Review: Soojeong Shikdang (수정식당)

There are several defining characteristics of modern Korean cuisine that defines it from the smorgasbord of side dishes to the love of spicy flavors and all the joy (or misery depending who you ask and when) the little cheap green bottle of spirits brings. One characteristic that's often overlooked however is the Koreans' love to pack their food in wraps made of greens. Also called "ssam", Koreans love packing their protein of choice into these leafy vehicles so much many restaurants have a "ssambap jeongshik" or ssam + rice and all the sides set meal. Making and eating ssam is a method of eating that I, myself am a huge fan of and you can easily see me mow down a tray of ssam that would give your pet rabbit a run for his/her money.

Soojeong Sikdang is a long-running joint that's found in the older Jongno District, in the Euljiro vicinity. Although technically a barbecue restaurant, its ssambap special is perhaps what it is best known for not only for its superb value but its taste and variety as well.

Soojeong Sikdang is located in the same alley as another favorite cheap eat in the area, Ddookbaegi Jib, which I previously wrote about. The vicinity has a couple of linguistic hakwons, attracting a lot of students and young job-seekers so the majority of the restaurants in the area tend to be on the cheaper side.

For a barbecue restaurant, it's quite abuzz with activity during the day which is due predominantly for their ssambab jeonshik which sets diners back a mere 8K for rice, sides, stew, barbecue, and an array of leafy vegetables and homemade jang for making ssam.

The variety of sides, including dwenjang jjigae, alone makes this a great value but the real value add-on comes from the open grill that's located right by the restaurant entrance. Here, over an open flame the marinated pork is grilled expertly by the aunties to give it that irresistible smoky touch that's not easily recreated at home.

The restaurant has floor and regular table seats and even in off hours there will likely be a mix of diners from hakwon students to families.

The rice and side dishes come out first usually followed by the jjigae, barbecue pork, ssam, and ssamjang.

The sides are not only homemade but seasonal so it changes a bit every so often. One way restaurants tend to cut corners in their side dishes is by offering cheaper offerings such as uhmook (fish cake) bokkeum, soybean sprouts, etc. But you'll note that the sides here are quite diverse and the offerings are unlike one a Korean mother would feed you from the kong jorim (braised black beans), sesame oil cooked broccoli, gyeran jang jorim (braised hard boiled eggs), etc. And they're all quite good too! The broccoli still retains its crunch with the sesame oil and light seasoning quite lovely, the braised eggs so good with the rice.

You'll note also that the rice is not the plain rice but mixed for a healthier option.

The dwenjang jjigae is unmistakably homemade with the dwenjang having that rustic, countryside kind of tang to it. It has depth to it and comes bubbling hot from the stove straight to your table.

So too is the barbecue pork which comes sizzling in a tray lined with aluminum foil. The smell of the savory, spicy flavors of the barbecue alone makes your mouth water but that bit of chopped garlic that's sprinkled atop just before serving is heavenly. The barbecue pork is served "wet" with most of its natural juice and seasoning in the tray so the meat stays nice and tender to the end of your meal.

The marinade is milder than it looks with a more mellow savory and hint of spiciness to it than fiery and sweet. Methinks they chose to keep the marinade's flavors at bay to help with the flavor balance when this guy comes in.

Although many will think the main protein is the key component of a good ssam, many ssam lovers will tell you it's more about how fresh the leafy vegetables are and how good the ssamjang is. A good ssamjang should carry a range of flavors without one component overpowering the other. In essence, it acts as that bridge between the greens and the fillings be it meat, seafood, rice, fresh ingredients like garlic and pepper, etc.

Happy to say that the ssamjang at Soojeong Sikdang checks all the boxes. Earthy, savory, a hint of sweetness... it packs umami and flavor without being salty making it all the better with the greens which are fresh and a solid variety.

For an older, popular establishment, I was also pleasantly surprised at the service which was not only fast but the workers quite friendly. They didn't sound bothered when you called for them nor did they give you any stink eye when you asked for refills of sides. Solo diners should be happy to note that this meal is available for a single serving as opposed to the minimum two person order that many set meal places enforce.

Final Thoughts:
Value, value, value. 

The variety, the quality, and taste is the equivalent of a homemade meal made by your Korean auntie with the balance of meat, veggies, rice, and stew a quintessential Korean meal. And no judgement on their part whether you're here with a friend or just here alone. 

18 Jongno 16-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 종로16길 18

From exit 15 of Jongno 5-ga Station, walk straight along the main Jongno street for about 250m until you get to Jongno 16-gil and turn left. Walk south along the street for about 90m (passing Ddoogbaegi Sikdang) until you see Soojeong Sikdang on your right.


The hours listing states 0:00 ~ 24:00 so it sounds like its 24 hours? They are, however, closed on Sundays.



Korean beer, soju, and regular alcohol available

This restaurant is closed on Sundays.