How is the year treating you so far? As the new year is approaching, I am writing the “New Year Soup” in South Korea – tteokguk (떡국 Korean rice cake soup). Although it is a Korean tradition to eat tteokguk on the lunar new year, many tucked in their tteokguk on the first day of the year, the Sinjeong 신정 新正 as well.
I do have a particular tteokguk restaurant in mind to introduce here. The Jaha Son-Mandoo tucked away in Buamdong is where I always head to for a bowl of hearty, comforting Korean rice cake and dumpling soup, aka the Tteok Mandoo-guk 떡만두국. Not only the restaurant serves this “New-Year-Must-Have”, it is also famed for its delicious dumplings as well!
The restaurant is located in Buam-Dong 부암동, a mountainside neighbourhood located just a short bus ride away from Gyeongbok Palace station. Buam-Dong has developed into a popular neighbourhood for culture living in recent years.
Visitors can find indie Cafes, traditional tea houses, galleries, local boutiques and mat-jibs (Restaurant made famous by word of mouth or online reviews by serving delicious food, Mat (맛) meaning taste; whereas jib (집) means house, Mat-jib = Restaurant that is famous of their delicious offerings) here at Buam-dong. I have covered some of the eateries and cafes in Buam-Dong in my earlier entries, feel free to check them out here.
Korean dumplings are called Mandoo. The dumpling skin for Korean mandoo is thinner, smoother and chewier in texture, compared to its cousins from China and Taiwan. It is really difficult to tell which one is better, but I would say Korean makes their mandoo with light seasoning and less fatty meat. Hence, it is a healthier choice.
We ordered Pyunsoo (Beef Mandoo), Steamed Mandoo, Vegetarian Mandoo and a Mandoo Riceball Soup on our recent visit.
Kimchi is served right after we placed our order. One thing I always look forward to at every Korean Mat-jibs is their house kimchi. And Jaha Son- Mandoo’s Kimchi certainly did not disappoint. Their version of house kimchi is in a beautiful fiery red. It is crunchy but not too spicy, sweetened perfectly making it the best condiment for the dumplings and soup.
The steamed dumplings 찐만두 (KRW 5,500) are the basics in a dumpling restaurant. It is filled with cabbage, pork and some glass noodles. The cabbage brought out the sweetness in the lightly seasoned pork, make it a delightful dish. As big as lady’s fist, these steamed dumplings are quite filling for a small eater.
Not a fan of meat? The restaurant got you covered with their delicious vegetarian dumplings 엄나무순 만두 (KRW 6,500). These beautiful veggie parcels are filled up with tofu, mushrooms, cucumbers and other vegetables. I love the crisp of the cucumber in this vegan dumplings, making the dish light and delicate.
Here comes my favourite dish, the Pyunsoo Dumplings 편수 (KRW 5,500). These beef square packets are wrapped in paper-thin dumpling skin, with mushroom and cucumber as side ingredients.
For those who aren’t familiar with Korean dumplings, you might find cucumber a weird ingredient. However, the refreshing smell of the cucumber helps in eliminating greasiness, make it an excellent combination for any meat-based mandoo in Korea. In this particular dish, the cucumber brought out the sweetness of the beef while lightens the beefy smell. A must-eat in the restaurant.
Lastly, is the hallmark dish for the new year: Tteok Mandoo Guk 떡 만두국 – Dumpling rice ball soup (KRW 12,000). Instead of using the usual Garaetteok in their soup, the restaurant uses Joraengi Tteok. Having Joraengi Tteok soup on the first day of the year symbolises good luck all year round because the 3-cm-long white rice cake, which is in the shape of a silkworm, is a symbol of good fortune in Korea.
Jaha Son-Mandoo makes fancy rice cake soup by adding coloured dumplings to the dish – literally a feast for the eyes! It is also a very filling dish, also a great dish to warm up your body in the winter.
So have you taken your rice cake soup today? Congratulations if you had your tteok-guk, because you’re a year wiser! Now you can go around asking your Korean friends if they had their rice cake soup by asking:
Tteok-guk mogo-sso yo? 떡국 먹었어요?
Have you taken your rice cake soup today?
Writer’s Note: Jaha Son-Mandoo is a great place for a hearty and delicious bowl of rice cake dumpling soup and fresh handmade dumplings. Each and every piece of dumpling is painstakingly folded and wrapped daily. If you are looking for a vegan-friendly restaurant in Seoul, this is a great place. For an elaborate meal, order dumplings Jeongol (casseroles). Remember to explore the area after the meal and have a good cup of coffee before leaving Buamdong.
Jaha Son-Mandoo 자하손만두
245-2 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울 종로구 부암동 245-2
Tel :+82 2-379-2648
Operating Hours: 11 am-930 pm
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