Choi-ssi Ajeossi in Myeong-Dong, which is one of Seoul’s main shopping areas and tourism districts. The laneways light up at night as the streets become crowded with Local and Tourist shoppers. The neon signs puts you in a different world like the bright lights of Time Square or Las Vegas.
Choi-ssi Ajeossi is in the middle of the shopping district with a bright neon sign. It’ll catch your attention like walking into a big tree while you’re on shrooms. It’s on the 2nd floor of a store front and filled with locals. It’s a good sign when a restaurant is filled with locals cause it indicates that the food is good and locally approved. It’s a lively environment with a lot of Korean college kids and young professionals. It’s the perfect spot for old creepy men like me to pick up a side chick.
It’s a typical Korean restaurant with the wood and fake plants scattered around it. Choi-ssi Ajeossi has both Korean and English version menus. There are some wait staff that speak English and there’s your standard Korean buzzer to let the restaurant know you need help. Unfortunately for the staff, my backpack was on it the whole dinner without me even noticing it until the end of the meal. Now, I finally realized why the service was so great.
Choi-ssi Ajeossi’s main focus is Buddaejjigae (부대찌개), which is Army Stew. Buddaejjigae has a rich Korean history. After the Korean war, food was scarce in South Korea and Koreans made use of surplus food from U.S. military bases. The creativity came by incorporating spam, hot dogs, and other can meats with other traditional Korean ingredients like kimchi and chili paste (i.e., gochujang). The dish has evolve since then. Now, it incorporates items like instant noodles and macaroni. It reminds me of the “Prison Spread” where inmates take commissary items and make a disgusting unhealthy but tasty meal. Unfortunately, the “Prison Spread” doesn’t mean spread butt cheeks.
Buddaejjigae sounds utterly unhealthy and disgusting but it’s really flavorful and comforting food. It gives you an idea of what people of war torn countries had to do to get by. War is never a pretty sight, but the aftermath shows the people’s resilience to move forward. The resiliency always shows up in the food culture. It also show the creativity of jail inmates to make a creative dish from junk food or make the newest inmate his side chick.
Now, Choi-ssi Ajeossi’s food. Banchan is laid out on your table like all Korean meals. It includes your typical bean sprouts with sesame oil, fish cakes, raddish and so forth. Choi-ssi Ajeossi also serves proteins like bulgogi. However, the Buddaejjigae is the show stopper like new inmates walking into the yard as Bubba is doing his bench press.
The stew is cook in a pan and the certain ingredients are added as the stew’s temperature rises. It starts off as a milky white broth then quickly turns red due to the chili paste. The dish is salty due to the ingredients like spam and hot dogs; however, it has a flavorful spiciness to it that’s not overpowering and only there for flavor. In Asian cultures, salty food tend to be very comforting and the additions of the instant noodles makes it a fun combinations unlike dropping the soup while showering in prison.
Buddaejjigae is definitely not for everyone. The ingredients usually turn off a lot of Westerners and the main reason the restaurant is fill with local Koreans. It’s a really inexpensive dish to experience and a dish with a lot of history behind it. The only place to have it is at Choi-ssi Ajeossi or you could go to jail and have the “Prison Spread”. Junk food or butt cheeks. It’s up to you, Sunshine.
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- Service - 8/108/10
- Presentation - 7/107/10
- Flavors - 8/108/10
- Decor - 6/106/10
- Ambiance - 7/107/10
Buddaejjigae aka Army Stew aka the Prison Spread aka disgustingly unhealthy but tasty as fuck.