Ulaan Baatar Restaurant, Central Asian village, Seoul
182-21 Gwanghuidong 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Get your Buuz near the old East Gate; Mongolian food in SeoulAs ubiquitous as "mandu" (dumplings) may be in Korea, when in Seoul, seek out their Mongolian lamb-filled 'ancestors.' One theory says that meat-filled dumplings were introduced to the Korean peninsula during the Mongol invasions of the 14th century. If that's the case, then "buuz" (Mongolian dumplings) have made a comeback in the 21st century.
In recent decades, tens of thousands of Mongolians have immigrated to South Korea, and the neighborhood just to the west of the new Zaha-Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza has become home to a Central Asian village.
Seek out the Cyrillic lettering and look for "Ulaan Baatar" restaurant, on the second floor of an otherwise nondescript building in an alleyway. A plateful of "buuz" would make a hearty meal, but it's best shared. Hand-cut noodles, al dente, stir-fried with carrots and mutton are another option. If you want a break from the seemingly non-stop chile-garlic-soy palette of Korean food, but still want a 'local' flavor, this is your fatty chance.
My wife and I were the only non-Mongolians when we had lunch here. We followed the example of the other diners and ordered salty milk tea to go with our food. I couldn't bring myself to dunk my dumplings in it, though, as everyone else was doing. (Beer and Fanta are also available.)
By subway: at "Dongdaemun History and Culture Park" station, take exit 12, walk west and turn left at the next corner; look for the 10-story building with cyrillic lettering on your right.