On October 25, Staci and Tyson posted a great article about a local favorite, SUNDAE. We asked readers to post their comments and to let others know where their favorite Sundae restaurant or stall is located. One reader, Samantha, wrote “I like sundae beokkeum near Seoul National University. It's called ‘Sundae Town’”. Sundae Town is known for sundae beokkeum. ‘Beokkeum’ means ‘stir-fried’ in Korean. The food they serve at the town is sliced sundae mixed with veggies, glass noodles, rice cakes and sauce. It is quite different than the snack you buy on the street, which is just the meat.
So last Friday, the editors at WorkNPlay decided to check it out! We headed to Sillim Station located on the green circle line 2. It is only a few stops from Seoul National University Station as Samantha mentioned. We headed out of exit 3, walked a few hundred meters, and turned down the road to the right. We continued on until we found a large building, also on the right, with the words “Sundae Town” written in Korean (순대터운) across the front. We concluded that Sundae Town is only one large building with 3 floors of sundae places, so we went back and climbed the stairs to the third floor.
The third floor was busy. There were lots of people huddled over pans munching away. Some were tossing back shots of soju or sipping on beer. The ajumas (old Korean women) who ran the place were scurrying around; they were calling orders, bringing items to tables and enticing customers to sit down at their sundae restaurants. I strolled into the room ahead of my coworker and went to sit down at the nearest table. I thought the third floor was one big sundae restaurant, so it wouldn’t matter where we sat. It turns out I was incredibly wrong.
My coworker grabbed my arm and said, “Wait, these signs all indicate different sundae restaurants.” As she pointed to small yellow signs hanging from the low ceiling, she said “Each ajuma wants us to come to her table to eat. We have to choose which restaurant we think is the best.”
I whirled around to face my coworker as the ajumas were closing in. “Oh I see!” I exclaimed, “Let’s head outside to talk. This could get scary!”
My coworker and I stood outside the room discussing which restaurant we thought looked the best. It was pretty hard to tell given that every placed served the same food and that Sundae Town is known for the best sundae. We peered into the giant room and the ajumas immediately started gesturing for us to come to their place. It seemed like an impossible mission.
We thought that we should go somewhere that had a few customers because, although the whole place was busy enough, some restaurants didn’t have any diners. I noticed a man taking a shot of soju in the far corner. He was with some friends and it looked like they were having fun. “Let’s go there!” I said as I nodded my head in the man’s direction.
We each took a deep breath, put our heads down and headed back into the chaos. We arrived at our table relieved that we hadn’t been persuaded to choose a different place. The ajuma asked why we had chosen to go there and my coworker replied, “Because it looked like the most fun.” She beamed as she set up our table with a large pan over a small gas burner and brought us a bottle of pepsi, shikhye (a sweet dessert drink make from rice) and of course, soju!
We ordered baek-sundae beokkeum (백순대뽂음), which means white sundae. As I mentioned before sundae beokkeum is a stir-fry with sundae in it, usually cooked in a spicy red pepper sauce, but not at Sundae Town. Beak sundae beokkeum is stir fried in a savory oil based sauce.
I am happy to report that beak sundae beokkeum is delicious. The sauce is not spicy but richly flavorful and garlicky. It tastes similar to Italian oil and garlic pasta sauce. Our beokkeum was loaded with rice noodles, oval shaped rice cakes, mushrooms, spring onions, cabbage, and carrots. We asked for it slightly spicy so the ajuma threw in some hot red and green peppers. There were plenty of thinly cut sundae slices and liver pieces. In the center of the pan there was a small silver dish filled with hot pepper sauce and a pile of spices, which I assume was mainly good ol’ MSG. I dipped the food into the sauce, while my coworker mostly ate it plain. The ajuma also gave us some bright green sesame leaves to wrap the sundae beokkeum with.
Sundae Town is certainly a fun and unique Korean experience. It isn’t the type of place to go to if you are looking for a fancy night out. It reminded me of an old breakfast diner in North America. The seats were covered in red plastic and we were given red checkered aprons to put on over our clothes. Grimy only begins to describe the setting and it can be a little intimidating when you first arrive. The ajumas are loud and aggressive, but stick to your guns. Once the piping hot baek-sundae beokkeum is sizzling away at your table and your downing shots of soju, you’ll be glad you did!
Baek-sundae is not expensive. For two people the price was 14,000KRW. With soju our bill came to 17,000KRW. It’s a real steal especially considering how much fun you will also have! You don’t need to be able to speak Korean at Sundae Town although a little bit goes a long way. If you can read, you won’t have any troubles and as long as you can say “baek-sundae” you will get the food you want.
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.