When it comes to proper traditional Korean food, I still have a lot to learn. Though I grew up with some of the basics, I’m still not that great at differentiating between classic, legit dishes from newer, fusion inspirations. I welcome both with an open and nonjudgmental stomach, but some people, specifically my mother, require the most traditional flavors to be satisfied.
I was invited to have lunch at 뼈통 (Ppyeo Tong) by a couple of good friends of mine. My mother happened to be in town, and they were excited about having her try one of their favorite restaurants after learning of her ridiculously high standards for “proper” Korean food. It appeared that the fusion dishes filled with cheese and sugar just weren’t doing it for her.
Located in the quickly growing neighborhood of Jinwol-dong, this classic looking, yet surprisingly hidden restaurant was quite busy when we arrived. It was a good thing that one of my friends had arrived early to grab a tablet, as I imagine there would have been a bit of a wait if she had not. Unfortunately for my knees, the only option we had was to sit on the floor. Once we were seated, my friends placed our order for us before I could take a look at the menu. When questioned why, they guaranteed that I would love what we were getting. I grabbed a nearby menu to take a look anyway to see that this place specialized in 묵은지감자탕 (mugeunji gamjatang), which is spicy pork spine soup with vegetables and kimchi, and 우거지감자탕 (ugeoji gamjatang), a much milder variation of the former. The menu also offered different types of 해장국 (haejangguk), popularly referred to as “hangover soup”, and different types of 찜 (jjim), marinated and boiled/steamed meat. One dish in particular that got my attention was the 문어왕갈비탕 (muneowang galbitang), octopus and beef short rib soup. Honestly, everything looked good, and considering how chilly it was outside, I was ready for just about anything.
Not too long after we placed our order, our table was filled with side dishes (mostly in the form of different types of kimchi) and a plate filled with toppings for our meal. The toppings included ramen noodles, dumplings, that fake Korean sausage I have a weird love/hate relationship with, and 수제비 (sujebi), hand torn dough flakes. Those dough pieces are a personal favorite of mine.
I was left in the dark as to what my friends ordered until an almost ridiculous looking pot of food reached our table. The 우거지감자탕 came in the form of a mountain of a very mild, very green kimchi that had been supported by a foundation made of pork bones while surrounded by a moat made of a spicy broth. It was intimidating, to say in the least, and it took a few moments for my brain to figure out just how we would tackle this dish without making too much of a mess. There also appeared to be some onions and potatoes present in there somewhere. Just as quickly as it arrived, we had to dismantle the tower of delicious looking greens to a more reasonable shape before dumping in our toppings. Luckily, due to the meat and vegetables already being mostly cooked, it didn’t take long for the toppings to soften before we could start eating. The bubbling of the broth was such a welcoming sound, and the aroma that built up while we waited was like a comforting, porky embrace.
When it finally came time to eat, I enjoyed everything quite a bit. Due to the long and awkward nature of the kimchi, we had to cut it up pretty good with scissors down to manageable sizes. The broth was nice and rich, and it just got better the longer it cooked. The pork, which was at that tender consistency between holding onto the bones and sliding off without effort, was flavorful and meaty. The only issue I had was with the bones, as I’m not exactly an expert on finding meat in spine bones. Of course, that certainly didn’t stop me from trying. On top of enjoying the broth soaked dough flakes, I was also a fan of the ramen noodles, though I personally think ramen noodles belong in almost all Korean soups and stews.
By the time I was done with my meal at 뼈통, I was almost too satisfied to move. The warm and comforting flavors of the dish combined with the old fashioned setting left me longing for a time I’ve never really known. The fair prices were also a big plus. I would recommend this place for anyone in the mood for good 감자탕, and I imagine the restaurant’s 해장국 is also amazing. The size of the restaurant can host a reasonable number of patrons, and the fact that it’s open 24 hours just means that there’s no bad time for a visit.
Address: 광주광역시 남구 진월동 859-80 (next to the Lotte Supercenter & Uniqlo)
Hours: 24 Hours
Average Price Range: 7,000 to 10,000 per person