If I were to select, Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Stew) would be one of the most legendary food in South Korea. It has at least 3 different sayings of how it was invented, all related to the Korean war. Some of my Korean friends even get emotional talking about the stew— especially those who went through the army training.
Whether or not it was created by an army cook to impress president Lyndon B. Johnson ( Yes, this stew is called “Johnson Stew” too) , by using American ingredients in a supposedly Korean stew, or it was created by the Korean cooks near the Army base to accommodate soldiers in town, created from army surplus after the war, when food was scarce, I must say it tastes marvellous and I like it very much.
It is a popular dish here in South Korea. This sausage or Spam stew incorporates major ingredients like instant noodles, sliced cheese, sometimes sliced beef, onions, green onions, dumplings, macaroni and vegetables. All the above are cooked into a traditional spicy soup made of gochujiang (red chilli paste) and Kimchi.
Me and my two new friends were deciding what to have for dinner at Hongdae area and discovered this Army Base Stew restaurant owned by Korean Singer Shim Tae Yoon and Singer Hwang Bo — The Sim Seun Tang 심슨탕 Budae Jjigae.
The flyer on the table says the restaurant takes utmost pride in their fine ingredients and preparations that their kitchen is open for visiting anytime! Whole ox-bones are used to make the stock hence the deep flavour. The word “deep” in the Korean Hanja Character is written as “深” and pronounced as “Sim” , and so they decided to name the restaurant Sim Seun Tang.
They have quite speedy service here. The banchans (side dishes) were served first and the big retro pot came within the next 3 minutes. It just looked like the pot they use in the army isn’t it? The orangy-red colour of the soup look so alluring and all we need to do is to wait until it boils and soften the noodle. Gosh, it smell so GREAT!
Something different from the other Korean Army Stew house is, customers may use the garlic crusher to crush the garlics before they add them into the soup here at this place. I am a fan of garlic and of course this has to be added into the soup. One of my dining mates of the day actually commented that she thought the soup would stink but she was pretty surprised the crushed garlic actually improves the flavour of the soup.
The budae jjigae looks messy here but trust me, you gonna like the spicy, thick, salty soup. Just like what the Korean says : 한 입 먹으면 계속 먹게 되는 맛 (tried once and you will come back for more ) . Especially during winter.
Another star item here in the restaurant is this their rice. For normal Budae Jjigae house, they serve plain rice with the traditional silver bowl. Here at Sim Seun Tang, they serve their rice in bigger, wider bowls.So what’s so special about their rice and why bigger bowls?
It is for you to mix the rice with the butter provided at the side of the table. Simple and easy, you get rich,buttery rice to pair with the thick and spicy soup. Brilliant match.
We ordered a croquette from their side dish menu. Nicely coated in bread crumbs and deep fried to the perfect shades of golden. Popping one into my mouth and the crispy layer of the bread crumb cracked and release a sweet potato fragrance…. yums!
For 1st time visitors, it can be quite confusing looking at their menu. Fret not, I have come out with this easy steps for you to follow. ; )
First, Choose the soup.
They serve 5 types of army stews but most people would go for original flavour during their 1st visit.
The minimum order quantity for this stew is 2 pax. If you want to try this, it is better that you come with your friends then have it all alone yourself.
3rd, Add Ons.
After selecting on the soup and the quantity, move on to your add ons. They have
Instant noodle 라면 사리 [Read: Ramyeon Sari];
Beansprout and rice noodle 쌀국수+숙주사리[Read: ssal guksu sukju Sari] and
Ham 햄 사리 [Read: Ham Sari] for you to choose from. Normally Koreans would choose either one from the first two. If you want a sumptuous dinner, you can add the ham too!
4th, Side Dishes.
They have seaweed rice balls, croquette, dumpling and etc… If you feel like having something else after the soup, you can order from the list.
Since it is a restaurant opened by K-pop artists, quite a number of Korean stars had visited the restaurant too ^^* Here we see signatures of IU, 2AM Chang Min and etc. at the gallery beside the cashier. Good luck spotting them yourself.
My Verdict: A small and cosy restaurant that serve really nice, comforting stew. The waiter was a little blunt but we realise maybe he was just a little bit nervous with foreigner speaking English? Later when he serve the soup then he began to joke and was nice enough to help with the crushing of the garlic. Foreigner-friendly environment (except the full Korean menu that makes ordering a little confusing), but I am sure the staffs are more than willing to assist you with the order ; ) Located at Hongik University area, and so very near to my usual shopping trail, this restaurant would be one of the place I would go after a long and tiring day of shopping.
Total bill for 3 girls was KRW21,500. Spending about KRW 7,000 per person, I am satisfied with the quality and quantity served.
Map to Sim Seun Tang from Hongik University Station Exit 9.
심슨탕 [ read: Sim Seun Tang ]
Addresss: Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. 355-21.
Nearest Station: Hongik University Station, Exit no.9
Tel. 070-4100-8318 | Time: 5pm–1am.
Korean version of the address: 심슨탕. 서울시 마포구 서교동 355-210.
How to get there:
1. Coming out from Hongik University Station, Exit no. 9 (홍대입구역 9번 출구), go all the way down the road of the same direction, until you see TGI Friday Restaurant at your left hand side, and Cafe Bene at the opposite.
2. Cross the road and turn left, Cafe Beneshould be at your right hand side now. Continue walking straight until you see Mister donut. Continue walking down till you see Taco Bell.
3. There is an alley between Holika Holika and Tony Moly. Turn in and walk straight.
4. Until u see another crossroad, turn right and walk in, you should be able to see the signboard with red colour korean wordings: 심슨탕, at your left hand side. (It is super near to the trick art museum too) .