Being Teochew, I grew up with braised pig trotters 卤猪脚, a simple delicacy made by braising pig trotters in a soy sauce and spice liquid until they become fork tender. And today we visit a Bib Gourmand restaurant in Seoul that serves the same delicacy.
The Hanja name of Manjok Ohyang Jokbal 만족오향족발 is 满足五香猪蹄, which literaly means “statisying five-spice pig trotters” and that’s exactly what they serve. At Manjok Oyhang Jokbal, the beloved Korean braised pig’s feet dish called jokbal 족발 is impeccably crafted with the utmost dedication and care to hygiene and quality, unlike its humble beginning in the streets of Seoul.
It started in 1989 from a small shop of 10 pyeong (355 sqft), Manjok has been delivered the same five-spiced pig trotters for over 30 years. Of course these days, everything has been franchised. But in its main store in an alley near Seoul City Hall, the same taste and atmosphere can still be found despite the accolades it has received (they got the Bib Gourmand award ever year since 2017) and everything is now prepared from a central kitchen.
The restaurant, armed with a systematic central distribution system, offers consistent quality at all of its franchised locations. Here, the popular pork dish can be enjoyed warm until the very last piece, thanks to the specially designed hotplates installed into the tables.
There are two main things that they sell here the ohyang jokbal 오향족발 and bossam 보쌈, and for the more adventurous they can try a new item called fire jopkbal, which is a spicy, mala style of jokbal. And to help with choosing, they also come with half-and-half sets so that you can enjoy two items at once.
These sets come with everything you want to try here, and there’s enough food for 2-3 persons. If you are small eaters, the set can feed four if you add another order of dumplings.
This is not the place for banchan; only a few were provided and they mainly consisted of spicy and heavily vinegared items to soften the taste of fats in your mouth.
The set came with a huge hotpot of tteok mandu guk 떡만두국. Tteokguk (rice cake soup) is enjoyed by many Koreans on Lunar New Year’s Day that symbolises luck and good fortune.
It came with mandu (dumplings) that reminded me of those I get from the frozen section of my local supermarket. They were not like those handmade ones found in the Korean markets made by those aunties.
At the first mouthful, it reminded of how my sister-in-law would braised the pig trotters. The signature ohyang jokbal 오향족발 was prepared the same way Manjok has been doing so for over 30 years. The meat was heavily flavoured with five spice and soy sauce and other secret ingredients. Even at an industrial scale, the braised pig trotters tasted heavenly! The collagen under the skin simply melted in my mouth.
A large bowl of shredded white cabbage was provided with a bowl of white rice vinegar and chopped leeks as a dip. The cabbage is added to the vinegar and a piece of jokbal is added and the sour, savoury, pungent trio are consumed in a satisfying mouthful. And strangely, this is how we Teochews eat the pig trotters as well – with white rice vinegar/leek condiment which we called sng-nee-chou 蒜泥醋.
Bossam 보쌈 is a boiled pork dish which is also called suyuk 수육. The pork, usually the belly because of the distribution of fats, is boiled in a flavourful brine until tender and served thinly sliced. The name bossam refers to how the meat is enjoyed, i.e., wrapped in a jeol-in baechu 절인 배추 salted napa cabbage leaf with some condiments.
At the table, each person wraps (which is ssam 쌈 in Korean) the meat in salted napa cabbage leaves (or bo 보, which translate to “paper”) along with radish salad (musaengchae 무생채) and salted shrimp. Salted napa cabbage is traditional, but lettuce and/or perilla leaves are also common.
The filling for these mini Korean dumplings are similar to their larger cousins, the Shandong chives pork dumpling 韭菜猪肉水饺. Shandong dumplings are similar to Korean mandu/만두/饅頭, the culture must have crossed somewhere along the long timeline of history. And before you think the origin, think again. It is most likely Mesopotamia and brought to China via the Silk Route.
This meal had me thinking how intertwined our cultures are despite the differences in terms of race, language, religion and political affiliation. As we travel and eat our way through each city and country, the only commonality is the wish for a peaceful co-existence and putting food on the table.
Manjok Ohyang Jokbal 만족오향족발
134-7 Seosomun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel : +82 2-753-4755
Visited Nov 2022
Michelin Seoul Guide Bib Gourmand 2017-2023
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