Review: Dakbokkeumtang from Mokpojib in Sinsa (신사 목포집)

As I've prefaced before, Sinsadong, just above Gangnam, isn't the neighborhood that comes to mind when it comes to Korean food. More a date hot spot than anything, Sinsa is filled with pasta and steak joints or cafes though there are a few hidden gems here and there.

But for those who know, Sinsa is also home to one of Seoul's most famed and popular dakbokkeumtang (also incorrectly known as dakdoritang) joints. For over 30 years Mokpojib has been operating in Sinsadong, starting as a humble little place, to presently operating two branches (and within a few hundred meters of each other) and making yearly sales of over 800 million won. Add to that the rows of various autographs and pictures that dot the restaurant's walls and you know this is quite an institution for the neighborhood.

As I mentioned, Mokpojib actually has two branches and both are in the same vicinity. The main branch and second branch are just a few hundred meters off of each other which may seem like an odd move. But when you see how popular the main store can get, especially during lunch/dinner hours, you know why they operate as such.

And though just about everyone associates the place with their famous dakbokkeumtang, they have other items on their menu such as nakjibokkeum (stir-fried spicy baby octopus, 30,000 won for two people), saewootang (shrimp stew, 20,000 won), agujjim and agutang (braised monkfish and monkfish stew for 20, 30, and 50K for, respectively, 2, 3, and 4). These seafood items actually make a little more sense as Mokpojib literally means "Mokpo house" and Mokpo is a little coastal town off in southwest Korea. 

But dakbokkeumtang is what's by far the most sought after which one can order for 20, 30, 40, and 50K for 2, 3, 4, 5 people respectively. 

Considering the dish is dakbokkeumtang, the prices are a bit higher than standard dakbokkeumtang places in which most other places sell usually for about 14-18K (for 2-3 people). In fact, rice is separate at Mokpojib and needs to be ordered (1K a bowl) which makes prices for this chicken dish here considerably higher than other places. Even the soju and beer here (all 4K a bottle) is a bit pricier than other joints. 

On my initial visit, I was already grumbling in my mind a bit after seeing the prices. Of course, it was Sinsadong, a still-rather hot neighborhood, so higher prices to compensate the expensive rent prices was expected but how extraordinary could dakbokkeumtang be at these rates?

The first sign that started giving me a better opinion on Mokpojib was the side dishes. Five different side dishes came out and, I've learned since that first visit, that the side dishes always changes up a bit. This is because the side dishes, as simple as they are, are all made in-house.

Aside from your standard roots and vegetable side dishes, you occasionally run into some rarer sides (at least in Seoul) like these little baby crab muchim. Crunchy and eaten whole :)

Even their kimchi is homemade and just nicely fermented.

After ordering, the kitchen will get working on your dakbokkeumtang which takes a few minutes before it's brought to your table. Unlike many other places, once it's on your table, it's ready to eat- no waiting.

I've watched them make the dakbokkeumtang time to time and they do have it down to a bat. The dish is always heated up and cooked to an exact time so that the vegetables and meat are fully cooked and at their prime.

This is always evident when you break into the chicken pieces. The inside is always moist, soft, and (I almost want to say magically) well seasoned inside as it is on the outside. Cooking big pieces of chicken is more difficult than it looks as you have to cook it enough to make sure it's done to the inside but if you overdo it, it starts to get tough and dry.

But never has that issue occurred during my experiences here. That chicken is damn tender and juicy and- probably because of their 30+ years in the business- Mokpojib knows how to cook chicken.

But in addition to knowing how to cook well, that dakbokkeumtang sauce is just magic. I want to actually preface I don't even like dakbokkeumtang that much as I've always found it to be just all too much in terms of seasoning and taste (i.e. too spicy, too salty, etc). But Mokpojib's dakbokkeumtang sauce is addictive and just right. It has just enough spicy kick but one that isn't leaving you gulping cups of water throughout your meal. It's definitely on the sweeter side but just enough that it makes you want more as you progress through your meal. The natural evolution is to start off simply dipping some of the chicken pieces or vegetables into the sauce after breaking them into bite-sized pieces but by the end you'll be scooping up the sauce itself to your mouth by the spoonful.

Just ask the many fans of this place- this is sauce that you'll find yourself craving after you've had it.

The other ingredients to the dakbokkeumtang also provides a great variety of texture and flavors to enjoy with the chicken- chewy rice cakes, soft potato, onion slices that are just perfectly in between soft and crisp. 

As rice is separate, the temptation is to order rice from the start to enjoy with the addictive dakbokkeumtang but don't make that rookie mistake.

Hold off until you get about 3/4 of the way through your dakbokkeumtang and ask for that bokkeumbap (fried rice, 1K a serving).

Rice, minced vegetables, and some seaweed crumbles is all it really is but when mixed and cooked on that hot pan with that magic sauce, I dare you to try not digging in even if you're at the point of bursting.

Yes, I know you're thinking bad thoughts just looking at it.

Like I said, I've always been more of a jjimdak or fried chicken kind of guy when it comes to the delicious birds in Korea but when it comes to Mokpojib's dakbokkeumtang, count me in as a big fan. Try it out and prep yourself to be hooked.

3.5 out of 4 Stars
It's pricey for dakbokkeumtang but Mokpojib knows their dakbokkeumtang and knows how to get you hooked. With a taste you can't get off your mind afterwards and chicken and vegetable cooked to perfection, the reason Mokpojib has been in business for 30+ years is clear. 

서울시 강남구 신사동 512-18
512-18 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

From exit 8 of Sinsa station, walk straight for about 15 meter and enter that first alley on your left. Walk about 30 meters more and you'll get to a three way intersection.

If you want to go to the second auxiliary branch, turn left at the intersection and walk just 10 meters or so to see Mokpojib #2 on your right.

If you want to go to the main branch (which is usually more packed), turn right at the intersection, walk about 30 meters and you'll see the main restaurant on your right.




Bottled sojus, and beer available

The main branch is actually open 24 hours! But the second branch is only open until 12 or 1 AM.

Mokpojib is closed on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of every month!