4.086 Ian's Dol Janchi Spread

-Cycle 4, Item 86-
1 (Mon) April 2013

Ian's Dol Janchi Spread


at Yongsusan

-Wonseo, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, Ian, Mom & Dad, the In-Laws, Nanny 8

In Korean culture, a kid's 1st birthday party is a big deal.  It's called "dol janchi (돌잔치)" = "1st birthday (dol) party (janchi)."  Back when infant mortality rates were precariously low--just two generations ago, both my parents had siblings who died in infancy--the feat of surviving that treacherous first year was so remarkable that it warranted a huge celebration.  Per praxis, the kid is dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean attire), seated before a spread of rice cakes and fruit, and forced to choose among an array of items that symbolize various fates in life (e.g., gavel = judge/attorney)--poor kid doesn't realize what he's getting himself into.  Nowadays, the event often involves inviting extended family and friends to celebrate at a large buffet restaurant--some operating exclusively for dol janchi gatherings--which is what we did for Dominic several years ago (before the launch of this blog).  Having attended many such proceedings as guest/parent/kid, and therefore having earned the right to be cynical about it, I can aver that nobody really enjoys the occasion, not the guests, not the parents, and certainly not the kid, no matter how symbolically significant it may be.

That's 400,000 won worth of rice cakes and fruit that the birthday boy himself couldn't eat (without being mashed/cut into small pieces).

Our blissfully private room.

Despite my fervent hope that he'd pick the whisk, symbolizing a career in the gastronomical arts perhaps, or least a proficiency in cooking (I'd obtained the whisk from the restaurant's kitchen and placed on the table with the other items), the kid grasped the gavel, symbolizing a legal future instead (I swear, if I could do it all over again, I'd go to culinary school instead of law school) (notice the mommy's unbridled joy and the daddy's half-hearted applause).

Secondarily, Ian picked a money bag, perhaps suggesting that he'll make partner someday.

A growing trend is to have a more intimate affair at a full service restaurant with just close family, which is what we did this evening for Ian.  As explained in a prior post concerning my niece's dol janchi (see 2.312 Sinseollo), one benefit to scaling back is that the overall quality of the experience--better food, less chaos--may be enhanced for those present.  Another reason--more applicable when the kid isn't the blessed firstborn--is that the parents may not wish to burden their acquaintances with invitations--especially not again--since guests will feel obligated to come and come bearing gifts of cash and/or gold.  Whatever the rationale, we went small this second time.  (For the record, Ian, if ever you read this someday, please know that we did consider something as grand as your brother's party but ultimately opted for the plan that involved fine dining, knowing how much you love good eats.)

The restaurant comprises the original old-school building on the corner and the newer two-story structure on the left.

Changdeok Palace visible from the 2nd floor balcony.

The entrance to the private room at the back of the restaurant.

More specifically, Yongsusan an upscale Korean restaurant chain (see Yongsusan's website).  The chain has various branches throughout Seoul, including this one adjacent to Changdeok Palace.  Appropriately, the menu emphasizes multi-course meals focusing primarily on court cuisine, making the venue ideal for special occasions, including dol janchi.  Indeed, we chose the location because it offered a dol janchi set meal at 38,000 won per person (regularly 45,000 won but discounted on Mondays), a fruit and rice cake arrangement at 400,000 won, as well as MC services for the choose-your-destiny thing at 60,000 won, all in a private standalone dol janchi room.  Not a bad deal.

