Review: Birthday eats part I - Yuhwang Duck (Sulfur Duck) from Ori Wa Kkot Keh (오리와 꽃게) in Sadang

Apologies for the mass delay. On top of a best friend coming into town, a number of birthday celebrations and whatnot kept me on the sidelines but fret not, as I've been continually photographing and documenting the different eats and such for all you folks.

This year marked my fourth birthday I've spent in Korea. Rather then holding a full out party like last year, I opted to spend it more quietly with close friends and relatives and, of course, with good food. I say this all the time but good food and good folks... ain't nothing that makes me a happier man.

I kicked things off with a birthday dinner with my grandmother. Forever thinking I'm living an impoverished (slightly true) and malnourished life (certainly not true), my grandmother insisted that we eat some sort of duck meat for our dinner. My grandmother isn't one who is partial to meat in general so this surprised me but  I later realized she was doing so for my sake and for the supposed benefits duck meat has in invigorating health, stamina, and whatnot.

Duck meat hasn't always been big in Korea but it's certainly taken off in recent years for its alleged healthier and leaner properties compared to other meats. Duck in Korea is typically prepared by making a stew out of it, roasting it or barbecuing it. A particular high-end way of preparing it however is a dish called  yuhwang ori (유황 오리) or "sulfur duck" (yuhwang = sulfur, ori = duck).

According to eastern medicine, sulfur has all these medicinal and nutritional benefits for humans except for the fact that it's also toxic. While most birds are also resistant to it, ducks are surprisingly not, and by consuming duck which has also eaten and processed sulfur for a period of time, the theory is that us humans can get the good stuff from the sulfur without the toxins.

So the specially-raised ducks for this dish are given a diet that includes sulfur for some 45 days. Afterwards, the duck is prepared in a special way by stuffing it with sticky rice, black rice, jujubes, dates, chestnuts, ginseng, seeds and different herbs and plants with medicinal properties. The whole duck is then slow-roasted for 3 hours or so, allowing the fat to drip away while the meat soaks up the duck's stuffed contents.

Understandably, the dish involves a lot of time and preparation from the duck farm to your table so the price is on the higher side for the dish and its also considered a treat of a meal.

I was recommended a place in Sadang called 오리와 꽃게 (Ori Wa Kkot Geh) which literally means, "Duck and Blue Crab" and I made the reservation for the dish on a fine spring day.



I purposely scheduled an early dinner so the restaurant was sparse when we first entered. Within a minute of being seated, the side dishes were brought out:



Dressed spring greens, various pickles, raw skate (홍허회), water kimchi, salad and porridge.

The side dishes were fresh and you could tell were prepared in-store and not brought in as packaged dishes from a factory. The salad was dressed in a simple yuza vinaigrette which worked well to balance out the main meat dish. 

The duck arrived promptly after the dishes were served in dramatic fashion with a tin cover unveiling and everything. The behemoth of a duck looked like a simple roasted duck at first but out came the scissors and tongs by our waitress as she began snipping away the belly, legs and wings to reveal its steaming contents. 

After being sliced up

Closeup of the goods inside

Nestled inside the tender meat were the ingredients and herbs immediately creating a mouthwatering scent. A slightly sweet, mustard and soy sauce based sauce was provided as dipping for the meat and I found the dip enjoyable while my grandmother did not. 

The meat was tender and seasoned just right so that it could be enjoyed perfectly fine without the dipping sauce. Even with chopsticks the meat could be effortlessly pulled apart and, unlike a roasted pork for example, the duck did not give you a heavy feeling as you ate. 

Just as it was visually, the "stuffing" proved a diverse treat in your mouth as you had various different textures and flavors in each bite. The sticky sweet rice acted as a sort of glue to bring everything together and in between alternating from the meat and the stuffing, once almost had to remind one's self to remember there were other side dishes to enjoy!

I've always had a pretty sharp sense of taste so I'm usually quite sensitive to any meat dishes that have"game-y" smells and tastes but I found no such issue with the duck, as did my meat-averse grandmother.

The entire dish is actually meant for three people but my grandmother and I did a pretty good job between the two of us leaving behind just enough duck meat and stuffing leftovers for a light lunch the next day. My meat-averse grandmother even took home the leftovers which showed she liked the dish. 

Served afterwards was a choice between somyeon (noodles in an anchovy-based broth) and nengmyun (chewy, cold noodles) as a palate cleanser. Only a chopstick slurp or two worth of noodles is provided since it's meant as a meal finisher. I love a good somyeon but I found the noodles broth a bit overpowering in fish taste but my grandmother seemed to enjoy it. Also provided was a delightfully tart, sweet and chilled omija tea to cleanse the palate. 

Somyeon and omija tea

The full meal was about 65,000 won or so, which isn't a typically cheap meal but again, the entire meal is meant for three people so it's not too bad. The staff was a little lackadaisical and not as attentive as I would have liked but they got the job done.

My grandmother and I left feeling stuffed but not heavy and we even walked from Sadang to Seoul National University station together to aid in our digestion and enjoy the spring day. By the time I got to Seoul National University, I was still full but not feeling like I needed someone to roll me back to my place like one might feel after gorging on other meats.

All in all, the dishes were quite well prepared and fresh. Definitely a good place to treat someone special and possibly a good place for someone who hasn't enjoyed much food with duck in it to try it out.

The restaurant, as the name suggests, also specialized in dishes prepared with kkot gye or "꽃게" (blue crab) and has other cheaper duck items such as duck barbecue but we didn't try them.

Ratings: 3 out of 4 stars

Direction: From exit 12 of Sadang station you should see the tall Pastel City buildings right in front of you. Enter the building you see on the left and the restaurant is located on the fourth floor.

Address: Pastel City 4F, 444-3 Bangbaedong, Seochogu, Seoul 

Phone number: 02-597-0767

Parking: 2 hours free parking in the building's basement

Alcohol: Served

Tip: The restaurant's dishes, including the sulfur duck, are cheaper during lunch time and can also be ordered to be taken out so you can enjoy at home if you wish.


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