Review: Best Dakhanmari From Manseokgol Dakhanmari in Insadong (인사동 만석골)

Growing up in a Korean household, there's not too many mainstream dishes in Korea I've come across here that I'm unfamiliar with. However, one of the few Korean dishes I've had for the first time in the motherland has been a relatively simple dish called dakhanmari (닭 한마리). Literally translating as "one chicken", the dish calls for a whole young chicken to be boiled with traditional herbs, garlic, potatoes, and a few other veggies to make a pale-yellow hue broth that's rich in flavor without strong flavorings found in many other Korean dishes such as red pepper flakes and paste.

The first few times I had daakhanmari I was more or less ambivalent about it. It wasn't anything terrible by any means but I simply didn't see the major draw about it and much rather preferred the bolder flavors of other chicken dishes like Andong jjimdak or dakbokkeumtang. So dakhanmari remained in the back of my mind as an average dish until I came across Manseokgol Dakhanmari. On my initial visit, I was especially hesitant as the place is located right in Insadong, which would probably fall in the top five list of "most touristy" places in Seoul. But since then I've become a fan and have made quite a few additional visits in recent years. I've also continued having dakhanmari occasionally from other restaurants with longer years and more prestige (including that one in Yangjae) but none has come close to Manseokgol Dakhanmari which is why I am introducing you all to the best dakhanmari restaurant in Seoul.




Located in an unassuming alley off the main Insadong street, Manseokgol Dakhanmari's humble front facade gives way to a surprisingly modern and spacious interior. There's plenty of tables to accommodate both small and large groups and there are even private rooms in the back for large group gatherings which you can reserve.


The main dish on the menu here is the dakhanmari which you can get an order for one, one and a half, or two chickens for 18,000; 27,000; and 36,000 respectively.

The dakhanmari on its own comes with a few potatoes and green onions but you can choose to add a variety of additional ingredients including mushrooms, mandu, and ginseng root. You can also add in to the soup towards the end of your dakhanmari meal, kalguksu (knife cut noodles) or choose instead to make it into jook (porridge). Either of these additions are a mere 2,000 won each while additional order for half a chicken is 10,000 won.

Other dishes one can order include dakdoritang (aka dakbokkeum tang) for 26,000, dak galbi (9,500), squid and chives jeon (12,000), pork ddeokgalbi (8,000 for 300 g), and steamed mandu (4,000 for 8 mandu).

The above are larger main dishes and appetizers meant for sharing but if you've come solo, Man Seok Gol still has you covered with solo dining options for cheap, and making it a popular lunch stop area for workers in the area. You can get dak kalguksu (5,000), dak gomtang (6,000) dak yook gye jang (6,500), ddeok manduguk (5,000) and cho gye nengmyeon- not unlike the ones from Pyeong Rae Ok- (7,000).

Bowls of rice are separate at 1,000 won per bowl. Soju (3,000), beer and makgeolli (4,000 each), cheong ha (5,000), mae hwasoo (5,000) and baekseju (8,000) are all available as are soft drinks for 1,500.


A nice touch here is that each table offers a free phone charger as a service for customers. I've come across one or two that seemed broken but otherwise they've worked fine and they certainly are a nice touch of hospitality for visitors.


The way to eat dak hanmari is rather unique. Each person is given a small bowl with shredded cabbage and chives in a sweet soy sauce dressing. To this, you add a tablespoon or two of the spicy chili paste and mustard- both condiments which are found at the table- and give the whole thing a mix. You're essentially left with a sweet, savory, and spicy salad which you eat with the chicken meat.


Condiments to make the sauce

Shredded cabbage and chives

Add in the spicy paste, mustard, and whatnot to your taste and liking...

Give it all a mix and you're good to go!


Sides here are kept to a minimum of kimchi and dongchimi. Manseokgol's dongchimi is a bit on the sweeter side as they use sprite (사이다) in the broth.




The dak hanmari comes in a big, beat up and rustic metal bowl (as per tradition) and is filled with soup, big cuts of chicken, and some vegetables. The chicken comes mostly cooked already and finishes its cooking at your table. To know when its ok to eat, the server will start a 14 minute or so timer at your table.



I know some of you may be wondering just how great a bowl of, what is essentially, chicken soup could be. As mentioned, I myself have left many dakhanmari joints quite underwhelmed. But Man Seok Gol stands out for both its high quality and effort that's clearly evident in the taste of the dish.