jeonbok juk (abalone porridge) (2.5)

salad of mixed greens, chestnuts, and alfalfa sprouts (3.0)

cheongpo muk (mung bean jelly) and sukju namul (mung bean sprouts) (3.5)

shrimp in mustard vinaigrette (3.0)

jabchae (glass noodles with sliced vegetables) (3.0)

sea snails and radish in gochujang (red chili paste) (3.0)

proprietary mageolli (unfiltered rice wine)

bossam (steamed pork bellies with radish kimchi) (3.5)

dongchimi (chilled radish kimchi in broth) (2.5)

nakiji bokkeum  (sautéed octopus) (3.0)

ddeok guk (rice cake soup) (3.5)

grilled chicken and onions (2.5)

chili peppers stuffed with minced pork/beef and seaweed jeon (pancakes) (3.0)

mul naeng myeon (chilled noodle soup)--the one disappointing dish of the evening (1.0)

sujeonggwa (persimmon punch)


orange slices and some kind of dessert cake/cookie that I don't know the name of  (1.5)

As befitting a kid who already shows promise as a gourmand, the food at Ian's dol janchi was excellent.  Not a single dish was particularly amazing, but everything in toto was thoroughly satisfying.  In contrast to the meat-heavy meal at my niece's aforementioned dol janchi (WAY WAY overpriced at 150,000 won per person), the spread here consisted of 19 items that were varied and well-balanced; only a single plate was ostensibly beef, a ground beef patty in a sweet soy sauce and sesame oil marinade which I chose as this post's featured item because of its photogenic value.  In the end, everyone seemed quite happy.

Happy Birthday, Momo!

Obviously, Dominic's dol janchi was grander in scale.

 Dominic did pick the whisk, much to the embarrassment/bewilderment of everyone (except me); however, he doesn't currently demonstrate any aptitude in the kitchen.


  1. 이안이 첫번째 생일 축하~!!!....가족 4명이서 찍은 사진 좋네...너의 바보같은 포즈도 맘에 들고...ㅋㅋ

  2. Aw, Happy Birthday, Ian~!!! He is so cute and the party food looks delicious~!!! Two things: (1) my iPad is rejecting all the comments I try to post on your blog so I don't know if you've been getting them or not; and (2) post Ian's stats so we can compare - Grayson got weighed last week and I think we might already be ahead :)

  3. Happy birthday Ian! Molly just had her 9 month appt too and she's at 21lbs 4 oz (I think that's 9.6 kgs), 29 inches. 8 teeth!! Same stats as becca when she turned 1, except becca only had 4 teeth on her first bday. This girl can eat! Just like her mommy.

  4. @MTG: THANKS!

    @June: this is only the 2nd recent comment that i've received from u (another one in the naeng myeon post).

    as for ian's stats, don't have official recent data, but at his latest weigh in a month ago, he was 13.1 kg (28.88 lbs/28 lbs 14 oz), and 85 cm (2.79 ft/2' 9.5"/33.5"), both figures are off the charts, at least for korean babies. BEAT THAT. he only has 4 itty bitty teeth, but he can chow down like there's no tomorrow.

    @Lisa: no comparison to a girl. molly should just stand daintily aside and let ian and grayson duke it out.

  5. dude ki, don't forget grayson is only 9 months old so if he doesn't beat ian's stats now, i'm sure he will by july!

    also, did you hire a photographer or was there some amateur photographer on hand to take some of these?? (i'm not referring to the food pics obviously)

  6. also what's the seaweed jeon? i assume not miyeok (at least from appearance). parae? or maesaengee? or something else?

  7. Awesome pictures!

    Greetings from Vienna

  8. @lisa: sounds like you're rooting for grayson...

    and yes, we did hire a photographer. a pro, i guess, though i think she's just starting out, so we got a decent rate. then again, we didn't get that many great shots, which may not necessarily have been her fault.

    the food pics were taken by a professional-level food photographer/blogger.

    @philipp: thanks! it's been awhile. don't be such a stranger....

  9. Okay, it appears that my comments did not take. Oh well... Grayson turns 9 months tomorrow so he has a whole quarter year to catch up to Ian. He gets measured tomorrow and I will post his stats after. Last week he was sick and weighed 24 pounds 3 ounces. I'm scared you might win. Although Lisa is clearly rooting for the G-dawg :)

  10. G-Dawg be no match for da Izzy-Mo.