Visiting old, traditional restaurant always excites me. I get to take a peek at the culture and history behind not only the food but the neighbourhood where the restaurant first settled in. My hometown Daejeon is situated in the center of South Korea and is more known as a transportation hub than gourmet destination. However, it will still be worthwhile to visit a restaurant that is registered as the first dine-out restaurant in the city.

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Beef ribs soup at Sariwon

Sariwon first opened in 1952 as the first licensed restaurant in Daejeon. The founders Kim Bong-deuk family fled from their hometown Sariwon in Hwanghae-do, North Korea during the Korean War. They started the restaurant by making traditional North Korean noodle dish naengmyun, or cold buckwheat noodle soup. As of now, the founder’s grandchild is the current owner of Sariwon business.

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The old buildings of Sariwon. Now it’s in a new, modern building in Daeheungdong. (picture from official Sariwon homepage)

Although this is a noodles place, Sariwon’s meat dishes are also quite popular. When we went for a late weekday lunch there were many people having galbi-tang, or beef rib soup with rice. The hot stone bowl was filled with mound of meat and the broth was hearty and filling.

We came to get some cold noodles but when I saw that beef bulgogi was on special I didn’t hesitate to change my mind. I haven’t had cook-on-your-own-table style bulgogi in years. Mostly because bulgogi is easy to make at home and in my kitchen I’d just cook marinated beef in the pan. Here at Sariwon, the special metal grill is placed over a portable stove and all you have to do is wait until the beef and vegetables are cooked.

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For me, bulgogi is always better when the meat is wrapped in lettuce. Placing a few side dishes of your choice on top opens up new variety. I personally like cured onions and garlic stems to add extra kick to rather sweet taste of bulgogi.

The highlight of this meal was adding the rice to leftover bulgogi juice. The juice was concentrated with all the meaty flavour that it was too good to be left behind. Adding a few spoons of rice to the pan and lightly stir-frying it has done the trick. Another satisfying visit to an old, historic restaurant that meant more to me because it also told the story of my hometown.

Sariwon Myeonok Official Website