[Seoul] Mapo Jeongdaepo (마포 정대포)

This restaurant in Mapo-gu is my eatery of choice whenever I’m craving some grilled pork in Korea. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve brought here, but that number’s probably somewhere in the twenties. Nope, not even kidding.

Look out for the signboard of Mapo Jeongdaepo, which features its specialty.

I used to think running a DIY barbeque joint was one of the smartest ways to make money, because chefs don’t have to be hired. Same goes for steamboat restaurants, but that’s another story. If diners were their own chefs, there wouldn’t be any discernible difference in the taste of the food offered between one barbeque restaurant and another. This was back when I was ignorant and in secondary school. I.e. before I grew a palate, learnt to appreciate quality cuts of meat and bade Seoul Garden farewell.

Evidently jeong flourishes in Mapo Jeongdaepo.

Why then, are there so many grilled meat restaurants in Korea? Apart from the occasional bloodthirsty craving for meat that plagues us gluttons, the art of meat-grilling is regarded in Korea as a communal activity for family, friends and colleagues alike. The restaurant’s name alludes somewhat to this, as jeong (정) is an untranslatable Korean word encapsulating the concept of bonding and showing affection through action rather than words. The daepo (대포) bit simply means “cannon” in Korean. Uncharted waters these be, but I’m gonna venture out on a limb here and guess that the owners were hoping for an explosion of jeong between their patrons? I really gotta work on phrasing my thoughts more elegantly.

The works.

I’d wanted to explain why Mapo Jeongdaepo‘s my go-to place for BBQ, but I think the picture above pretty much says it all. The picture also reminds me that they serve a pretty mean bean paste stew (된장찌개 or dwenjangjjigae) FOC.

Mapo Jeongdaepo offers several cuts of pork for grilling, including pork belly (삼겹살 or samgyopsal), salt marinated ribs (소금구이 or sogeumgui), pork ribs (돼지갈비 or dwaejigalbi) and pig skin (껍데기 or ggopdaegi). I’ve tried both the samgyopsal and the ggopdaegi, and found the former average while the latter…. well it’s now in my “Parts of a Pig to Avoid” blacklist. Ggopdaegi is popular among Korean ladies because it’s apparently good for the skin, but aiyerrr the bristly and wobbly texture makes me shudder. I’ll stick with Laneige, thanks.

Pork skirt meat (갈매기살 or galmaegisal), 12,000 won for a 200g serving.

What I’m really here for is the galmaegisal, a rarely used cut of meat found at the diaphragm and belly area of a pig. It’s way healthier (or at least appears to be) than the fat-streaked samgyopsal that people have grown to associate Korean barbeque with, yet actually tastes much better. As Mapo Jeongdaepo relies on charcoal briquettes for cooking, the galmaegisal here is juicy, tender and infused with an intensely smoky flavour. The galmaegisal is also pre-cut into convenient bite-sized pieces so you don’t have to fumble with a pair of scissors while haplessly watching the meat burn.

Different condiments are provided to go with the grilled pork – my favourites are the green onion salad (파절이 or pajeoli) and the spicy bean paste (쌈장 or ssamjang). Not a fan of the multi-grain powder (미숫가루 or miseutgaru) but it falls into the Korean category of “well-being” foods so go ahead, be delulu and destroy the fats in your galmaegisal in one dip.

They change the grill a couple times for you.

Oh, that glorious, glorious moat of egg. The dome-shaped grill allows the rendered pork fat from the grilled meat to flow downward into the moat, flavouring the egg mixture. We added liberal amounts of finely aged kimchi, strips of green onions and cloves of garlic into the liquid egg, because there’s really nothing more enjoyable biting into cooked kimchi embedded within a chunk of steaming hot egg. Best thing about it? Diners are entitled to unlimited moat refills of liquid egg.

Ready, leaf, egg, meat, ssamjang, garlic, go.

I usually have my galmaegisal wrapped in lettuce but used a perilla leaf in this photo for visual effect. If, like me, you’re not a fan of perilla leaves (and lots of people aren’t) then you can sub the leaf for lettuce. It’s still delicious, plus there’s something about eating raw greens that eases the conscience, depending on how deluded you are.

Our row of somaek. Picture stolen from a friend present at the scene.

Because alcohol and meat share a BFF relationship, we had glasses of somaek which are essentially soju + beer (maekju). I’m a teetotaler 99% of the time but I gave in and had one commemorative glass to mark my last night in Korea for the next 3 months. Ever the pro, our sole Korean friend at the gathering back in February filled and stacked the glasses, and we cheered wildly as he skilfully triggered a domino action which nudged the soju shots neatly into the centre of the beer glasses. I’d gladly have another of these just to watch the process again.

Don’t forget to thank the pig skin before you leave.

Seeing as how their menu is in three languages (although the English is questionable at best), this place must not be the well kept secret that I’d imagined it to be. Prices are also a couple thousand won (S$1.20 to S$2.40) steeper per serving than the average barbecue place, though I feel they’re justified by the quality of the galmaegisal.

This place can be a pain in the ass to locate despite its proximity to the Hongdae/Sinchon area, but trust me: You sure as hell won’t regret making a little detour to Mapo Jeongdaepo for some of the best grilled pork you’ll ever taste.

Mapo Jeongdaepo (마포 정대포)
183-8 Dohwa-dong
Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
(Address in Korean: 서울 마포구 도화동 183-8번지)

Opening hours: 11.00am – 2.00am, daily.
Tel. no.: (+82) 2-3275-0122

Directions: Leave Gongdeok station (Line 5 or AREX line) via Exit 8. Walk straight till you hit the intersection (you’ll see Mad For Garlic’s signboard on your left), then turn left. Keep walking till the first crossing, and you’ll see Mapo Jeongdaepo diagonally across from you.

2 Responses to “[Seoul] Mapo Jeongdaepo (마포 정대포)”
  1. That BBQ looks pretty solid. I like how they put the egg in the grill. You don’t see that too often.
    Great find.

    • theyummyyak says:

      Thanks for commenting Derek! I actually found out about this place through a post on seouleats a few years back. There are a couple places which serve these eggs along with their BBQ, one of which is Shin Mapo Galmaegi in Gangnam (Address: 810 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu). I don’t like the BBQ there as much though.

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