Hey, everybody! Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues which is my early Christmas present to the world. Today I’ll be talking about a restaurant that Santa himself would love to dine at in place of downing his traditional fare of milk and cookies. The place in question is called Gongdeok Town (공덕전타운) which is located at Gongdeok station going straight out exit 5. Walk for about 8-9 minutes, and you’ll see it on your left amongst many narrow and claustrophobic alleyways including one that specializes in jokbal or pigs’ feet. What should you be looking for? Fried food as far as the eye can see. You can smell it coming from a mile away that’s how intense this dining experience is. So let’s begin at the start of the adventure.
First off, I would have never found this place had it not been for the luck of my friend, Steph, who found this fried food heaven on the internet. Naturally, she shares my same sense of culinary curiosity, so we made plans to go there after a very long work week. After going out exit five and going left, we were quite lost. I looked to my right in the distance, and I could see an alley that seemed to be more bustling than the others, and we were greeted by incredulous looks by the restaurant owners at the fact that two waygookins (foreigners) were in this labyrinth of produce and meat. After walking past a few eateries, I could see plates piled high with pork knuckle and no fried food. They sent us further down the main road, and we finally saw the promised land. They had a mind-boggling variety of tasty morsels to try that ranged in price from 500-5,000 W per piece.
How it works is they hand you a wicker basket along with a set of tongs, and you just work your way down like a Supermarket Sweep of sorts. Some of the labels were a bit hard to follow due to the imperfect translations and others were just very vague.
Nevertheless, we soldiered ahead and took a little bit everything. Once we had our baskets filled to the brim, we brought them to the end of the line where a lady weighed our food and gave us a number. We were then ushered inside where we found out that the smoking section is downstairs and the upper level is non-smoking and much larger and warmer. Eventually they brought us our plate of food along with the bill. For this mountain of food, it was 8,000 W between the two of us. Within our fried cornucopia that lied on our table just beckoning us with its golden-hued breading, we had more conventional foods like gooey Western style cheese sticks and crunchy chicken tenders that came with a complimentary drizzling of honey mustard. Then there were pieces that were more Korean like the squid tentacles, kimchi pajeon, and various forms of sweet potato which I was semi-averse to since I prefer regular potatoes. It still was a nice contrast to the savory, semi-greasy breading. An interesting selection in the mix was the fried beef liver. Texture-wise, it was quite firm, and it had a rich beefy flavor with plenty of body. I greatly enjoyed the fried cucumbers, chilies, and pork stuffed perilla leaves as well. Plus, they had plenty of different forms of taro root like the purple sesame seed coated balls you see on the first plate. So for all you vegans out there, there is plenty of selection for you too aside from that last one. There was also a mystery nugget that I chose because it looked like it had a strip of bacon in it, and I loves me some bacon.
When I finally tried it, it was quite bizarre since it didn’t taste bacon or anything else for that matter. It had a generic flavor of meatvegetablesbreading?? that left me generally confused along with the imposter “bacon” strip that just tasted like burned matter. It was quite the letdown. Once we finished our first plate, I had to go back for a second helping since I still was hungry.
The scallop was quite delectable as it was rich and buttery like breading that enveloped it, and the oyster was quite good aside from a rubbery texture that might put off some diners. The potato bread was a bit of a mystery to me at first since I was anticipating it to be stuffed most likely with pork, but it just ended up being a ball of fried dough. Last and definitely the least favorite of all the food I tried there were the millet cakes. They looked almost like mini-red velvet cakes minus the cream cheese frosting, but they were the opposite of the tantalizing dessert. Not only did it taste quite musty, but it was filled with red bean paste! Arrghhh, my Korean culinary arch-nemesis. Foiled once again from having a completely fantastic dinner. That minor bump aside, we ended up eating a ton of food for about 12,000 W each which is a bargain any way you slice it.
So if you’re looking for a warmer way to eat street food in the winter or perhaps need to layer up on some blubber for winter hibernation, go to Gongdeok town for some greasy good times.