Review: Hosujib (호수집)

Today’s featured restaurant is one of those places where there’s a bit of irony in that their most famous dish is not their main dish. Sure, Hosujib appears on many of Seoul’s top dakbokkeumtang or dakdoritang list but what they are best known for and what really draws the lines are their dakkkochi or barbecue chicken skewers. And I should preface that what I mean is the best chicken skewers you'll find in Korea. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The fact that their chicken skewers are so famous is also rather amusing as grilled chicken skewers is a street food one can find in areas like Myeongdong but given most evenings, a line at Hosujib is expected for this rather common dish. Hosujib, much like its neighborhood of Junglimdong, is humble as it is old. Tucked somewhat away behind Seoul Station, this isn’t an area that used to receive much attention by visitors or even Seoulites alike. The recent opening of Seoullo 7017 has started to bring renewed attention to the Junglimdong with the decades-old Hosujib being one site that’s piqued a lot of curiosity.

Hosujib offers essentially four main items with its dakbokkeumtang and dakkkochi being by far the most popular dishes. Its other two offerings, the osambulgogi (squid, pork belly stir fry) and squid stir fry are listed at 16K and 8K respectively but I have yet to see anyone, much less even a blog post, write about the latter two. The dakbokkeumtang is available in four sizes with the smallest being 17K, then 20K, 25K, and 30K the largest. The dakkkochi is a mere 2K per stick which would be fantastic if not for the fact that Hosujib has a 2 skewers per person limit in place on any night. In fact, if you go too late, chances are that they’ll have run out of the immensely popular grilled chicken sticks. So the smart thing to do is to know what size dakbokkeumtang to order in advance (which you might as well go ahead and decide while you’re almost inevitably waiting in line) and then immediately order two skewers per person- and trust me,

Sides are a simple chives (buchu) kimchi and radish (mu) kimchi. Both pack quite a bunch and are on the stronger side of the flavor scale for kimchi. I would guess that based on the kimchi here, the owners hail from one of the more southern regions of Korea where the kimchi are known to be stronger in taste. 

As much as the skewers tend to dominate the conversation, the dakbokkeumtang in itself is quite a solid version that warrants attention as well. The chicken comes precooked in an old pot to which a few vegetables such as potatoes, oyster mushrooms, and a few fresh perilla leaves (whole) are thrown in. Go ahead and do as everyone else does and order a ramen to join the festivities. The name of the game at Hosujib is the waiting game as evidenced by diners having to wait to get into the restaurant, wait for the dakbokkeumtang to cook, and then wait for the skewers to grill (they are grilled to order).

Hosujib’s dakgbokkeumtang bucks the trend of other similar restaurants that are increasingly upping the sugar levels in this spicy chicken dish. In fact, the first sip of the soup might warrant a reaction that it’s even borderline bland as the sweeter, spicier, and saltier flavors common in most spots don’t immediately jump out. But the secret here is to let it boil. And I mean let it boil and boil for at least a good 10 minutes. In the meantime, enjoy the ramen noodles, chew on a rice cake, have a bite of some mushroom and soon you’ll find the soup has not only developed a thicker consistency but its flavor profile has also 
deepened considerably. There’s a saying in Korean that the taste is “countryish” and there’s definitely an element of that in the dakbokkeumtang here. It’s not the sleek, sweet and spicy, “urban” flavors here but that sort of rustic, I-was-cooked-by-your-countryside-grandma kind of taste here. And just try and argue that the flavors aren’t practically shouting for soju. The chicken is also considerably tender and fresh. Helped enormously by the fact that the owners purchase the fresh chicken meat daily from the same source.

At this point already it’s a solid dakbokkeumtang that’s being served here with its value (considering both price and portion) also well known. But as much as I’d like to say otherwise, I too am part of the chorus that sings the praises of the dakkkochi here as being no less than remarkable, nay exceptional.

Visually, and also in terms of its glorious scent, it’s a beauty with the lovely bits of char marks, the shiny gloss of the meat, and the big chunks of chicken. Unlike the mystery meat of the common street chicken skewers that makes an eerily uniform in shape and size skewer, the chunks of meat you can distinguish as largely being thigh meat and showing they’ve been chopped, skewered, and grilled by hand. The charcoal grilling is also what makes the waiting in line often a torment as the grilling station outside is situated just by the wait area. Come summer or winter, a staff is grilling literally hundreds of these skewers on a daily basis to feed the ravenous skewer fans.

I read that the owners took years to develop their secret marinade which I can make out to soy sauce and ginger as part of the makeup. There’s a very low-key underlining sweetness that I want to say is derived from some sort of fruit or other natural source. Any hints of gaminess is also cut short by the ginger profile which is balanced perfectly to let that all natural, juicy thigh meat shine. Complete with the smokiness from the barbecue, just watch the reactions of the first bite from any diner (first time or regular) to know   

Fried rice at the end with the leftover sauce is the popular way to cap off the meal. It's always interesting to see how different restaurants go about their fried rice at the end. At Hosujib, they definitely go heavy handed with the leftover sauce so it's almost like a bibimbap-kind of consistency and flavor. Hints of the perilla leaves also cuts through the sauce that's soaked up a lot of the chicken's natural flavors. Delish but those skewers, like your first love, will still be on your mind.

Final thoughts: 
The dakbokkeumtang is solid, old-school style that stays away from today’s sweeter flavor trends with its hearty, soju-calling flavors. But it’s the gingery, smoky dakkkochi that’s prepared and barbecued in-house that really puts Hosujib on the map. Considering how popular the chicken skewers here are and how it’s what everyone orders, I’m surprised they don’t increase the production or even just make the jump to selling chicken skewers exclusively.   

서울특별시 중구 청파로 443
 443 Cheongpa-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul




Soju, beer available

Closed on Sundays.

Break time is between 2-5PM.