[Seoul] Nolboo Budae Jjigae 놀부 or 樂伯部隊鍋 has become one of the most popular restaurants to try out Army Stew in Korea for a variety of reasons.
This is a chain store so it is found almost everywhere, some of the restaurants open till late, and they are generally tourist-friend with English menus available.
Not many may know that “Budae Jjigae” is created after the Korean War, using the surplus foods left over from the US army bases. Therefore the name “Army Stew” as “Budae” means “milltary camp” and Jjigae refers to “stew”.
It is common to find processed food such as spam, ham, hot dogs, and canned baked beans within the stew pot – which can already sound quite bizarre if you haven’t tried it before.
The current style of Budae Jjigae stew was created by the combination of Korean traditional sauces and these American ingredients.
For a Budae Jjigae specialty restaurant, Nolboo does offer quite a variety which includes addition of cheese, sweet and sour pork, pork cutlet, beef, and beef tripe.
The basic stew cost 23,000 Won for 2 persons, 32,500 Won for 3 persons, and 40,500 Won for 4 persons. (That’s SGD26,50, SGD37.50, and SGD46.70 respectively.)
There are some stores around which offer buffet concept, such as the Sinchon branch.
The stew contains various ingredients such as sausages, ham, noodles and rice cake in a spicy soup. In additional, the ham used is said not to contain any preservatives, artificial ingredients and colourings.
Note that the noodles added (at least for my pot) was udon, so you got to top up for ramyeon noodles.
Would I say this is the best Budae Jjigae in Seoul?
Maybe not. But it is at least predictably dependable. Since most restaurants use more or less the same ingredients, then what really differentiates would be the spicy base.
Some restaurants have a particular characteristic, say more spicy, tangy, or cheesy, while Nolboo threads on the safe side.
The base was tasty though I wished it was richer with a spicier kick.
The stew starts from a more diluted version and supposedly gets thicker after the baked beans and spicy paste blend with the soup. But it still remained rather soupy at the end of the meal.
Oh yes, do not come here expecting super friendly service. It is as straight forward as it gets, order, they serve, you eat.
Every diner has to order a portion (even if someone does not intend to eat), and while they allow top-up of ingredients at a cost, try to minimise your ‘special orders’.
Various branches including 39 Myeongdong 8na-gil, Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2 757 5510
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 10pm (Mon – Sun)