Ganko Black: Savory and Authentic Japanese Curry in COEX Mall

Ganko Black: Savory and Authentic Japanese Curry in COEX Mall

The savory flavor complimented by the salty goodness of Ganko Black's oven-baked curry will leave your mouth begging for more.

11 min read

Originally reviewed on July 10, 2020

Name

한글 🇰🇷 ENGLISH 🇺🇸
간코블랙 Ganko Black

Derived from the Japanese word 頑固, often used to express being stubborn, the name may imply that the curry's recipe is set in its own way, such as the following example:

あなたって本当に頑固ね。

Price

Korean Won 🇰🇷 United States Dollar 🇺🇸
₩15,000 ~$12

Price is a rough average per head, excluding drinks.

Operating Hours

Day Open Close
Mon-Thurs 10:30 20:00
Fri-Sun 10:30 20:30

The operating hours here are directly dependent upon Hyundai Department Store's operating hours.

Location

This is literally the first thing upon entering the Hyundai Department Store from Parnas Mall within COEX Mall. You can't miss it.

Seoul Seek Recommendations

  • 👑 Signature
  • ✅ Counting Calories
  • 🌶️ Spicy

 

한글 🇰🇷 English 🇺🇸 Price 💵
치즈폭탄카레 돈카츠정식 Black Curry Cheese Bomb Tonkatsu Set 👑 ₩16,000
우삼겹 비프카레 돈카츠정식 5-layer Brisket Black Curry Tonkatsu Set 👑 ₩16,000

We're going to throw you guys two recommendations, having tried almost all the curries here. They're the signatures.

These are both the two most consistent in flavor and quality, as well as being oven-baked, which is quite unusual for curries.

Overview

Curry is extremely difficult to master, despite it being very simple on the surface. There are many different types of curries, which vary greatly in texture, taste, and consistency. Ganko Black specializes in black curry originating from Japan, more specifically kuro, or クロ.

This curry is often seen blending rich ingredients which are also dark in nature—squid ink, chocolate, aged soy, seaweed—creating an appearance of both elegance and curiosity. The ingredients vary by prefecture and location, for example, norikuro curry, のりクロカレー, utilizes seaweed from coastal regions and is rarely seen outside of nearby coastal cities.

It was hard to pinpoint the exact ingredients in this; for the price point, it tasted very bodied. Tamarind for sure, as well as cardamom and goraka. A Japanese shoyu was ever so present as well, and made the dish a bit saltier than what would be optimal. Garlic obviously abundant, with a hint of bay leaves, lemon, maybe some cayenne and cinnamon as well.

For the price of two coffees, you're able to eat a huge bowl of curry supplemented by what is some of the best tonkatsu I've had in Seoul. The flavors are extremely rich and the curry is exceptionally thick, so grab a drink if you wish.

Arrival

These stalls were extremely small for two people each; this was a bit annoying
The water is set up for you when you arrive, with paper cups due to COVID-19
The water is room temp; I like mine ice cold
If you need some extra space, throw the cups up on this ledge

The Main Event

The curry was almost done; this is the beef (5-layer brisket) curry
This is the "cheese bomb" curry; as you can see, it lives up to its name
The curry is self-pickup, so we brought the bowls back to the stall
You get some radish and pickled radish; the left is Korean, the right is Japanese, called "daikon" 
Some weak miso and tonkatsu sauce, it was actually homemade, while the soup was obviously instant

5-Layer Brisket Curry

This one's topped with some finely-sliced scallions and a ton of garlic (requested)
As you can see, a ton of brisket, and the rice is purple
A perfectly-cooked egg is buried underneath the garlic to provide some texture with the rice
A shot of the brisket with garlic to boot
This was a "heaven spoon", a colloquialism used in Korea to denote a godlike spoon of food
Mix the rice a little bit and throw on some meat and egg
The egg was a little salty, which was nice, but I don't think it was necessary, as the curry was salted

Curry in Japan

Let's take a quick detour before we get into the cheese bomb curry and consider the history of curry within Japan, Land of the Rising Sun.

Despite not being held to the same level as say, sushi or Kobe beef, curry and the compliment of rice have been one of the staples of Japanese cuisine for nearly 200 years, if not longer.

Japanese curry varies widely in its thickness, depending on both region and ingredients, as mentioned earlier. Akin to the 19th century version of Indian curry in some regards when we consider the commercialization of powders and other spices, the viscosity of traditional Japanese curry is an art in and of itself, with restaurants battling the ebb and flow of different levels. Too thick, it won't make a good karē-don (thick curry over rice, usually with meat), too runny and you have a weird soup that wants to be a curry.

During the mid-1800's, an affair acting as a catalyst for Western influence began, sparking an era of Western "civilization and enlightenment", deemed natively as 文明開化 gave way to a period of societal change, かいかき natively. Depending on the scholar you ask, this was seen as either cataclysmic or forward-thinking.

During this period is where Japanese cuisine took a radical turn, and shifted enormously from the very-traditional to shockingly-modern (at the time). The Imperial Japanese Navy adopted the idea of a "thick sauce over rice" which would become known as curry within Japan, from the Royal Navy less than a decade after the bulletin passed.

