[Seoul] If you are looking for Army Stew aka Budae Jjigae in South Korea, especially during the colder winter months, Shimsontang 심슨탕 (or Simpson Tang) comes recommended by a couple of friends.
Part of the reason is that it is co-owned by Korean singer Hwangbo, so there is that Korean celebrity effect.
The main outlet is at Hongdae (walk from Hongik University Station Exit 9), but I went to the branch at Myeongdong (look out for Bee Cheng Hiang) only because it is more convenient. (Over at Hongdae’s outlet, there is also the option of adding a mozzarella cheese ring and croquette.)
Shimsontang’s has a slightly different style of Budae Jjigae, made with a 12 hour-brewed broth cooked from beef leg bone and brisket.
Therefore, you would find the base richer, and less sweet (because many other shops add canned tomato beans).
Other ingredients include cheese, ham, sausages, and various vegetables like potatoes and cabbages.
There are 5 styles served – Original Shimson Stew, Curry, Kimchi, Soft Tofu and Beef Tripe. All are priced at 8000 Won to 9000 Won per person (SGD9.70, SGD10.90), considered quite reasonable as its customer base is generally youth and students.
You can add on extra ramen noodles, ham, sliced noodles (they called it “chopped noodles”) or rice from 1000 to 5000 Won.
If you feel like you need more food, other mains to order include Shimson Barbecue Pork (18000 Won), Shimson Assorted Grilled Sausage (18,000 Won), and Pan-fried Pork, Ham, Sausage and Vegetables (8000 Won).
Here’s the thing: Not everyone likes Budae Jjigae, especially when there is a perception that it is made out of ‘cheap’ ingredients and processed food.
Well, true in a sense.
You may find Shimson Tang’s version somewhat lacking of ingredients. I tried digging in to find some beef brisket and sausages and couldn’t find any pieces.
But whatever that was there, seemed better than the average brand.
The instant noodles provided, cooked under a slice of cheese, didn’t taste overly starchy and was springy al dente, even when it was cooked for a while.
The ham was my favourite, cut to large cubes with a substantial bite. Potatoes were soft, but didn’t really disintegrate right into the broth.
Compared to other bases which would be thicker and somewhat sweeter and spicier, this was more savoury and flavourful, texture almost like beef Borscht soup.
I had quite a number of Budae Jjigae over the last few trips, all of varying degree of “tasty”. I won’t say that Shimsontang was exceptionally impressive, but would be something I won’t mind having again.
Shimsontang 심슨탕 – Hongdae
16 Hongik-ro 5an-gil, Seogyo-dong 355-21, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울시 마포구 서교동 355-21번지 1층
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10pm
Shimsontang 심슨탕 – Myeongdong
2-3 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울시 중구 명동2가 2-3
Tel: +82 2-776-0440
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:30pm