The Solitary Gourmet Visits “Tobang” Restaurant
The Solitary Gourmet (Kodoku No Gourmet) is a Japanese soap opera enormously popular in both Japan and Korea. Based on the comic book of the same name, the soap opera that started in 2012 is now into its 7th season. In the soap opera, Goro Inogahsira, a salesman, visits various restaurants and street booths to sample the local cuisine alone.
Recently, Goro-san visited Jeonju. I decided to follow his footprints.
The restaurant in Jeonju that Goro-san visited is “Tobang” which specializes in chunggukjang (fermented bean paste soup) and baekban (Korean homemade meal table with rice, main, soup and side dishes).
“Tobang” is a small restaurant with only 8 tables. The venue was already full. The menu includes ordinary homemade baekban, pork bulgogi (meat marinated Korean style) baekban, and bossam (boiled pork served with kimchi and salad).
Goro-san ordered pork bulgogi baekban and chunggukjang. I ordered the same.
Upon ordering baekban, bowls of salad and seaweed flake are served. They are for DIY(do-it-yourself) bibimbap. To season bibimbap to your taste, red pepper paste and sesame oil are already on the table.
Then, a variety of side dishes, which surprised Goro-san, are served. Even I, who lives in Jeonju, was surprised at the variety and taste of the side dishes. They were good when eaten alone, but better when mixed in the big rice bowl to make bibimbap.
Chunggukjang and pork bulgogi are served! Chunggukjang was tasty rather than salty. I also liked that Bulgogi wasn’t very spicy.
Now, rice in a big bowl is served. “Tobang” cooks rice in a stone pot, which enhances the flavor of cooked rice.
I topped the rice with side dishes, salad, seaweed flake and bulgogi.
My bibimbap looks very tempting. It was way tastier than expected. I couldn’t help but say ‘umai’ (うまい: delicious in Japanese. Goro-san tends to say this word after a meal).
After I finished the bibimbap, I received nurungji (the curst of overcooked rice) in the stone pot. I poured boiling water into the pot to make nurungji porridge. This is a typical ending of a homemade Korean meal. For a reasonable price, I’ve enjoyed chunggukjang, baekban and bibimbap.