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On my (hopefully) endless quest to find the tastiest and most influential restaurants in Cheonan, I can across a quaint little place named 생생이두부보쌈 (SangSangyDubuBossam).  This hidden gem opened in 1901, making it one of, if not the oldest, establishments in Cheonan. The restaurant itself is located in a 한옥 (Hanok: Traditional Korean house), however, the surrounding area has long been developed; huge apartment buildings and shopping centers tower over it, making 생생이두부보쌈 a tough place to find.

In 2016, 생생이두부보쌈 was awarded as a “천안 맛집” (“Cheonan Taste House”) by a panel of experts, beating out 80 other restaurants in Cheonan. Despite this it is not a very well known place, and after eating there I can’t possibly understand why.

The restaurant’s interior is just the right mix of traditional and cozy.  Walking in I instantly felt as if I was in a place that I had visited many times before. The staff was super friendly and helpful as well.  And the food was absolutely incredible.

Translation:

We insist on using domestic ingredients for the health of our customers and our farming industry. We make tofu with good ingredients every morning, and prepare food for our customers.  If the food and service we have prepared is not good enough for you and you feel uncomfortable, please do not hesitate to tell us. I’ll work hard with all of my staff to make it more lively.

THE FOOD

Nutritional yet delicious. They use only Korean ingredients, freshly prepared every morning. The serving sizes are large but you’re not left with that feeling of regret after overindulging. You’re instead filled with a warm, happy feeling that comes from putting something healthy in your body.  We ordered what the restaurant is known for; 두부보쌈 (dububossam- tofu wrapped in a leaf of lettuce) with the 순두부찌개 (sundubujjigae- tofu soup) and a bottle of traditional 동동주 (dongdonju- a traditional Korean liquor).

As with most Korean meals, the 반찬 (side dishes) came first. A delicious spread of bean sprouts, potatoes, and other vegetables as well as two types of tofu salad and some 비지 (okara: a substance leftover when making tofu that is better described here). They also served a small bowl of some freshly made, warm and very soft tofu that went well with a small dash of soy sauce.

Next came the 두부보쌈. A cast-iron plate filled with delicious homemade tofu, pork and fried kimchi.  A piece of each wrapped in lettuce with some 새우젓 (small, pickled shrimp) or 쌈장 (ssamjang: A Korean dipping sauce) and I was in heaven.

After that came the 순두부찌개. I’m a big fan of tofu soup, especially during the winter, and this one did not disappoint.  The tofu was soft and fresh. The broth wasn’t at all greasy but rather had a subtle, clean taste to it.

Finally came dessert.  A few pieces of home made 인절미 (injeolmi: a type of Korean rice cake) and a bowl of  수정과 (sujeonggwa: a traditional Korean cinnamon punch).  I’m not normally a fan of rice cake but I found myself eating the entire plate. And the refreshing taste of the 수정과 was the perfect way to end the meal.

A food fanatic and inspiring chef, I’ve been living in Korea for over five years now.  During that time I’ve eaten my way through several cities and have been treated to many delightful dishes.  I can honestly say that 생생이두부보쌈 is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying in terms of taste, friendliness, and atmosphere.  So if you find yourself in the area or are looking to try something new tonight, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

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