At the moment and since December, different gardens throughout Korea are putting on light displays to keep admissions up over the colder months. After seeing this on TV and finding out it was only a 1-1.5 hour drive away, I put in my request and a few days later we bundled up in our warm clothes and jumped in the car. Bobby the trooper drove without complaint but towards the end started getting a bit too lethargic (read veering too close to the rails for my liking). He wanted to get to the garden quickly but I knew if we went there straight away, we’d both get ‘hangry’ and end up squabbling. Food keeps everyone calm. We were four kms away from the garden and saw bright shiny signs at a restaurant saying they’d been featured on SBS and that they were a delicious eating house, naturally we pulled over.
Success! We actually found a mat-jib! Prior to this, our hopes of finding “delicious eating houses” had started to fade and we felt like the site name should be changed, we were a sham! Thank heavens we found this little gem to finally justify Mat-Jib Hunters. Granted it’s a fair hike from the city, but if you have a car, this place is more than worth it. Set in Gapyeong 가평, this restaurant “oo-mul-jib” 우물집 has been running since 1970 and is open from 10 am – 10 pm 365 days a year. In it’s forty-fifth year, it’s recently undergone a refurbishment ( <– What it used to look like) creating a bright, clean open space with colourful artsy vents hanging from the ceiling. Shoes off at the entrance, seating, commonly like most restaurants in Korea, is on the floor. Mat cushions are provided, but in the winter time, there’s nothing better than sitting directly on the heated wood. Burning charcoal is placed into the centre of the table and the vent is switched on. It’s show time.
Bobby ordered two serves of marinated thighs – dak-gal-bi 닭갈비, a bowl of noodles – mak-guk-su 막국수 and a steaming stone bowl of fermented bean paste soup – dwen-jjang-jjigae 된장찌개. Side dishes included: rice cakes; kimchi; pickled and fresh chillies and garlic cloves; ice radish water; sliced pickled radish; shredded cabbage with mayo and chilli; sliced onions in a chilled sweet soy sauce; and lettuce to wrap the meat in. Everything tasted incredibly fresh, flavourful and light in mouth. The noodles cut easily (I always choke on noodles here, more specifically naeng-myeong noodles; my teeth can not put in the extra strenuous effort needed to cut the chewy strings. Just to clarify, these noodles are a breed of their own, they don’t make them like ramen or migoreng noodles, I’m sure I’m not alone in this!) it’s accompanying sauce a spicy, sweet harmonious red blend cut by fresh, crunchy cucumbers and carrots, with sprinklings of sesame seeds throughout. The dwen-jjang was flavourful without being overpowering and at 2,000 won a bowl with rice, they’re practically giving it away. Chicken. My little sister once said that you should never order chicken when out cause you can always eat that at home. In Australia, I agree with her completely, in Korea, I disagree with her completely. Korea churns out some unrivalled chicken dishes and this is one of them. The thighs are brought out marinated and partially cooked so all you’re doing is finishing it off and crisping up the thick, sweet and spicy sauce. The pre cooking ensures you don’t end up with charcoal black meat; the sugar and high heat cause it to go from smelling delectable to burnt within minutes. Keep your eyes on these ones and turn frequently. Our first bites set Cheshire cat smiles upon our faces. We were onto a good thing. The chicken was a soft, melt in your mouth texture, with a bombardment of juices and marinade. Said marinade was spicy without the burn, sweet without being sickly and had umami written all over it.
Bobby Quote: I feel like I’m doing mat-jib hunter thingy now.
If you’re near the area/ a fan of chicken, this place is more than recommendable. Here is their website with much better photography, the menu list and other information about the restaurant (in Korean). Click here for google images of the food at this restaurant.
Address: Kangwon-do, Chuncheon, NamsanMyeon, Gang Cholli 253-2 강원도 춘천시 남산면 강촌리 253-2
Phone number: 033-262-0209
On to the fairy lights.
In it’s eighth year, ‘The Garden Of Morning Calm’ is lit up during winter to keep the crowds coming. 30,000 light bulbs are twinkling brightly every night for three months in Gapyeong, South Korea and couples with selfie sticks are cuddled up pouting all over the place. If the movie ‘Avatar’ got you going, this place will match it. Enjoy.
Happy Eating – Chan and Bob