The chicken is 100% from Korea and specifically from the Halim brand which many restaurants advertise their usage of for the brand's trusted reputation in taste and quality. Chicken alone isn't enough to make an exceptional soup, however, Man Seok Gol's soup is phenomenal. The secret? Hours and hours of boiling and simmering with 7 different kinds of special medicinal herbs and ingredients (hanbang or "한방"). The special ingredients are all plant-based, nothing abnormal and with different medicinal and fragrant properties and they can be seen hanging in the ceilings to show the restaurant's customers.



All the medicinal herbs/ingredients are strained before serving (with the exception of the mung beans) but what you get is a soup stock that's loaded with subtle yet full flavors. There's an extra dimension to the soup that sets itself apart from what could have been basically boiled chicken water. On the other hand, one doesn't need to worry as there's nothing peculiar or "medicinal" tasting from the herbs. In fact, I'm quite certain most wouldn't even know there was such ingredients in the stock if they weren't told.

What I believe the herbs do instead of adding to the soup stock is enhancing its richness while tenderizing the chicken meat and eliminating any gamy smells. Seriously, this soup itself is what's worth the visit here because that deep taste is not something you can recreate at home unless you procured those special herbs and boiled the whole thing for hours on end. It's just the dish for someone recovering from a cold or a nice meal on a chilly evening.



Little bits of mung bean found in the soup

The chicken meat is also unbelievably tender and moist. The timer helps a great deal in this as they have the time required to perfectly cook the mostly pre-cooked chicken to succulent perfection down to a pat. The chicken meat separates easily with chopsticks and with a simple dip in the sauce and joined with some of the dressed cabbage and chives, it's a pairing that addictive in taste and texture. Even younger children or older folks with sensitive teeth will have no problem chewing the tender morsels.


After eating through most of the soup, leave a bit of the golden ambrosia behind and, trust me on this, order some noodles or porridge to be made. The way the noodles or rice soaks up the broth is otherworldly and just the thing to wrap up your meal. Because, really, what's an Asian meal without some carbs?






I should mention that Manseokgol also sells dakdoritang (also known correctly as dakbokkeumtang). I had it once and it was very good and pleasantly spiced with the chicken still perfectly tender. But the dish was nowhere near as good as its dakhanmari.


The staff is also very pleasant and friendly. Being off the Insadong strip, I think they're used to having non-Koreans pop in frequently and I've only seen them being friendly to locals and non-locals alike. 

But even if the staff here was gruff and unaccommodating, it still wouldn't deter me from coming back here for the dakhanmari alone. 

Yes, in other words, it's that good. 

Ratings: 3.5 out of 4 stars
I've had dakhanmari here and there, from some of the oldest establishments to most famed, but nowhere comes close to Manseokgol Dakhanmari. I don't know if it's the special herbs they use or if there's a secret method they don't reveal but the dakhanmari here is the best I've come across which is why it's my choice of place when I have a hankering for the dish or when I have friends in town. With moist, tender chicken and a soup broth that has amazing depth to it, this is the top standard to which I compare all dakhanmari restaurants to.

Address: 
서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 7
7, Insadong, Jongno-gu, Seoul


From the entrance of Insadong's main street, right across from Tapgol Park, go up the main street for about 80 meters. You'll eventually see a small alley entrance on the left, just to the left of an Olive Young store. Enter that alley and go up just a few meters and you should eventually see the restaurant entrance:



Telephone: 
02-723-8286

Website:
http://blog.naver.com/ifg5555/220206359448

Parking: 
Not available

Alcohol: 
Standard Korean liquors all available

Tip: 
Man Seok Gol is closed on Tuesdays.

Click here to download a special coupon giving you 3,000 won off your total bill (so long as the bill is more than 10,000 won). As far as I know, the coupon seems to work on evening and weekends too!

If you have a particularly large group, you can call ahead to make a reservation for one of the restaurant's private rooms.

Comments

  1. Many thanks for recommending Manseokgol. I had their dakhanmari a couple of weeks ago, and I mopped up every last drop of that amazing soup. You're absolutely right about their subtle use of herbs. I don't like soups that taste "medicinal", so the dakhanmari here is right up my alley. Lovely staff too. Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it just awesome? Real happy to hear you found it and enjoyed it. :)

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  2. Stewart....we had a blast lunch with the Dakhanmari ......this is very good chicken soup dinner. We also tried their octopus vegetable jeon which was really good. Except that when we came in , the jeon was the last , could not order more.....pity ...we can a ton more...he he he...thank you for the recommendation

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