Friday, January 30, 2015

Shabu-Shabu Meets Summer Rolls

Shabu-Shabu is originally from Osaka. He isn't very traditional, but like his nation, he is neat and tidy and creative. More than that, though, he is very health conscious. Because of his health concerns he eats lots of fresh veggies and boils his meat instead of roasting since it's better for his heart.

Gỏi Cuốn is from Vietnam. Her English name is Summer Rolls. Despite the weight disparaging nickname, she is extremely lean. She has a fresh and upbeat personality, and, like Shabu Shabu, she takes care of her health eating veggies, seafood, and bits of meat wrapped in rice paper. 

Somewhere the two met in Korea, and with so much in common, an instant love story was born. You can experience it for yourself at Ssamchon Shabu Shabu (쌈촌샤브샤브) in Pyeongtaek. 

Shabu-shabu is extremely popular in Korea, and Pyeongtaek is no exception. There are at least nine shabu-shabu restaurants in the city. And Ssamchon Shabu Shabu is unarguably one of the top three. Since it opened a couple years ago, it has been a popular lunch or dinner location not just for Koreans but for City Hall area expats. It has a perfect rating on Naver. And it is safe to say that, over the last two years, the NetBot and I have eaten there more than at any other restaurant in Pyeongtaek. If you include times with our friends, we must have eaten there at very least 36 times. 

The draw of the place is simply great shabu-shabu mixed with summer rolls and the fun of making your own food. 

As at any shabu-shabu restaurant, a great big pot of spicy or plain broth is set to boil, and a platter of fresh veggies and shaved beef is laid out along with a sauce dish. Ssamchon, though, upps the ante by providing a broad array of fresh veggies, lots of quality beef, three unique dipping sauces and rice paper with which to craft your own summer rolls. And that is just the base meal. Variants include samgyeop-sal, grilled duck, or fresh seafood. The table gets really crowded with dishes, but it's completely worth it especially when the basic layout is only 10,000 won for lunch and 3,000 more for dinner. 

After you run out of meat, you can pour a bowl of rice noodles in the broth for the second course of the meal. And when you run out of noodles your waiter will use the remaining broth to make a pot of savory, Korean rice porridge called juk (죽). Second and third courses are not unusual at shabu-shabu restaurants. However, the taste at Ssamchon is just so far above the other places. And where else can you make rice noodle and porridge summer rolls?

Even Eat Korea's robot taste tester, The NetBot, adores the place. Programed by a small robotics company in California, her designers were very dedicated to healthful living through smart diet choices. Naturally this mentality was deeply encoded in her operating system. Plus, while she was not programmed to cook, the process at Ssamchon is very easy. So easy even a NetBot can do it. 

Ssamchon Shabu Shabu has locations in Pyeongtaek and Anjung-eup. However, like so many restaurants we have reviewed lately, the one we visited is really close to Pyeongtaek Lotte Mart. To get there from Pyeongtaek Station, take the 50 or 20 bus to the Pyeongtaek City Hall (평택시청) stop. It's in front of Lotte Mart. Walk towards Lotte Mart. Go past the side entrance with the giant pomegranate statue and keep walking straight. Turn left at the first intersection. Ahead of you there should be a park on your left and a foot bridge stretching over the road. Opposite the park next to the footbridge is TeaOreum, a cafe with great bubble tea and a host of traditional and unique Korean herbal teas. Ssamchon Shabu Shabu is on the second floor of the same building.

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2015.1.30 | 지도 크게 보기 ©  NAVER Corp.

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