Not too long ago, my poor roommate and I suffered from a terrible case of food poisoning. After what felt like hours of stomach churning torture, we were left feeling sick, weak, and empty. While this isn’t the best way to start of any sort of food review, I thought it would be interesting to cover a restaurant that specializes in a dish I ate often while sick and unable to handle solid food.
I actually always knew of 본죽 (Bonjuk) since I first came to Korea, as it appears to be a fairly popular chain. 죽 (juk), which is Korean for porridge, is a fairly common dish that can be found all over Korea (and Asia in general). The dish is known for being both nutritional and easy to digest, which is why I always associated it with being sick (kind of like chicken soup). Since I was feeling rather ill, I saw my negative situation as the perfect excuse to get some good old fashioned porridge in my system.
Though there are dozens of restaurants around the city, I went to the one in Pungam. The location was small, but clean. Once we took our seats, we flipped through the colorful menu that featured more types of porridge than I knew existed. My sick partner ordered the 쇠고기야채죽 (soegogi yachae juk), also known as Beef and Vegetable Rice Porridge. As for me, I was feeling a little adventurous. After having read so much about 잣죽 (jatjuk), a type of Pine Nut Porridge, I wanted to try it more than anything.
After we placed our orders, we sat and waited at our table for some time while taking full advantage of access to the water cooler. Before we could remember what actual hunger felt like, our bowls of porridge arrived piping hot on a tray with extra sides.
Now when I say the porridge was piping hot, I mean that it was pretty close to trying to eat molten magma. It seems like porridge (at least in Korea) is just one of those awkward dishes where it’s no good unless it can blister the inside of your mouth. Still, after lots of blowing and patience, we got a point where we could eat a little comfortably. I tried some of my roommate’s beefy porridge first, as I had heard so many good things about it. Topped with two different types of sesame seeds, the hearty dish was a comforting combination of rice, beef, and vegetables that all melded together into one, easy to eat flavor. Though it was initially a bit bland, a sprinkle of salt (which we requested) was enough to really enhance the flavors. As for my pine nut porridge…though I had seen and read so much about it, I was a little put off when I was served something that looked like a bowl of hot glue. Though the taste wasn’t particularly bad (mostly bland with subtle hints of pine nuts), the texture was a little too strange and goopy for me to really enjoy. While I was thankful for the fact that what I was eating was supposedly healthy and definitely easy to eat, I barely got through half of my bowl before the texture became overwhelming. It wasn’t much better after it cooled down.
Overall, 본죽 is a safe, well known chain that can satisfy any porridge cravings or curiosities you may have. The food here is definitely a great option for those that are looking for something that’s easy to digest (ideal for post-dentist meals and sick days), or those that may just be hungry for something a little different. It should be noted that the portions are gigantic. Keep in mind that the restaurant is very takeout friendly, making it a great option for those of you that would prefer to eat at home.
Address (Pungam Location): 광주 서구 풍암동 1113-11 (right next to Caffe Bene)
Average Price Range: 7,000-10,000 per dish