Italy Budae Jjigae: Italian-Style Korean Army Stew near Naksongdae Park

Italy Budae Jjigae: Italian-Style Korean Army Stew near Naksongdae Park

More of a guilty pleasure than anything, army stew is always savory. Bring some friends or family, and make sure you're not on a diet.

8 min read

Originally reviewed on May 7, 2020

Name

한글 🇰🇷 ENGLISH 🇺🇸
이태리부대찌개 낙성대점 Italy [style] Army Stew, Naksongdae Main Office

Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Price

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

Price is a rough average per head, excluding drinks.

Operating Hours

Day Open Close
Weekday 11:00 22:00
Weekend 11:00 22:00

There is a daily break time from 4:00PM-5:00PM. The restaurant closes and prepares for dinner service during this time, as the menu varies slightly.

Location

This place is unlisted on Google Maps due recently opening; it is at the above marker.

Seoul Seek Recommendations

  • 👑 Signature
  • ✅ Counting Calories
  • 🌶️ Spicy
한글 🇰🇷 English 🇺🇸 Price 💵
부대전골 (2인분) Army Stew (for 2) 👑🌶️ ₩18,000
우삼겹사리 5-layer-fat Pork Brisket ₩8,000
새알만두사리 Ball Dumplings ₩2,000
파인애플맛 환타 Pineapple Fanta ₩2,000

There are many variations of the stew, but just go with the OG. The brisket is a luxury, and isn't needed. The dumplings are measured by the handful, not count.

Overview

The goal of this chain is to combine so-called Italian flavors into a timeless Korean staple, army stew. Appealing to the ear at first, you'll find out that it literally just means they use purple rice and offer butter packets.

It may sound satirical, but it works. Whether it's truly blending Italian flavors is another argument, but it's neither here nor there.

This is a great chain; very clean, reliable staff, and high quality product offer a great stress reliever if you're wanting to indulge once in a while. This is a high calorie meal, and is essentially a fancy take on what is very much an everything in the fridge and the kitchen sink, too type stew.

The claim that this was eaten all the time in military camps may have been valid 30 years ago, but not so much these days; it has been replaced by the standard MRE-type meal, although for nostalgia and past-time purposes, it is still commonplace. Due to gochujang (Korean chili paste) being a base, it is classified as a stew instead of a soup.

We've eaten at this chain twice during our journey, and this is the more remote Naksongdae (Gwanak) location which we visited just as they opened. Expect a related review of the Jamsil location we visited beforehand, which is more friendly, both for visitors and by location.

Arrival

You should be fine using the Google Maps location above; there's no secret passages you need to take to get here. Simply watch the map and look for a spot with the following banner outside (year-round).

You'll notice some plastic rainbow arches; that signifies that a restaurant has recently opened. Out of sight are grand-opening wishes which are traditionally a large floral-like arrangement with ribbons wishing good luck to the owners or staff, sent in by family and friends.

Didn't include interior pics; was packed and didn't want to capture random people peacefully eating.

Pullin' up
Quick shot of the menu; the bottom item is just an egg roll (literally, rolled egg)

Side Dishes

Really nothing out of the ordinary; fishcake, bean sprouts, kimchi, and their signature butter
They have some branded moist tissues (called water tissues here)
You can get refills if you want
Large metal pots are soup refills; side dishes below, with dishes, and ramen on top for end-of-meal

Cooking the Food

The owner comes by and drops us the pot of stew as she cranks the starter
This is a gas-powered one; they sometimes use flat tops due to being messy, but these heat it quicker
Quick shot of what it looks like
Brisket, bacon, salami, bologna, ham, spam, cheese, garlic, peppers, ground meat, dumplings
These are the ball dumplings; frozen, but still very yummy
As we wait for the stew to boil, we prepare the rice; you throw the butter right on top
No effort required, just throw it on top and mix it around a bit while hot to melt it in
Let it sit if you want, up to you
I let mine sit, and this is the result; it seeps to the bottom and you can mix it later
I love these things, can't get enough
Bologna looks like it's coming along nicely
The ground meat on top (north of the garlic and peppers) is almost done
The owner returns and cuts the meat for us, so that it can blend more smoothly into the stew's flavor
She stacks the meat together, then cuts it on one go
Those yellow strands are actually Chinese-style tofu flat noodles, which add great texture
The stew is now mixed properly; we wait a few minutes for it to boil all together
Take a sip
It's getting a more full flavor by simmering a bit; the brisket is just about done

The simmering of this soup is a point that is oft-overlooked by other people who review Korean food or attempt to make this at home. It is critical that you let this simmer for a minimum of 5-7 minutes past the point that you see in the picture above. Why? The flavors need time to settle and penetrate both the meat and the dumplings.

A large part of why this meal is so savory and doesn't necessarily need side dishes (although they are offered) is because the stew becomes incredibly thick the longer you simmer it, almost a thin porridge if done correctly, and it is divine.

Perhaps gross or nasty to those who have never considered putting these traditionally sandwich-only meats into a stew before, the Korean army stew (with an Italian flare) is something that everyone must try once, bias aside.

It is very hearty, and these places are extremely casual. Popular amongst both high school and college kids for a quick go-to during a night out, whether it's after a few drinks or just to gather, it has remained one of the iconic dishes of Korean cuisine for more than three decades.

In a way, it is a dish of pride. A product that was born out of poverty has, like many Korean dishes, become a common answer to what's for dinner. You'll find that the more you research Korean cuisine, the more you'll find older folks resonating with this sense of pride, which influences trends within the space. It may not apply so much to the younger crowd, though.

Dumplings are getting cooked nicely as well; once they turn translucent, they're ready
You can see how the stew seeps into the meats
The soup is naturally oily from the brisket and meats, and very thick
The dumplings have a nice full color and are ready to eat
All the meats which are included, stacked
This is the fatty brisket
These are the Chinese-style tofu flat noodles
This would be what a potential spoonful would be
Wanted to isolate a dumpling to show you
Inside of the dumpling is bean sprout, meat, and a bit of vegetable
Take some goods for yourself, throw it in the bowl, and eat up
We're done with the main portion of the stew, so we throw in the ramyeon (Korean ramen)
Take it out of the package and place it nicely
That's it, right in the center
Spoon some of the remaining meat and a bit of juice to get it going
Need to keep the noodles wet, and not overcook them
Eventually they become softer
Wiggle them around a bit, and turn the heat off so they don't overcook
That's what we like to see; these are cooked about 70% and will continue to cook in the stew

Summary

This is our favorite chain for army stew, and it is in part due to the butter on the rice. As much as it appeared to be an eye-roll approach to fusing two cuisines, it works, and it works well.

The several times we've gone to this chain, it has been very chill and calm. The interiors are spacious and you are not knee-to-knee like in many similar stew spots.

This soup is spicy, but nothing you couldn't handle if you're a pepper head or like spicy foods. Even if it is a bit too spicy for you, simply cut it with the rice and butter.

Just make sure to limit the butter packs; we're all on a "diet"... right?

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