Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blast from the Past: Mabangjib

At the height of the rainy spell last month, Unni and I went out for a drive to gawk at the flooding, accompanied by Unni's favorite uncle and his lady friend. After a long drive through the suburbs east of Seoul, we started thinking of where to stop for dinner. Unni said she was in the mood for some doenjang chigae, and Unni's uncle said he knew just the place.

When we pulled into the parking lot, I took one look at the big wooden plaque over the gate and said, "Hey, I think I've been here before!" It was Mabangjib, a popular restaurant in Hanam with an old-timey feel, where they serve Korean-style set courses of spicy grilled pork and chigae surrounded by numerous panchan (little side dishes). So numerous are the panchan that, rather than bringing the dishes out one by one, they set everything up in the kitchen and then carry the whole table out to the guests.

A mabang is literally a "horse stable," but the term implies a roadside inn where travelers could stop for a rest and a bite to eat in olden times, sort of like a highway rest stop. The restaurant derives its name from its location, supposedly the site of one of the most famous mabangs along the old route to Hanyang (Seoul) from the east coast; the restaurant itself has been in operation for over 80 years.

I know the exact date I last visited this place: March 1, 2006. I know the year because it was during my first extended stay in Korea, and the date because it was a national holiday and I didn't have to go to work. My host family, the Shins, had been planning to take me skiing, but their daughter wasn't feeling well so we went for a drive instead, and ended up at Mabangjib for lunch. I even have a photo from that occasion:

And here are Unni and me at the same place last month:

I think I look much older and more mature, don't you?

No comments:

Post a Comment