It amazes me that I’ve been here for a year and a half and am still discovering new dishes.
Last night, my friend Yong-Kyu took me to dinner in the Konkuk University area. “I want to take you to a restaurant I like, but I am nervous,” he said. “It might be too spicy. And if you don’t like it, my feeling is bad.”
I rolled my eyes. “Young-Kyu, it’s me you’re talking about. I like everything.”
And, of course, I was right.
We went to a place called Kongbul (콩불), a popular Korean chain serving only a few variations of the same dish–Kongbul. Its name comes from the Korean word for sprouts: kongnamul (콩나물) and the Korean word for beef: bulgogi (불고기). Add an entire squid, thick udon-like noodles, sesame leaves and a red spicy sauce, and you’ve got the restaurant’s namesake.
We were about 3/4 of the way done with the meal when a restaurant employee came to our table with a deep bowl of rice, sesame leaves, sesame seeds and dried seaweed. He dumped it over what remained of our kongnamul and mixed the ingredients over a high flame until it became what’s known as bokkeumbap (볶음밥).
I took a bite and smiled at the server. “Mashisseyo,” I said. Delicious.
He looked surprised. “Where is she from?” he asked Yong-Kyu in Korean.
“She’s American,” he said back, smiling.
The server laughed. “Nan dangsin-i saeng-gaghaneun hanguk-eo,” he said to me.
I think you are Korean.
Name: Kongbul (콩불)
Location: Scattered throughout Korea. Check out the website to find specific locations. It’s in Korean, so if you can’t read Hangul, have a Korean friend help. Or, you could always roam the streets of Seoul shouting, “Kongbul eodi-ay-yo?” (Where is Konbul?) Someone’s bound to point you in the right direction.