Wednesday, April 3, 2013

리북 손만두: LeeBuk Son Mandu, North Korean Restaurant

LeeBuk Son Mandu is not your typical mandu place for many reasons. First and foremost, it's a North Korean style restaurant, which is what initially drew me to this place. However, that's not all. It also happens to be in a hanok located in the least likely of places to find a hanok, directly behind city hall. Completely surrounded on all sides by modern and semi-modern buildings, there is no way you could accidentally stumble upon this restaurant. There is practically a tunnel of alleyways which lead you to this restaurant. It's not hard to find though, just follow the signs for '리 (이) 북 손만두!

First turn of the alleyway, 

 Second turn of the alleyway,

Aha! Finally, we found the entrance!

As I mentioned, this restaurant is located in a hanok. They've put a roof over the madang (courtyard) to make more space, but other than this, many of the beautiful hanok features remain. 

Sinc the name of this restaurant contains the name '손만두' meaning homemade mandu, ordering the mandu went without without questioning, we actually went with the 만두국. However, after previewing some blogs on the Korean blogosphere, I saw that most people were actually raving about the Kimchi mari bap (김치마리밥). It is not the sort of mari, as in a roll, but as in the meaning of 말다 which means to put cooked rice into water. So, here, kimchi mari bap means rice in a bowl of water and kimchi. There is also a kimchi mari guksu which is the same but with noodles as well. Actually, I tried ordering it but the night we went they were all out, so I had to go with the kimchi mari bap.

Here's our table

 Ok, first the manduguk. Ok, I have to say I was a little dissapointed here. The mandu were great, don't get me wrong, but the soup was like water... sorry, peppery water. It's not just here that has disappointed me like this before, I've found that for some reason it's hard to get a manduguk with a decent, flavorful (meaning not pepper flavored) broth in this country. The best I've had was in Gangwondo at Namkyeong Siktang. If I were you, I'd skip the guk and just get the mandu. Or perhaps try the 뚝배기만두

But, as the bloggers would suggest, the real star of the evening was the kimchi mari bap. I had low expectations for this one, because, well, it's a bowl of kimchi and rice in ice water. it sounds pretty awful. However, this was surprisingly refreshing and delicious, and though you can't see it there is a surprisingly large amount of rice in the bottom of the bowl. The best way to describe the flavor of this is 고소해요, a word which doesn't directly translate to English, but means having the taste of sesame oil. It's a good thing though!

My friend who came with me wrote a blog post about this restaurant as well, but with many more selections as he came back two more times later without me. Check out his post here.

리북 손만두 Leebuk Son Mandu
17-13, Mugyo-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
서울 중구 무교로 17-13 (무교동)

Getting here is slightly tricky, but not too bad:

City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 2), Exit 4.
Go straight 60m and turn right onto Sejong-daero 20-gil Road.
Go straight 150m and turn left at the 4-way Intersection.
Go 50m and turn left at the first corner.
Turn left onto the the small alleyway between 7-Eleven and Jeil Garden (제일가든).
Libuk Sonmandu (리북 손만두) is located at the end of the alley.

View 리북 손만두 Leebuk Son Mandu in a larger map


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  2. Nice writing! I have to say I actually liked the 김치마리밥 better than the 김치마리국수, but I also know my tastes aren't particularly 'normal'. I felt the rice just worked better than the noodles in both taste and texture of the ice kimchi and sesame soup. Just my two cents!