Our days are officially numbered. The snow has stopped, the bitter winds are easing and the ski resort that Bobby had frequented, closed their slopes a couple of Mondays gone. While I’m happy for the return of heat, I’ll miss the little road trips together and watching Bobby in his element, excitedly flying down the mountain and asking me if I’d seen him when he’d reach the bottom.
A couple of times a week we’d leave the house around seven and make it in time to eat dinner at and near the resort. We tested out a few places, but this one was our favourite. 돌솥 시골 밥상 – Stone bowl country town table.
한정식 “han-jeong-sik” – Korean regular food is a typical traditional Korean meal and the various 반찬 “ban-chan”- side dishes will stir different parts of the palate and guarantee you an enjoyable time. The town of Icheon is famous for han-jeong- sik and it’s said that Icheon has the best rice in all of Korea; the stories go that the kings would only eat rice from this region. Nowadays lots of different restaurants in Icheon serve up meals like these and call them, “The King’s Table”. At 15,000 won per person the meal includes a starter, side dishes and mains.
Starters: Fried tofu and egg rolls with onion soy sauce and a lemon peanut salad (salad can be refilled).
Side dishes: 15 ban-chan (can be refilled) made of fermented, salty, sweet and sour flavours cramp the table: seaweed; sticky black beans; fried fish cake and ham; salted bean sprouts in sesame oil; dried anchovies; blanched broccoli with a red pepper sauce; pickled peppers; marinated leeks; brined clams; braised oyster mushrooms; blue spanner crabs soaked in a sweet soy sauce; seasoned spinach; and three unknown dishes of roots and leaves.
Mains: Five main dishes (can not be refilled) included: dwenjjang jjigae – fermented bean paste soup ( Korean’s claim this soup is anti-cancer); bulgolgi – thinly shaved beef marinated and cooked in a sweet sauce with glass noodles and vegetables; salty fried fish; mountain root, marinated in a spicy red sauce and served on a hot plate; and lastly, Bobby’s favourite, rice.
The rice is cooked over the flames in a stone bowl and presented with a lid. Scrape the rice out of the bowl quickly before the crust burns and then fill the stone bowl with warm water and replace the lid. At the end of the meal, the water has boiled from the remaining heat of the stone, lifting the rice that was stuck and absorbing the remaining rice flavours. It makes a savoury, ever-so-slightly sweet and nutty liquid that warms the stomach and ends the meal. Personally I’m not a fan of it, so I give mine to him.
Bobby quote: Back in the day, they cooked the rice outside in a massive black stone bowl over the wooden fire. The heat couldn’t be controlled so some rice would get stuck to the bottom. They were very poor. They couldn’t afford to waste any food, they couldn’t even buy the white rice! So once they finished cooking, they would pour water in and the rice would become unstuck. Then they had rice soup. Nowadays it’s not for wasting money, everyone can buy rice now and they cook it in the rice cooker. It doesn’t get stuck, so we don’t/ can’t eat this at home. It reminds us of our memories, it’s a cultural thing, it taste delicious for us Koreans.
These types of meals draw a tie with Shabu Shabu for me as there’s so many choices to pick at with your chopsticks. Once you tire of a flavour, you can grab something else and let the cycle repeat.
If you’re in the area, then this one is definitely recommendable, the flavours and textures are all spot on and all the side dishes can be refilled and for what’s served, is a decent price. They also have a giant vat of self-serve Sikhye – sweet rice drink that’s lovely and icy cold.
Address: Gyeongi-Do, Icheon Si, Sa-eum Dong 162 2 Phone (Korean): 031 633 8816
가마솥이천쌀밥집 (031 633 8816)경기도 이천시 사음동 162 2이천시 사음동 위치
Happy eating – Chan and Bob