Seoul Food: Chang Hwa Dang in Hannamdong
창화당 (Chang Hwa Dang) is a neighborhood spot that I have a soft spot for. When I first moved to Seoul, Hubby was here the first week but then I had about three more weeks until I started my new job. I basically slept 10-13 hours a night and ate one meal a day while I tried to shake off jetlag and months of exhaustion.
This location of Chang Hwa Dang opened up a little bit before I moved here, and there weren't a lot of customers there in the beginning. I'd normally go for lunch or an early dinner, and I probably ate there three to four times a week. Yes, it's that good and the prices are pretty reasonable, compared to the rest of the neighborhood. After the first week or so, one of the part-timers recognized me and would give me dumplings or drinks as '서비스', basically the Korean way of saying 'on the house'.
I've probably eaten everything on the menu, except the 짜장떡볶기, and it's all delicious. The kimchi fried rice is spicy and well-balanced between the kimchi proportions and the rice. The 재육덥밥 has a little bit of sweetness and a lot of spicy with a clean finish. The steamed dumplings and dumpling soup are plump and the perfect size—they're not so tiny you feel like you can eat 100 of them, and not so large that you have to cut them in half, like 왕만두 (king dumplings). My absolute favorite is the 모듬마두, a sampler platter of all the fried dumplings they have: shrimp, spicy pepper, kimchi, beef and pork.
There used to be some great items on the menu over the fall & winter, like a fishcake udon, which was a perfect partner to the dumpling sampler. Sadly it was taken off the menu but maybe they'll bring it back one day. And beware if you’re going to order the 쫄면 (spicy noodles) because they are really spicy.
The restaurant itself is cozy; I think the seats are deliberately slightly uncomfortable so you won't stay too long, but there are also seats where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor if you want an old-school Korean experience. Some of the tables are really beautiful and made from classic Korean table tops, which always makes your Instagram posts look even better.
단무지, or pickled radish, water and soy vinegar for the dumplings are all self-serve. They used to take orders at the tables, but now you order up at the register when you're ready. It gets really busy on the weekends so I'd advise going earlier in the day, or going during the week for lunch or early dinner. And definitely get the dumpling sampler, ₩10,000 (~ $10).
Chang Hwa Dang / 창화당
서울특별시 용산구 대사관로 11길 57
Itaewon-ro 11-gil 57, Yongsan-gu (Hannam-dong)
Open daily 11:30am - 21:00