4.234 OKRKL/10 Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choidepo: Dweji Galbi

-Cycle 4, Item 234-
27 (Tue) August 2013

OKRKL/10 Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choidepo: Dweji Galbi


at Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choedaepo [마포 진짜원조 최대포]

-Gongdeok, Seoul-

with Gustaf

Given 100 landmark restaurants listed in the book Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (OKRKL) (한국인이 사랑하는 오래된 한식당) (see generally 4.173 OKRKL/1 Woo Lae Oak...), I'm taking it upon myself to visit and review as many as I can.  For obvious reasons, I'll start with the 28 restaurants in Seoul, which I hope to complete within this cycle.

This is the 10th restaurant, in no particular order, to be reviewed (see previously 4.229 OKRKL/9 Jinju Jib...).

The entrance, around the corner and down the alley from the main road, leads into the restaurant's original building.

Facing the main road, this storefront was once part of an adjacent building, now connected to the original building from within; the entrance on this side was sealed off during the renovation/expansion, probably to make room for more tables.

Great idea, because I can't imagine why a crowded restaurant, especially a BBQ restaurant with open fires at every table, would ever need multiple escape routes.

Choidepo is a Korean BBQ restaurant.  Famous for pork: (i) dweji galbi, (iii) ggeopdaegi (ii) sogeum gui (chops grilled and dipped in salt).  Beef also available (though I didn't see a single customer eating beef on our visit).  Rice/noodle dishes available in the evening with orders of meat or as is at lunch.  Bare-bones array of side dishes, self-serve on refills.  Gas-fired grills.  No frills.  

Prices are high but not outrageous.  The dweji galbi goes for 12,000 won per 250-gram order (4,800 won per 100 grams)--can be less elsewhere.  The most expensive item is beef rib cuts at 27,000 per 150-gram order (18,000 won per 100 grams)--can be more elsewhere.  For all meats, minimum 2 orders to start.


The restaurant, on its homepage (see link below), confirmed by OKRKL, claims to have invented all three of the aforementioned pork dishes.  Traditionally in Korea, until a couple decades ago, boiling was the preferred method of preparation for pork, as well as beef, as I discussed recently in another post from this series (see 4.229 OKRKL/9 Jinju Jib...).  But then, supposedly, the founder of Choidepo was inspired sui generis to marinate the pork in a bulgogi-style sauce and grill the meat over yeontan (charcoal cylinders), which were commonly used back in the day to heat homes, thereby creating dweji galbi.  Oh, and by the way, that would also mean the invention of Korean BBQ as we know it today.  The dish proved so immediately/immensely popular that scores of copycats emerged, prompting him to add "wonjo (원조) (original)" to the restaurant's name and then later "jinjja (진짜) (real)," when the copycats themselves also claimed to be the wonjo.  No explanation from either source on how the other two dishes came about.  I'm getting really tired of these cockamamie origin stories (see previously 4.219 OKRKL/7 Korea Samkyetang...).  

I won't even bother dignifying these claims with an alternative explanation.

Behind our table, sliding doors into an adjoining building to the rear.

More expansions to the left and straight ahead (the roadside building described above).

For dweji galbi purported to be the granddaddy of them all, it didn't taste like any of its progeny that I've tasted elsewhere.  Nowhere near as sweet, though Gustaf felt that it was sweeter.  A hint of spice.  Plus some seasoning/flavoring that I couldn't place.  At least it was unique, apparently made in house, not from some mass-produced/bottled/distributed factory marinade that many cheap BBQ joints prefer to use--hence, those other places kinda taste the same.  

The aforementioned bare bones.

Some kind of proprietary dip, similar to fried chicken chili sauce.

The self-service bar.

Regardless, Choidepo was packed at the time of our visit.  Around 19:30, Tuesday.  We managed to grab one of the last seats in the house.  And quite a large house it is, more like a complex comprising the original building plus three expansion wings made by busting through the walls to the adjacent buildings on the other side.  Like Jinju Jib (see above), this indeed felt like an "old Korean restaurant loved by Koreans."  So okay.

After double order of dweji galbi, Gustaf and I elected to move on to better eats elsewhere.

2 orders: 500 grams, including the marinade and the bone.

Due to the soy sauce and sugar in the marinade, which scorches quickly, the grills must be changed out frequently during the cooking process.

Dipped in sauce, topped with scallion, wrapped in lettuce.

The restaurant was founded in 1956.  (At the time of this writing, I can't find my copy of OKRKL--losing it altogether wouldn't be the worst thing, I guess--and I can't recall any details about the history of the restaurant, so I'll just stop here, for now.)