Historically, the consumption of meat of four-legged animals was strictly forbidden, due to religious reasons. The decision to open arms, albeit hesitantly, to Western ideals, was felt greatly by Japan's gastronomic structure. Two decades later, a famed scholar, Kanagaki Robun, published a series of five volumes over the course of two years (1871-1872), detailing very specific recipes which could utilize this idea of consuming meat of cow (beef), and pig (pork). Within that, were several recipes for slow-cooked thick sauces, considered curries.

Over time, the art of curry was mastered, refined, broken down, built back up, remastered, refined again, so on and so forth. Now its own sect of curry, Japan's cuisine integrates this often, and does so in an elegant yet interesting way, evolving each and every day.

A testament to this is a Japanese curry restaurant in the heart of Seoul, like Ganko Black. Against the grain? Perhaps. Appreciated? Most definitely.

Don't be fooled, though; it is very different from Indian curry. From the flavor profile, to the sodium content, down to the type of rice you eat it with or other side dishes; it is hardly comparable, other than having common ground as being curry.

Each type deserves its own respect.

Cheese Bomb Curry

This stole the show, it was perfect and it's no surprise that this is the most popular dish there
A shot of the bake ring
I think this had even more dried garlic flakes than the beef one
These are simple to make: chop garlic thin, dry them out in an air fryer, salt them a little bit
The cheese is mozzarella, which is melted in the oven (yes, an actual oven, not the stove)
Getting ready for the scoop action shot
As you can see, the cheese is finished with a handheld torch to crisp it a bit
The cheese is very stringy, and fresh, not frozen pizza-style mozzarella you'd find often in Korea
That's exactly what we love to see
This one also had an egg underneath the cheese; the textures were a bit strange here
Money shot
The whole yolk, for a heaven spoon

Tonkatsu

The katsu here is made from pork tenderloin, called hire-katsu. Depending on the place and the main dish, this will vary between tenderloin or roast. The reasoning behind the cuts lie in the flavor; due to the meat offered within the variety of curry here, tenderloin is preferred; the rosu-katsu, or roast-based katsu, would be too rich and would overpower with its delectable high-fat content.

It is a conscious decision by the restaurant, and the more you go to these spots, the more you notice this decision. Ramen spots which offer fatty meats will follow suit, whereas something like an egg sandwich place will offer rosu-katsu.

The sauce is made from a splash of lemon, some soy sauce, and a traditional base for katsu sauce. It has ketchup, some oyster sauce, sugar, and seems to be reduced a bit as it's quite salty.

The salad on the side there is a lemon-based dressing which tastes something similar to a coleslaw mayonnaise dressing. It is very citrusy and has a strong fruit flavor. I've never been a fan of iceberg lettuce or chopped lettuce, nor have I ever liked slaw, so that was a pass from me.

The pork was extremely moist and the outside was very thin, yet crunchy; a hard balance to achieve
You can see here how crispy this was; it was Aunt Vickie's potato chip tier crispy
Cooked a bit too much, but it retained its moisture
A shot of the panko outside
Dip it in that sauce and have a bite
Ready to go

A Quick Detour

Right after we finished eating the curry, we wanted to pick up something sweet to call it a night. The Gongcha inside of COEX is one of the best around; although it doesn't have seats, the staff there are always sure to hook up customers with just a tad bit extra aloe. I've been going there for many years, so I had to make a quick pit stop.

My wife suggested taking a pic of this library; this is located in Starfield Mall, and is called the Starfield Library. Many mistake this entire mall for being the COEX Mall but that's not true; there are in fact three different malls contained within this complex, each with its own branding and licensing. They operate in unison, however.

Yes, the guy in the white shirt sitting down doesn't have a mask on.

Yes, the books on the wall are real.

No, you can't check them out, you can only check out the ones in the designated shelves.

This is the main lobby of Starfield Library
All real books
These massive pillars are an art installment; it shifts about every 6 months, and changes during the holidays
A rare up-close look at the actual physical art installment frame; thread in resin it seems
This is about 20 meters before the Gongcha; a new macaron place just opened up
Cool shot of some hanging plastic macarons
Different angle
Ok, here's the menu; our go-to's are the OG black milk boba tea and the green grape smoothie
That's a hit
You can order two sizes; depending on the drink, it may only come in Jumbo
It's small but this is one of my favorite drink spots in Korea, this specific one right here
The goods
Black milk boba OG
Green grape slushie

As we left, I spotted this random 360-degree camera which was filming the release of the grand-opening of eggslut, a famous egg sandwich hamburger spot. It replaced the LOHB's near the station's main exit, into Parnas Mall (the main part of COEX). I just walked up to it for a quick shot, thought it looked unique.

The camera

As we arrived home at Jamsil near the Lotte Tower, the sky was too nice to ignore. Here's a shot of the sky and the tower in all its glory, against a perfect blue evening sky.

One of the most beautiful skies I've ever seen
Lotte Tower

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