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BBQ Pork in Seoul: Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살), Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

This is the first of the posts of our recent trip to Seoul, and one of two barbecue grilled meat posts. Samgyeopsal is essentially the meat used in bacon, and very often grilled as is, without prior marinade or seasoning.

The meat is typically eaten with a vegetable wrap (usually lettuce), with a dollop of ssamjang paste made of fermented bean paste mixed with red pepper paste. Common accompaniments into the wrap include raw garlic and/or onions, and usually a mixed salad of spring onions marinated in a light soya sauce. An additional dipping sauce called gireumjang is also available, made from salt and sesame oil; this is an option if one wishes to not overpower the taste of the meat itself.

Perhaps not typical, but I also like to include rice into my wraps as I feel it gives a more balanced mouthful.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살)


Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살)

After a long day shopping near Hongik University and watching the Nanta show, we were hungry and ready for more meat. So approximately 4 hours after the Seo Seo Galbi meal, we walked into Palsaek Samgyeopsal at 10pm for our second dinner.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살)

Entering the restaurant, it’s clear that the words “famous” and “popular” are often associated with it, with the walls leading down into the basement shop literally covered with pictures of celebrity diners as well as snapshots from media programs. Being so late, the restaurant was near deserted though, with only a few other patrons present. Luckily, the kitchen closed at 10.30pm.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살)

While perusing the menu, we were somewhat bewildered as the table started getting filled with various greeneries and sauces for the impending meat, even before we made our choices known to the waitress. Naturally, we went for the 8 flavoured set, as it was their speciality. Essentially, there are 8 strips of pork bellies, marinated in the following flavours: ginseng, wine, pine leaves, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste, hot (gochujang).

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살) 8 flavour pork

As is typical in S.Korea, the set comes with banchan and the typical condiments such as ssamjang, raw onion and garlic, etcetera. However, slightly different was the variety of wrapping leaves available, as I’m accustomed to just lettuce being served; I think I recognised perilla with its slight bitter minty flavour. I’m sure some are better suited to certain flavoured meats, but we generally just scoffed them all in a random fashion.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal sides (팔색 삼겹살)

If you noted the order of the marinated flavours earlier, it’s in a specific sequence from mild to stronger flavours. The first 4 flavours were grilled first over a gas-fuelled hot plate grill, followed by the next 4 strips once the first set was consumed.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살) pork

Personally, I found the ginseng and wine flavours too mild, although the PigPig rather liked the ginseng. Ultimately, this is going to be very dependent on personal tastes. The pork itself was pretty good too, with generous layers of fat without it being too much to handle.

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살) pork

Also included in the set was a rather large soup pot which started off looking rather innocuous before a bloom of red chilli paste started appearing from the middle once it started simmering. It was a nice accompaniment to the grilled pork bellies, and was also very tasty on its own.

Altogether, the set came up to KRW45,000 inclusive of a bottle of makgeoli, beer and an iced peach tea. Rice was included as well, but we only had 2 bowls as we were worried we couldn’t finish it. Overall, the food was very impressive, and this is definitely one of the better ways to enjoy samgyeopsal.

Interestingly, the seat cover can be lifted up to be a bin of sorts, which we were told to keep our shopping bags and whatnot inside. Don’t be a twit like me though, happily stumbling off in a happy contented daze, forgetting the hard-sought-for shopping.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창)


Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창)

Over at touristy Itaewon, we avoided the foreign fare available and opted for yet more barbecued meat.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창)

As unexpected from their signboard of a cheery pig, this place specialises in samgyeopsal (pork belly).

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창) pork

However, it gets even better, as their marinated pork ribs (available in mild and spicy flavours) are simply to die for. We went for the spicy option, and even though my eyes were tearing, they were simply too tasty to stop eating.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창) ribs

It gets even better though! They also sell pork skin, which is then grilled over the gas-powered grill.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창) pork skin

The pork skin is then dipped into a soya mix, then into a powder made of mung bean, before finally getting popped into a salivating mouth. Despite our best attempts though, it never gets fully crisp as per pork crackling, although there is a very satisfying gelatinous (and undoubtedly fatty) component to it.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창) skin

The arrangement of the grill was quite interesting, with a slight slope to it, and a pile of marinated vegetables on the descent. This allowed for all the oil oozing from the samgyeopsal and pork skin to trickle its way into the vegetables.

Altogether, the bill came up to KRW54,000 for two portions of pork ribs, one portion of samgyeopsal and a pork skin, inclusive as well for a bottle of beer and makgyeoli. The samgyeopsal here was rather fatty with a thick layer of fat. The ribs however, were simply magnificent and definitely worth a visit for, although I suspect it’s more for foreign tastes as the adjacent table of locals didn’t seem to order the ribs.

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창) pork

Miscellaneous notes

• If you simply must choose only one samgyeopsal to eat (but honestly, why limit yourselves so?), then Palsaek is definitely the better option.
• We found 1 set of the 8 flavoured meats sufficient (so 8 strips of pork shared between 4 of us), but we did have two dinners that night. I noticed a couple seating a few tables away managed to polish off the meat between the two of them.
• You may have noticed that “Guhl goo nae wang gob chang”, the second of the samgyeopsal placed we tried, has gob chang in its name. Basically, its intestines, and while the PigPig and I were really keen on trying it, our other two members in the party weren’t so interested, and we were worried we couldn’t finish it. *sigh*

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색 삼겹살)
Add: Seoul-si Mapo-gu Baekbeom-ro 18 (Nogosan-dong)
Tel: +82 2719 4848
Directions: Subway line 2, Sinchon station, exit 6. Cross the street in front of Seven Eleven, turn left and walk a 100 meters towards Sogang University. The restaurant is in the basement level of the Kia Motors building.
Operating hours: 11:00~23:00

Guhl Goo Nae Wang Gob Chang (걸구네 왕 곱창)
Add: 128-12 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Directions: Subway line 6, Itaewon station, exit 4. Take an immediate/sharp left turn, and take a right at the first side street.

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