Address: Seoul Mapo-Gu Gongdeok-Dong 255-5 (서울시 마포구 공덕동 255-5)
Phone: (02) 719-9292
Hours: open 11:00 - 00:00; open every day
Parking: public nearby
Menu: Korean only
Wingspoon Rating (as of this writing): 7.42 (104 reviews)

Unlike our historic second meeting (see 4.227 Köttbullar...), Gustaf and I managed only 4 phases during our third and final night on the town.  I'm sure that Gustaf could've gone further, and I would've enjoyed going on, but I was beat.  Even 4 was tough.

Phase 2 at Eulmildae, just a few blocks away, where I'd concluded my report on the best Pyongyang-style (PYS) mul naeng myeon (MNM) restaurants in Seoul (see 4.184 The Eulmildae MNM...).

Whereas Gustaf had enjoyed the MNM very much at Pyongyang Myeonok (see 4.223 OKRKL/8 Yeolcha Jib...), he wasn't so impressed here--my own opinion of MNM continues to drop with every visit, this time to 2.0; he also didn't like the nokdu jeon, which is usually quite good, certainly better than the one that we'd shared at Yeolcha Jib, but I had to agree that something was off tonight.  

Within a week, two of the blog's all-time highlights: (1) serving Swedish meatballs to a Swede (see post 4.227 above); and (2) eating so-called "Pyongyang-style" MNM with the same Swede while downloading photos taken by him of actual Pyongyang MNM at the source; the actual Pyongyang MNM will be discussed in a future post, so stay tuned (Number One Fan Lisa's report on MNM from LA is also in the queue). 

Back to central Seoul for Phase 3, we wandered around the back alleys until settling on a faux traditional pub.

We had al tang (알탕) (fish egg stew).

Phase 4, we ended up in the famous grub/booze market Gwangjang Sijang--I'll do a proper post on this iconic venue someday--though most of the stalls were closed by the time that we got there (around 02:00?).  

The jeon was pre-cooked then reheated on the griddle upon order.

A plate of saengseon jeon, negotiated down to 5,000 won.

When Gustaf expressed his interest in the kimchi jeon, the sweet old lady didn't hesitate to give us some for free.

By sheer coincidence, the model hawking the maggeolli on the ad is surnamed "Jeon."

Eventually, we called it a night (around 03:00?  04:00?).  Most regretfully.  Gustaf will be returning to Sweden in a couple days, and we won't have time for a fourth bash before he leaves.   As we shook hands to say goodbye, we swore that this wouldn't be the last.  Hopefully, it won't be too long until we meet again.


  1. Yeah, we will most definitely meet again, in Korea or elsewhere! Even if we didn't manage to stay up until as late as the second time, it was still a good achievement! Btw I didn't have any problem finding a jjimjilbang to sleep in, just asked some store-owners who directed me to a jjimjilbang a block up. I was at least good enough for sleeping, although the 목욕탕s were really subpar...

  2. Btw cool that you gave me my own label :)

  3. i think the greater achievement was how many different places (i count 12) and kinds of food (i count 22) that we managed to experience during just 3 meetings. that's a high benchmark. how feasible would that be in sweden, either oslo' or uppsala?

    well, you've always had a label under Kor-Swe-X, but this one's to commemorate the in-person exchanges!

  4. oh, yeah that's even more remarkable, when I think about it. I guess it would be feasible, both in Uppsala and Stockholm (our capital), but it would be much harder and much more expensive... when I think of it, maybe Uppsala is too small of a city for it to be possible. It would maybe be possible in Oslo as well (in NORWAY ;) ) but it would be even more expensive still than in Sweden...

  5. in high school, my friends and i had this thing we called "framing." we'd come up with something that would elicit a specific response from someone--say, referring to Oslo as a city in Sweden, knowing that it would upset a Swede (or a Norwegian for that matter)--and then take great pleasure when the response came as expected.

    here, i'm a bit disappointed that Gustaf wasn't all that riled. but i'm glad that lisa seemed to have fallen for it "dying laughing."

    another example of framing would be if gustaf were to call a mogwai a "gremlin," and then i'd say "I'M TELLING YOU, THAT'S NOT--" and then gustaf would bust out laughing.

  6. Sure, except I don't believe that you were "framing"

  7. "Framing" also known as "trolling" in more modern lingo :)
    And no, I wasn't framing when I called that thing a "gremlin", but at least I know one way to do it now...

    A just like Lisa I'm curious whether you were actually just framing or not :)

  8. well, with framing, the intent isn't really to offend or harass the target, despite the two examples given. it's just a harmless way of getting someone to act in a predictable manner, though i suppose something controversial is often the easiest way.

    if you guys reexamine the original comment above, you'll notice an apostrophe next to oslo'.

  9. Ok, so then it's a little bit different from trolling then..
    Yeah, I noticed the apostrophe before, but just thought it was a typo... :)