Seoul Eating: Balwoo Gongyang

Balwoo Gongyang is located at the Temple Stay Centre in the Indasong shopping district. The Temple Stay Centre is an one-stop information centre for the temple stay program in Korea. On its website, Balwoo Gongyang is described as a full course Temple Food Restaurant on the 5th floor of the building. Unknown to first time visitors, there is also a cafe with the same name on the second floor which serves Temple food at a much more economical price. We dined at the cafe on two occasions and observed a steady stream of customers who probably just visited nearby Jogyesa Temple.

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The cafe consisted of two sections: the kitchen/buffet and dining section. The buffet section has a long table displaying the banchan or side vegetables of the day. The dining section has a simple and effective table layout. Though there are a steady stream of customers, the dining section is never noisy and offers a respite from a hectic day of touring in Seoul. You are expected to return your empty tray and plates. However, we were unsure what to put in the collection bins as they are all labelled in Korean. Fortunately the staff noticed our predicament and offered to clear the utensils on our behalf.

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If you have read the menu below, you will find a cheaper cold noodles dish at 5000 Won but we rather settle for a hot bowl of soup noodles with 2000 more Won. The soup is mildly flavored and not oily. The noodles are firm and look like Japanese Udon. Interesting, the dish comes with a small plate of chilli in light soy sauce. You can add them in the soup if you find it too bland (which we think you will!). All the Banchan or side dishes are from the buffet spread which includes Konjac, bean sprouts and the biggest radish Kimchi we have seen during our trip. Konjac is the brown coloured banchan on the left which tastes rubbery and usually used to make mock vegetarian seafood.

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The cutlet set comes with a big serving of vegetables with sesame salad dressing, sliced radish and fruits. We first encountered mock Korean meat cutlet at Gosang and are still amazed at its chewy texture. It also helps that the cutlet is deep fried just right in the flour batter. And the BBQ sauce is great. Our only complaint with the set meal is the small rice serving.

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The buffet set comes with five banchans and a soup. As we have dined on two consecutive days, we notice that the only difference between the buffet spread are the Kimchi cabbage and spicy potato. As the variety of vegetables is really limited, we advise that you may not want to eat the buffet on consecutive sessions. All the vegetables are cold except for the beancurd soup. As this is a buffet meal, you can have as many rounds of servings as your stomach can fill at 8000 Won.

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By now, you should get an idea of how the cafe operates. The banchan on the buffet will also serve as the side dishes for all set meals. Hence the only difference between the lotus rice set meal and buffet meal is that you will get rice steam wrapped with lotus leaf instead of the normal white rice. The rice has a slight sticky texture with mild lotus leaf smell. As the Lotus Leaf Set costs 2000 Won more than the buffet set, we expect more from the lotus leaf rice and are disappointed to only find some dates and ginko nuts.

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You can find the full menu of Balwoo Gongyang above in English and Korean.

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Address:
Balwoo Gongyang (발우공양)
Seoul-si, Jongno-gu, Gyeonji-dong, 71,
Temple Stay Information Center(템플스테이통합정보센타), 2nd floor (Cafe)/5th floor (Restaurant)
Operating Hours: Daily 11.30am – 8pm

How to get there:


Route 1:

1. Take the Seoul Metro to Gyeongbokgung station
2. Get out of the station from Exit 6
3. Walk straight along the road till you reach the cross junction
4. At the cross junction, turn left into Ujeongguk-ro
5. Walk along Ujeongguk-ro. The temple stay centre is located near the T-Junction with Insadong 11-Gil.

Alternatively,

1. Take the Seoul Metro to Gyeongbokgung station
2. Get out of the station from Exit 6
3. Walk straight along the road till you reach the cross junction
4. At the cross junction, turn into Insadong-Gil. This is the main Insadong shopping district.
5. Walk along Insadong-Gil to Ssamziegil, a 4 storey Arts and Craft Centre
6. Turn right into Insadong 11-Gil. The temple stay centre is located near the T-Junction with Ujeongguk-ro

Conclusion:

Among the 4 dishes we have eaten at the cafe, the cutlet set meal is our favourite. Through the menu is limited, there should be enough for you to get through a 3 days Seoul stay. Its great location means that you can eat lunch or dinner at the cafe and then proceed with your itinerary with ease. Also, the cafe allows you to pack some set meals for takeaways.

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