For starters I want to introduce the radiused corner menu vault where I will be storing all my menu photos from now on.. You can find Chon Ju Jip's there and I hope to be more active on it than I have been on Izakaya Sakura's.. ;)
If you study CJJ's menu it won't be long until you discover that it is not the most non-Korean friendly.. Many items are neglected in being translated into English and the ones that are are often not described in detail. So I recently had friends translate at least the areas without any English.
Before even getting into their great home style Korean dishes, Chon Ju Jip immediately starts rocking with always excellent free starter Panchan. A daily changing variety that has yet to stop fascinating after many lunches.
This makes every visit a new and fun food experience for me..
A semi-fermented spicy squid.. Yumm. And a type of Muk (mung bean jelly) I think.
Another great site with banchan photos and explanation I found.
The first couple dishes I had was before my friends' translation and so I went with the basics like this Kimchi Chigae (lunch specials #2 - $5.95).
Deep, strong and spicy flavors.. I loved it. This is still my favorite dish here (though I still have many more to try). I didn't see much pork pieces but the flavors were all present in the soup so maybe it just melted away in the stew?.. :) There were though many slices of rice cakes that gave the dish a nice texture.
I can seriously make a meal just out of the banchan and rice..
The highlight out of the eight this day was the spicy and semi-sweet fried dry squid. I immediately devoured 1/3 of the rice with it. Seconds of both the rice and any Panchan are free by the way..
The lunch specials includes all shown thus far which is an unbelievable bargain at under $6.
While it was a completely satisfying meal I decided to also try he Steamed Man Du dumplings ($4.95). The two types of Man Du here, steamed and fried, seems to also be differentiated by fillings where the steamed was listed as having fried Octopus among others..
I honestly couldn't detect any discernable flavor or texture of the eight tentacled sea creature but I loved how the Man Du slightly resembled its suckers whether it was deliberate or not. :)
Great dipped in the ever so tasty spicy sauce which seems too complex for me to want to tackle from scratch so I will be looking for a pre-made bottle of it in the near future.
The second visit I may have gone even more conservative and went with the marinated grilled beef - Bul Gogi ($11.95).
Very tender and I really liked how the marinade wasn't too sweet. I had the Fried Man Du this time (also $4.95) which had a nice chewy outer and savory pork based filling.
Grilled.. Fried.. Beef.. Pork.. There's nothing wrong with defaulting to the tried and true.. Yum.
But the next visit I went on a limb and ordered something completely unfamiliar. The Sam Gye Tang ($11.95). A boiled whole baby chicken!
The lightly gingery chicken was filled with various ingredients including glutinous rice and something that resembled a dried fruit (which you can read about in more detail on Wiki). My first experience with this dish but the version here seemed to be something where you enjoy the chicken and its contents rather than the soup which did not have a lot of flavor (at least in the beginning).
Came with a saucer of salt to dip the chicken pieces into. Very good.
The MVP (Most Valuable Panchan) of this day was the Kket-Nip Cho-Rim (ok, I googled it)..
The Seasoned Sesame Leaf (correction, a type of Shiso) was lightly herby and had an interesting taste. Reminded me of a cross between grape leaves and Shiso.
On my most recent visit I finally had the translation with me (scribbled on a Post-it) and I was ready to try the #3 on the lunch specials - Chung Kuk Jang. It was explained to me by a Korean friend as a soup made with smelly fermented beans similar to Japanese Natto. Mmm, that has my name written all over it!
And so I thought but when there I was surprised to see the waitress talk me out of it.. "Much too pungent and smelly.. you will not like.." So I chickened out and went for the lunch specials #1 - Den Jang Chigae ($5.95) which was still bean based but something closer to Japanese Miso. While I kind of regretted a little not going through my initial decision the dish still did sound incredibly good. And it was.
Maybe the waitress was right all along cause there was nothing to regret here.. The soup was a complex and flavorful miso broth. Next to the Kimchi Chigae this is my second favorite dish here thus far. Tofu, clams, mushrooms, whole garlic cloves and various veggies with one that I couldn't recognize.
With the great panchan as usual made an excellent and filling lunch.
MVP here was a sweet/spicy dried fish that reminded me of the Tazukuri of Japanese Niboshi but spicy. The simplest darn things that make my mouth water..
All this is making me very very hungry (so I'm posting this in a hurry as a semi draft).
Come to think there are some photos with English up on the windows but at least for me they are a bit hard to try connecting with the written menu.
The pic of the Savory Seafood Pancake looked great and I think I may order that next, but the Smelly Fermented Beans Soup and the Hae Jang Guk - Liver and Vegetable Soup "for hangovers" (lunch specials #4) are very close runner ups. :)
Chon Ju Jip, 4373 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
(Chon Ju Jip is located next to and shares the same parking as Convoy Tofu House..)