Finding the best bibimbap in South Korea
Of all the cities we visited in South Korea, the one most closely associated with good food is Jeonju. Seoul may be the nation’s capital, but Jeonju is, without a doubt, the culinary capital and we were looking for the best bibimbap!
With a history dating back centuries, Jeonju is not only located in one of the most fertile regions of the peninsula, but also within close distance of the west coast. Vegetables, seafood, meat, all are used to great effect by the many chefs that call Jeonju home.
The cuisine for which Jeonju is most famous is that of bibimbap, or mixed rice. Take a bowl of fluffy white rice and top it up with a variety of sautéed vegetables, chilli paste, a raw egg and in some instances, thinly sliced beef. Stir it all together immediately before eating and you have one of the most healthy, fresh and delicious meals you can possibly imagine!
Every region has its own take on bibimbap, with Jeonju apparently using beef broth as the base in which the rice is boiled. More importantly though is the quality and precise balance of the ingredients. Of course, if the chef is average then the meal is going to suffer, regardless of the quality of the ingredients, so considering how little time we had in the city we were very careful to ensure we visited two of the very best bibimbap restaurants Jeonju, and Korea, had to offer.
First up was Gogung, a double story restaurant located on the northern side of central Jeonju, right next door to the lovely Deokjin Park. This map shows you exactly where they are located.
Very traditional presentation inside a spacious and sunny dining area, Gogung has proven to be so popular that they’ve opened up a second restaurant in Myeongdong, right in the heart of Seoul.
Just look at that…you don’t even need to taste it to know how good it’s going to be!! We tried a ridiculous number of bibimbaps throughout South Korea, but this was the best bibimbap by far!
Visiting the makgeolli village in Jeonju
We thought we’d spend some time exploring Deokjin Park before making our way back to the centre of town, freshening up, and then psyching ourselves up for a simultaneously scary and exciting dinner with a difference!
The lotus flowers were in full bloom, and we were also lucky enough to witness the ‘incredible’ water fountain show, set to cheesy, yet strangely stirring music!
Walking through the centre of town.
In most normal restaurants, the question you often get asked is, “Would you like some <insert alcoholic beverage> with your meal?”.
Not so in the Seosin-dong district of Jeonju!
How about, “Would you like some food with your makgeolli?”
That sounds better!!
Of all the venues in Korea that we visited, this was the one that got us the most nervous. Essentially catering to locals only, we knew language was going to be a barrier, but as it so often eventuates, sign language proved to be universal!
Yetchon Makgeolli (click here for a map, it’s the second one from the bottom on the list) was the name of the venue and even this early in the evening they were so busy that we had to put our names on the door list and wait around for about 15 minutes before there was a table free!
The concept is simple, yet counterintuitive to many. I reckon it’s a fantastic idea personally! Instead of ordering food, you simply order a kettle full of makgeolli, the deliciously sweet rice ‘beer’ for which Korea is renowned, and with that will come a couple of small, basic dishes of food.
Order a second kettle of makgeolli and they’ll start bringing out the good stuff. Order a third and you’re into gastronomic heaven (assuming you’re sober enough to remember!!).
Pork knuckle is a favourite in the district, and we were really happy to get to try it.
One of our most memorable Korean dining experiences!
Walking back to the hotel, I noticed they’ve got a chain of Garlic Papa restaurants. Perfect place for a first date?!
Our bed for the evening. Traditional Korean style!
When we travel overseas we like to be as traditional as possible (most of the time anyway!). At the Gung Tourist Hotel we had the option of either a Western or a traditional South Korean room, and of course, we went the traditional option 🙂
Remarkably, the mattress is very effective at softening the floor beneath. You may not want to do this for days on end, but it IS great fun and you should try it at least once!
We thought the Gung Tourist Hotel was located perfectly for all our Jeonju explorations. Click here for more information or to make a booking!