Gopchang (곱창). Even the word sounds unpleasant. That’s it, up there. A cow’s small intestine, all fatty and grotesque. Seoul has whole streets of restaurants devoted to these insides, simply fried table-side in their own fat. But I’d never eaten intestines in Korea, always opting for something a little less nauseating than an entire meal of greasy tubes. Despite my qualms, I wholehearted agreed to, and even pushed for, a visit to a famous gopchang joint in southern Seoul.
At 부추곱창 (buchu gopchang), a bustling greasy BBQ joint, there’s a short menu and a long line. Young couples and families wait to eat a few different sizes of intestines and a range of raw beef preparations. It’s in Sillim, a busy area, which I only ever visit to eat offal.
This is no cook-your-own deal. Sit, drink soju, eat 육회 (yukhoe, raw beef), shield yourself from sputtering fat with soju-brand aprons and let roving waitstaff address the bubbling browning insides.
Wait for the OK, then grab a piece of sizzling, caramelised and fatty gopchang with some softened green Korean leeks. These snippets of insides are a puzzling combination of unctuous and chewy, the shrill gamey flavour reminding you of what you’re eating with every bite. Each morsel is so fatty the act of eating it seems illicit, but somehow you can’t stop. The taste is pleasant and not overly strong, but I soon felt heavy with oil.
Bokkeumbap (볶음밥, fried rice) was the only cure. It’s a fried rice dish on offer at a range of Korean restaurants. When your table finishes the main shared food, be it gamjatang or shabu shabu or gopchang, the waiter fries rice in the same pan your meal was cooked in. They might add kimchi, bean sprouts, egg or anything else, here it was spicy sauce and more leeks. The rice absorbs the flavour from the cooking pan and becomes crisp and rich, pushing you down the path to utter gluttony.
I stand by my opinion that gopchang looks repulsive and although I can’t eat a whole pile of it, I would happily brave the slippery floors of Buchu Gopchang and eat it again. Though, maybe for 2nd dinner next time.
Gopchang 10,000 won. per serve (we ordered 3 serves, enough for 3-4 people).
Bokkeumbap 2,000 won per serve.