Seoul Eats: 우리집 | Woori Jip in Hannam-dong
One of my favorite things to eat when I was little was a bowl of rice with barley tea or water plus anything salty: usually 장조림 (soy-braised shredded beef) or any fish that my mom had pan-fried. I think fried fish in the context of American food has a bit of a smelly, gross connotation attached to it, but frying a salted, dried fish in Korean cuisine is pretty delicious. It's not breaded or has anything added to it, nor is it oily—just the natural fats from the fish. My mom would pick apart the fish for me, making sure there weren't any bones in any of the chunks, and put it on a side plate for me to eat. Koreans think of this as an act of love and caring, and you'll see this kind of thing portrayed in really emotional ways in dramas too. In any case, there was something so delicious to me about the contrast the rice + water to help temper down the saltiness of the fish so perfectly, and the warm rice becoming lukewarm in the cool water, but sometimes you'd find a clump of rice that still held on to it's warmth.
Living here, I take any chance I can get to eat fish cooked this way, in particular: 굴비, or yellow croaker (aka yellow corvina). This is usually found in South Jeolla province, and in the winters the fish is salted and hung out to dry and freeze thanks to the icy cold winds that blow off the eastern coast (yes, this is where the Winter Olympics were last year). 시골 밥상 (Country Table) offers it as an extra side so I always get one, and when my mom was here visiting a few weeks ago, we saw a restaurant in my neighborhood that said they serve 보리굴비 (salted dried yellow corvina cured in barley). They were closed on Sunday, and when we tried to go Monday, they were ending dinner service at 8:15pm. Tuesday, however, we were ready to eat dinner at 6:15pm and we were one of the first people there.
My mom and I each ordered the 보리구비 정식 (yellow croaker) and Bryan had the 전복 갈비찜 정식 (braised beef ribs with abalone). The fish was devine. So delicious. It was salty with just the right amount of fattiness, and paired so perfectly with the rice. I ate every bit I could, and still wished I had more. The 반찬 (side dishes) that came out first were gorgeously plated on one large dish rather than all the small dishes, and tasted really homemade and fresh.
I would totally go back for a special treat—this type of yellow croaker is a prized fish in Korea, and it's not cheap. Each of the meals were 35,000 which is a little more expensive than this place profiled on Seoul Eats at 26,000, but it was totally worth it.
The restaurant itself feels like you're walking into someone's house. You remove your shoes before you step in, and you pass through the kitchen to get to one room or you go to the other side to another room with tables. There's a little garden and tons of plants outside that are really well tended to and feels very homey. Definitely try it if you want a traditional Korean meal but don't have a Korean grandma to cook for you! Limited English spoken so either go with someone who can speak Korean or be confident about what you're pointing to on the menu.
우리집 | Woori Jip (Our Home)
서울특별시 용산구 대사관로 40
Daesagwan-ro 40, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Open for lunch at 12
Break time around 4-5
Dinner 5-8 (can vary)