Another lazy weekend, another opportunity to photograph some food and architecture.
This, time the wife and I went to Insa-dong to try Ganpan Oemneun Kimchi Jjigae Jip, a kimchi jjigae joint in Insa-dong. While we were in the neighborhood, we also stopped by the Korean traditional teashop Insa-dong and strolled around Unhyeongung ‘Palace’, the charming residence of the late 19th century regent Heungseon Daewongun.
Ganpan Oemneun Kimchi Jjigae Jip
After some debate, the wife and I decided to give a try to Ganpan Oemneun Kimchi Jjigae Jip, an Insa-dong eatery I learned from Wingbus (which is where I get most of my restaurant info). The name translates as “Kimchi Stew Shop without a Signboard,” and the shop is so called because a) it does kimchi jjigae, and b) it has no signboard. In fact, the shop has another, more official name, but heck if I know what it is. The shop is in the alley just in front of the Cheondogyo Central Temple.
This place specializes in very good and reasonably priced kimchi jjigae (4,000 won per person). If you’d like noodles added to the soup (as seen above), you have to order them separately as sari (i.e., extra noodles). It’s a pretty spartan place with an even more spartan menu — there’s kimchi jjigae, kongguksu and nothing else — and the only side dish served was kimchi (they did do up a gyeran mari — egg omelet — as a special request, which was really nice of them). That said, the kimchi jjigae was outstanding — just the right amount of kick, with big chunks of pork. For 4,000 won a person (you need to order at least two servings), you can’t go wrong, especially in Insa-dong.
T. (02) 739-1443
Hours: 8am to 10pm
After lunch, we went to a favorite little spot, the Korean traditional teahouse Insa-dong. From Insa-dong’s main drag, it doesn’t look like much, but in back of the shop there’s a hanok attachment with a pleasant courtyard/garden. It’s a teashop, so all your favorite Korean traditional teas are there. This time around, however, we tried a nokcha bingsu: shaved ice, fruit, rice cakes, green tea power and a scoop of ice cream.
T. (02) 732-5257
Hours: 10am to 10pm
Near Insa-dong is Unhyeongung ‘Palace,’ a 19th century home that is one of the most beautiful examples of Joseon aristocratic residential architecture. Despite the name, and the fact that King Gojong (r. 1863—1907) lived here from birth until his ascension to the throne at age 12, it was not a “palace,” as a sitting king never resided there. At its height in the late 19th century, however, it was as big as a palace, and as the residence of the powerful prince regent Heungseon Daewongun (1821—1898), it was the heart of the Korean political world from 1863 to 1873.
As was the case with many of Korea’s royal complexes, large parts of Unhyeongung were torn down during the Japanese colonial era (1910—1945). The complex today consists mostly of those structures built during Heungseon Daewongun’s regency, along with a beautiful Western-style residence and garden now used by Duksung Women’s University.
One of the things I love about Unhyeongung are the gates and the various views you get as you pass through them.
Some very lovely Korean traditional wall designs at Unhyeongung, too.
Each section of the complex consists of a courtyard surrounded by corridors. The elevation changes of the corridors creates some very beautiful roof lines.
Furthest back in the complex is the Irodang Hall, the women’s quarters. The only entryway is an elevated corridor running along the right side from the Noandang Hall, Heungseon Daewongun’s principle place of business. The only thing that’s disappointing is that there’s a beautiful moss garden in the Iro-dong’s inner courtyard, but since visitors are forbidden from entering the building, you can’t see it.
One of my favorite pieces of early modern architecture is the Unhyeongung Yanggwan (“Western-style Hall,” seen here as a reflection in a stone pool in front of the Irodong Hall), a French Renaissance-style residence built by the Japanese for Yi Jun-yong, the pro-Japanese grandson of Heungseon Daewongun. Yi died in 1917, however, and Unhyeongung became the property of Prince Yi U. The young prince, however, was soon dragged off to Japan to be educated. He graduated from the Japanese military academy and made it to lieutenant general before being killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The Yanggwan was eventually acquired by Duksung Women’s University, which uses it as an office. It’s approached by a different entrance than Unhyeongung, and you can enter it on weekdays — the interior has been restored to its period condition.
See this link from the KTO.
Map: A Lazy Saturday Afternoon: Unhyeongung ‘Palace’
View Unhyeongung Palace in a larger map