Family. Tradition. Legacy.
One of the most recognized names in Seoul. Woo Lae Oak. 'Come, Again, House.'
Their story began in 1946.
Good friend Kathy Paik's great grandfather 장원일 (Chang Won-Il) opened their doors to share their Pyongyang Naengmyun (North Korean cold noodles). His son, 장진건 (Chang Jin-Gun), succeeded the business and has spread Woo Lae Oak around Seoul and the U.S. The family originates from Pyongyang, and for generations have passed down their culinary love. Woo Lae Oak is tucked away in the back alleys of Euljiro 4-ga, which stands in their original home, and over the years have been converted into a restaurant. Back in the day, Euljiro was the main hub: socialites came out, business was done, and lovers first met. The rich history behind this Euljiro area is joined by the neighborhoods of Jongno, Myungdong, Dongdaemun, City Hall, and the Chenggye stream.
The interior and lighting has bits of 'old school' charm. Guests at this original location are a bit older (uh yeah, halmoni and harabuji's=our grandmothers and grandfathers), who call Pyongyang their home. I actually thought they were too cute patiently waiting to be seated during the busy lunch hour. Observing them, I felt that Woo Lae Oak was more than just eating their 'Pyongyang naengmyun.' It was about community...about connecting with the landmark...about sharing memories with their friends...
'Eating bulgogi' the proper way...
My favorite was the bibim naengmyun (cold noodles without the soup broth) and their special bulgogi. Not your typical bulgogi. It had the elements of the usual fare-soy, sesame oil, sugar...but it was the process of enjoying this dish. First you cook the meat with onions & garlic...then you add buckwheat noodles and broth on the bottom side of the grill. Then you top it with the veggies. The noodles are deliciously saturated with the meat broth, then served in a bowl. Has anyone tried this before? The bibim naengmyun in the photo looks a lot spicier than it actually is, but they really out did it. It may even top my mom's! Shhh...I really hope she's not reading this entry :) hahahaha.
Thanks Kathy for sharing the memories...and starting new ones...
The bibim naengmyun topped with Asian pear, which helps digestion...
Original location in Euljiro 4-ga:
Woo Lae Oak
Jung-gu, Jookyo-dong 118, Seoul/서울시 중구 주교동 118
Subway: Euljiro 4-ga (line 2) & (line 5) exit 4
Other locations: Daechi-dong in Gangnam-gu Seoul; Washington D.C.; Chicago