Review: Manjok Ohyang Jokbal (만족 오향족발)

The thing about pork, and jokbal especially, is that it can have a slight odor to it when it’s not cooked properly. It may not be as obvious when it’s served hot, but let it cool a bit and the odor could take over the whole dish. At Manjok Ohyang Jokbal, however, you won’t have such a problem: scrumptious pieces of pig's trotters served in brilliant traditional brassware will be already cooled down. It’s not overly chewy, though, despite the lower temperature — it’s been cooked so perfectly, that it won’t take much effort to pull the meat off the trotter pieces with chopsticks. The almost caramelized skin has a slightly sticky texture, which is nice with the soft texture of the meat under it.  The pork is cooked until it gets soft, with a range of other ingredients including traditional Chinese 5 spice: star anise, clove, dried orange peel, Chinese pepper and cinnamon. Blended in the layers of meat, the combination creates a distinctive earthy aroma which can be rather addictive.

Even before being labeled by Michelin Guide as a Bib Gourmand Restaurant in 2017, this place always attracted young and old crowds of Seoul. Having been in business for close to 30 years, Manjok Ohyang Jokbal actually started out as a mandu (dumpling) restaurant and only added their jokbal to the menu later. The neighborhood it's in though was mostly comprised of office workers, many who would come to stop by for after office drinks. Worried that most of the patrons were not having a proper dinner before their drinks, the owner decided to offer free ddeok manduguk with jokbal orders so they could get a proper meal with their drinks and snacks. Thus began the now famous combination of ddeok manduguk and jokbal which is unseen anywhere else.

Manjok Ohyang Jokbal is accredited with developing the first warm jokbal. Usually, jokbal is served at cold or room temperature to keep its chewy consistency but, again, thinking of the many office workers that frequented the owner's shop after work, the owner developed a way to to serve the jokbal warm while maintaining its texture, just as though it was just freshly cooked. This commitment to temperature is further reflected by the heating pans on every table.

The amount of effort and research that went into their jokbal is further seen in their sefl-developed recipe using traditional Chinese spices which came about from the owner's previous work in a Chinese restaurant.

Intended to serve as both a restaurant and drinking spot for the many office workers nearby, the menu features standard jokbal dishes but also a lunch menu including gukbap (6K), bibimguksu (5K), ddeokguk (or manduguk) for 5K, and a platter of their dumplings for 5K. Very lunch-friendly prices.

Their side orders for drinks include their steamed eggs (4K) and their old fashioned doshiraks (3K).

But the main attraction is their jokbal and as far as they go, their standard ohyang (five spice) jokbal comes in a medium, large, and extra large size for 32K, 38K, and 53K respectively.

Their spicy ohyang jokbal is 34K and if you're on the fence, you can order a half-half for 34 and 39K respectively for the medium and large sizes.

In the warmer seasons, a popular option might be their naengchae (cold) jokbal which is 35K to which you can order extra vegetables for 10K and extra meat for 15K. 

All standard Korean liquor is available including soju, beer, makgeolli, draft beer, etc. The draft beer is 3.5K while most of the other alcohol drinks are 4K per bottle.

Spacious and clean.

Menu highlights its history and how its strives to serve good jokbal reminiscent of the family favorites one could pick up at the traditional market.

They also highlight their tip on how to best enjoy their jokbal:
1. Add some of the provided thinly sliced cabbage to the special garlic sauce and give it a mix
2. While the jokbal is still warm, pick up a slice and dip into the cabbage and garlic sauce mixture before eating (making sure to pick up some cabbage slices from the mixture)
3. Enjoy with your whole body
4. Wash it down with some of the provided ddeok mandu soup.

The basic spread includes some mu muchim (radish mixture), canned pineapple (interesting), peppers, garlic, cucumber, ssamjang, and the mandu soup.

We opted for the half half of the regular and spicy mixture.

Beautiful colors

The special in-house garlic sauce. Within the mostly opaque sweet and tart sauce you can see bits of minced garlic at the bottom. A mound of shredded cabbage is provided at the table which you're supposed to add some to your individual sauce bowls. 

As promised, the jokbal comes out warm. Take a slice add it to the sauce and scoop it up with the cabbage mixture. Very moist and tender, the immediate flavors that hits your tongue are the tart and sweet ones but then you get a bit of the pork's meaty scents which is kept under wraps from becoming overbearing by the five spice (ohyang).

Admittedly I'm a mostly jokbal newbie who mostly had this dish only after moving to Korea but the times I've had it I've always wondered why it's often served cold. After eating here, I am whole heartedly on the side of Manjok Ohyang Jokbal that it should be served warm which only helps accentuate the flavors.

Jokbal fans always point out the fun and varied textures you get from the jokbal alone- chewy skin, soft meat- and the addition of sliced cabbages adds a bit of crunch into it which works.

The spicy version has a nice level of heat to it that gives you tongue and mouth just enough impact to give you an interesting break from the regular version. Like most spicy sauces in Korea, there's a sweet edge to it that gives it another level of appeal but in particular the spicy sweet flavors goes well with the chewy skin portion in my opinion. I was with two other jokbal fans who both were impressed with the spicy version.

I wrote how the restaurant originally began as a ddeok mandu soup restaurant and though the complimentary soup they now serve with their main jokbal dishes are nothing noteworthy it does serve a multipurpose to undercut some of the greasy undertones of the regular jokbal or the lingering spiciness from the spicy jokbal. The dumplings are thumbsized nuggets and the ddeok (rice cakes) are so few to really warrant it being called ddeok mandu guk but you'd be surprised at how many favorites of this restaurant would say they would miss this if it wasn't provided with their jokbal.

A side order of jaengbanguksu provides a sizable platter of buckwheat noodles covered with the spicy sweet mixture and surrounded by a range of vegetables. 

Pretty sizable as you can see when compared to the jokbal platter.

Gloves are provided for some DIY mixing.

Like so many jokbal restaurants, the jaengbang guksu isn't anything that will knock your socks off as it's mostly a dish that's meant to complement the jokbal but it's nice enough here. Points for their portion size and the ample amount of veggies.

Final Thoughts:
Though the five spice jokbal is now more common, points to Manjok Ohyang Jokbal for developing their own distinct spin on this popular dish. The non jokbal menu items are all ok but the jokbal is worth trying out. 

서울특별시 성북구 동소문로22길 57-23
57-23, Dongsomun-ro 22-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, Korea

Come out of exit 8 of City Hall Station and turn back around the corner to follow along the main Seosomun-ro for about 30 meters and you'll see an alley on your left.Go down it for another 30 meters and you'll pass the annex building and get to the main restaurant on your left.




Standard Korean alcohol and drinks all available.

The city hall branch is open 365 days a year!

Many other branches have sprouted up around the city including in Dongdaemun, Sinsa, Jongno, Mapo, Yeouido, Wangsimni, and more.