안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo! (“Hello” in Korean)
The Hangul wave blow us to Korea for a vacation recently. Lo and behold, we managed to find six vegetarian eateries and dine in four of them! This article will be the beginning of the series of what we call Seoul Eating series.
The four eateries which we have dinned in serve Korean Temple Food. These temple vegetarian dishes do not include dairy products, alcohol or the five stimulating vegetables (i.e. onion, garlic, leeks. wild chives and Chinese squills). This means that the temple food is suitable for vegans and vegetarian alike. Most ingredients are seasonal vegetables and naturally flavored as the temple food preparation process emphasize that the food should be gentle and follow natural laws. As explained in the Gosang brochure, during a full course Korean Temple meal, you will experience six different tastes: spicy, bitter, sweet, sour, salty and bland as they will encourage you to appreciate the different aspects of life.
The entrance of Barugongyang Gosang restaurant gives hint of a high class restaurant. The proprietor spared no expenses in the interior design. Once you stepped into Gosang, you’ll be greeted by a magnificent piece of Korean traditional temple pillar and to the left a small gift store that sells tableware that are served in the restaurant.
We walked through a curved corridor that is lined with private rooms and there’s even a small pond in the middle of the restaurant. True to our initial impressions, the dining area continues with its exquisite decorations such as the above display of plates. After browsing through the menu (which is written in Korean and English), we knew instantly that our orders will be from the first page. We ordered the cheapest course meal available which set us back by 21,450 Won (S$25) per person. From the menu, the most expensive course meal can go up to whopping $165,000 won (S$193) per person!
After a short wait, all the dishes were placed on our table in quick succession. As such, we could not take a clean shot of each dish. Also, the photos are a bit shaky probably due to the dim lighting. From the presence of beans in the rice, we guessed that the rice is Kongbap, a Korean dish combining and cooking dried rice and beans together. The texture of the rice was somewhat similar to the sticky glutinous rice in Singapore. It’s delicious! The soup was slightly spicy with a generous portion of vegetables and tasted like the Japanese Miso soup. The soup was the hottest dish in the course, the rest were slightly warm or cold.
Served together with the rice and soup was the quintessential Korea kimchi, except that this was not usual cabbage kimchi but Korean radish kimchi. This kimchi was more sour than spicy and the radish was rather hard and crunchy. If you do not know what’s kimchi, it is a fermented vegetable dish usually made with cabbage and Korean radish in a brine of ginger and chili pepper.
Also, the banchan or side vegetables dish were served cold along the rice. The banchan gives us a glimpse of what the brochure meant by delivering the variety of tastes to our mouth. The green vegetables on the left tasted bitter. In the middle is green chili, thinking that it would be one of those ‘harmless’ green chili in Singapore, I took a bite and Oh my! It was super spicy! It was like you ate a pinch of wasabi on its own and the spiciness shot up to your head and out of your ears! I’m guessing that was why right next to the chili was this mildly flavoured sliced cucumbers with Enokitake. It was probably used to ‘cool down’ the spiciness of the chili.
This was Tofu Steak with Perilla Seed in Mushroom. Perilla seeds are a source of perilla oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The tofu was very firm, slightly pan-fried and topped with a cold creamy sauce with mushroom and perilla seed sauce. The sauce did not have much taste except for the nutty taste of the perilla seed and fermented black bean, making this dish pretty bland.
This was the Mushroom with Sweet and Sour sauce. Sliced mushroom were deep fried in flour and stir fried with sweet and sour sauce. It resembled the mock sweet and sour pork in Singapore, except that the taste is not as sweet and sour as ours.
The menu simply called this dish the salad but as you can see from the photo above, it is more than just salad. The vegetables are fresh and doused with lemon flavoured salad dressing. The mock meat steak is the surprise of the entire course. Firstly, it went against their traditional approach of using natural fresh ingredients. Secondly, it really tasted great as the texture was slightly chewy and fried just right.
This cup of cold tea called Omijacha (五味子茶) was actually our dessert. We were disappointed that the dessert was not more substantial than a cup of tea. I took a drink and WOW what a taste. I was fooled by the pinkish colour and the term ‘dessert’, thinking it was sweet. It tasted like a blend of pomelo, grapefruit, passion fruit and lemon together into the tea; very fragrance yet so very sour.
This is our first taste of the Korean Temple food cuisine. Gosang’s interior design and various traditional art works put finishing touches on the ultimate dining experience. We really love how they brought out the natural flavours of the ingredients and their presentation. However, most of the Temple food were served cold and may taste bland to us who were used to our vegetables stir fried and served hot in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, this is a great culinary experience you should not afford to miss when you are in Seoul. Seoul is not just shopping and touring but also finding your inner self. Tasting Temple food is a good conduit to the latter.
Barugongyang Gosang (고상)
26, Eulji-ro 5-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Mirae Asset Center 1, Basement 2 Floor
서울특별시 중구 을지로5길 26 (수하동) 미래에셋 센터원빌딩 B2F
Operating Hours: Mon to Sat 11.40am – 3pm, 6pm – 9pm. Closed on Sun
Website (In Korean): http://www.baru-gosang.com
How to get there:
Getting to Gosang is quite simple.
1. Take the Seoul Metro train to Eulijiro1(il)-ga station
2. Get out of the station from Exit 3
3. Walk ahead from Exit 3 and you will see a 7-Eleven and Caffe Dorato outlet
4. Walk along the road between the 2 outlets for about 5 minutes
5. At the point where the road turns right, you will see the Mirae Asset Center 1 (미래에셋 센터원빌딩) building
6. Walk ahead and you will find the stairways to the Basement 2 Floor at the corner of the building.
View Mirae Asset Center 1 in a larger map
We recommend that you grab a Korean map of the vicinity from Daum should you get lost along the way.