makes you adequately aware of what season it is and sets the mood for the meal.
You have to walk down to enter the restaurant- ironic as it is on a mountain. It opens into a minimalistic space full of light from the large bay windows.
The style of Poom is evident. Rustic pottery and bronze chopsticks and spoons juxtaposed with western-style tables draped with white tablecloth. Even the barley tea was served in glass wine glasses.
You don’t order your meal when you get to Poom, because you have to make the reservation with your order 1 day in advance. I had decided to order the regular seasonal lunch set (50,000 won) since I figured, it would be a good way to measure the quality of the restaurant.
The meal started with an amuse bouche of thinly sliced baked daechu (Korean dates) and toasted pine nuts. The daechu were surprisingly addictive- it was a very simple reinterpretation of something that was mostly commonly used in teas and in ginseng chicken. This was a good sign.
Then the first course came: a velvety shitake mushroom stuffed with plump shrimp that was placed in quaint chicken broth. This was exquisite. The shitake mushroom was cut in four pieces and as I was nearing the last piece, I hesitated for it was so good. I drank the broth in remembrance of the mushroom.
Poom Seoul’s Shitake Mushroom stuffed with shrimp
Poom Seoul’s Japchae

Next came a very inventive play on japchae (Korea’s typical glass noodle with beef and vegetables). Poom’s version is fresh; the starchy noodles replaced with strands of pear, minari (Korean parsley), and poached beef; the savory sauce replaced with tart, tangy vinegar.
Then came two coins of seafood pancake- a miss. This made me wonder what the more expensive lunch course would have had in its place.
This was followed by bossam: poached pork with briny crisp cabbage and turnip kimchi laced with fresh oyster. This was okay and timely with the kimchi-making season soon to be upon us.
The meal finished with an acorn and rice soup. The broth of winter dried pollack merging the autumn breeze of acorn jelly. This dish could be symbolic as the change in season and if I was more poetic, I could probably wax on about it in the form of a cinquain or possibly even a sonnet. It was a good dish, but I enjoy putting my rice into my soup.
Dessert was rice cake topped with almost butter-like red beans with a warmed pear tea. White pear was cut into tiny rounded stars studded with black pepper and they floated in the golden punch- a nice dénouement to the meal.
I must admit- Poom is not for everyone. It is for those that prefer the subtle, quiet revelations of life. In retrospect, I would have ordered the more expensive lunch set, but there were enough hints of the quality, that next time I vowed to treat myself. Chef Noh Young-hee isn’t going for fireworks. She is in tune with the seasons and she uses the best local ingredients to offer transcendent cuisine for the mind and body that is a reflection of nature.
Address: 3F.
 Jeongsa-Daewon B / D 358-17 Huam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 
Phone: 02 777 9007
Opening hours: 12:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00
Closed Sunday
Reservations should be made 24 hours in advance. Check the website for the menu. ­Lunches cost 50-70,000 won per person. Dinners range from 100-250,000 per person (15% tax and tip not included).

Poom Seoul’s Bossam
Poom Seoul’s Acorn Rice Soup
Poom Seoul’s Acorn Rice Soup
Poom Seoul
Poom Seoul
Original: Seoul Eats/ Blogger Version

Sanchae House: Dolsot Bibimbap Story at Visitseoul.net

This is my story on Sanchae House. It was published at Visitseoul.net. Please do me a favor and check out their site and write a comment under the story on their website. It would really help me (because they actually pay me to write for them^^). Here’s the link for their website.

By Daniel Gray

Dolsot Bibimbap is one of Korea’s most enjoyable and distinctive dishes, and provides the chance to learn a little Korean – a dolsot is a stone pot and bibimbap means “mixed rice”, and that’s exactly what the dish is: warm rice, served in a heated stone bowl and topped with various vegetables. The latter vary according to the season and whoever’s making it – they could be throwing in cucumber, carrot, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bellflower roots, alfalfa, sprouts, egg, beef or tofu. You then add a bit of gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) to the rice and mix everything up before eating, well, almost everything. I recommend you leave a small layer of rice on the bottom of the bowl – this will crisp up during the meal and add a caramel-like crunch when you are getting near the end.

Here are some nice ladies I met there.

One of my favorite places to get this dish is at Sanchae House, on Mount Namsan. It’s near the Myeongdong side of Namsan, right next to the famous cable cars that ride up to the peak. Sanchae House has a rustic, woodsy interior and their bibimbap is the perfect meal after long day of hiking around the mountain.

The menu focuses on popular, healthy Korean fare. You will find dishes like barley bibimbap; green tea bossam (poached pork seasoned with green tea); and an acorn jelly salad called dotorimuk. Now just because it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.

I went with dolsot bibimbap because after a long day of walking, I want a hearty and scrumptious meal. At Sanchae House, they start you out with a warm rice tea, which is made from the crispy bits of rice on the bottom of the rice cooker. The creamy bits of rice have a slightly sweet flavor and the heartier bits of rice have a satisfying pop. This is followed by a large fresh leaf salad with spiced soy dressing, black sesame seed porridge, and a chilled water kimchi soup. Korean food is all about balance, so the warm, nutty porridge should be eaten with a sip of tangy, chilled kimchi soup and then with a bite of the crunchy salad.

A couple of minutes later, the main courses arrived: a bowl of bubbling soybean stew and the dolsot bibimbap. The bubbling soybean stew had chunks of tofu, noodle-like straw mushrooms, onions, and other vegetables. This soybean stew, called toenjang jjigae, is a very flavorful stew and a staple at most Korean meals.

The dolsot bibimbap at Sanchae House has fresh lettuce, bean sprouts, julienned turnip kimchi, bracken fern stems, ground pork, an egg yolk, and dried, roasted seaweed. Before you eat, it’s important to mix – an intricate skill for which you should use both hands. Your writing hand should hold the spoon and your other hand the chopsticks. First scoop at the rice with the spoon, but, again, remember to leave a thin layer of rice at the bottom (you’ll thank me later). Also be sure not to touch the stone bowl with your hands – it’s hot! As you scoop with your one hand use the chopsticks to disperse the different vegetables. Do this over and over until you have the rice, vegetables, and red pepper paste thoroughly mixed in. Then taste your bibimbap. If you need more spice, add a bit more red pepper paste. That’s the great thing about bibimbap – you are completely in control of your taste.

I recommend you eat the dish like a Korean would. Have a bit of bibimbap, followed by a sip of soybean stew; then have a bite of salad, and follow this with some kimchi. Each dish has a distinct flavor that compliments each other. When you are nearly finished with the bibimbap, use your spoon to scoop out some of the crunchy bits of rice on the bottom of the bowl. These crunchy, caramel-like bits are my favorite part of the meal, a tasty end result of patience and forward thinking for which your palate will thank you.

The crisp rice on the bottom is the best part of the eating dolsot bibimbap.
Sanchae House (산채집)
Telephone: 02.755.8775
Price: 8,000 for the Dolsot Bibimbap, 10,000 for the Barley Rice set menu, and 15-25,000 for large speciality platters such as bossam.
Directions: Go up around Namsan Mountain from Myeongdong Road to the base of the Namsan Cable Cars.