There’s a great restaurant five minutes walk from my house that does traditional smoked duck. I finally had time and the right bottle of wine so I went to Nolboo Sulfur Duck Restaurant (nolbu yuhwang ori, 놀부유황오리).I was not disappointed. After making a reservation the day before, our duck arrived at our table five minutes after arrival, the smoked duck having being baked in a clay pot for three hours prior. The Korean name for the smoked duck is Hunje Ori (훈제오리). They do two types of duck, smoked duck (tong ori hunje barbeque, 통오리 훈제 바베큐) and the sulfur duck (yuhwang ori jinheuk gui 유황오리진흙구이). You need to order the sulfur duck when you make a reservation, as the smoked duck is standard.
The meat was cooked just right: succulent and juicy without oil or excess fattiness. Crisp skin dipped in a little salt for me and vinegar for my lady companion added a nice edge to the meat. On its own, it was lovely to discover the variously textured parts of the animal, soft neck, tender marrow and stringy ligaments. The duck melted in the mouth.
The stuffing was fantastic with pine nuts, sunflower seeds, dates, ginseng, deer antler and five types of sticky rice. This is a traditional Korean medicinal food called Yeongyangbap (영양밥). We felt satiated, healthy and content after. Normally one duck is enough for three people or a family. We were very full.
This is a wine blog, so let’s not forget the wine. Duck goes well with Pinot Noir, so I bought a bottle of New Zealand Otago Pinot. The 2005 Wooing Tree should have been great. Their 2007 won 8 gold medals and 2 trophies. Sadly, the 2005 didn’t measure up. It was unfocused, fruity and acidic. The finish was rather short too. My companion said, “It smelled like Merlot.”. It’s a sad day when Burgundy smells like Merlot. To be fair this was the first vintage from the vineyard and the weather in Otago that year was terrible with a very cold and wet period over flowering resulting in a poor fruit set and low yields. Not a reflection on the vineyard, but rather my poor choice of vintage. Their 2007 is stunning. I also think the smoked duck was a little too strong for the finesse of pinot noir.
The duck is served with a selection of Kimchi and vegetable side dishes , (banchan, 반찬). For dessert there’s a traditional dish of ginkgo nut jelly called Kkaeyeot (깨엿). Fresh and healthy.
Nolboo Sulfur Duck Restaurant is in Jamsil, Seoul, about 10min walk from Sports Complex Subway Station. Ph. 02 425 5292. Reservations two days prior are essential. Directions in English, click here.
By Joshua Hall