top of page

Onjium: champion of authentic Korean food

Gyeongbokgung Palace's graceful stonewalled path and a contemporary residential neighborhood directly face each other, separated only by a road. In this juxtaposition, Seoul's past and present harmoniously coexist. This duality is mirrored in the modern exterior of Onjium Matgongbang and the traditional elements found within. Under the guidance of Cho Eun-hee, a certified trainee in Korean royal court cuisine, and researcher Park Seong-bae, Onjium serves as both a research institute and a restaurant. The culinary offerings at Onjium eloquently capture the distinct seasons and refined beauty inherent in Korean cuisine.

Beyond being a dining destination, Onjium holds educational value for Koreans. While Korean cuisine is a part of everyday life, accessing dishes in their most authentic form and highest quality can be challenging. Onjium is universally recognized by Koreans as a champion of authentic Korean food, presenting dishes that are seldom experienced in daily life.

Take, for instance, Onjium's pheasant buckwheat noodles, a notable example. Naengmyeon, a staple in Korean cuisine, originally involved mixing it with Dongchimi broth after preparing pheasant broth. However, the decline in pheasant consumption has made it nearly impossible to find pheasant in regular markets, rendering pheasant dishes a rarity in Korean households. Onjium resurrects these traditional flavors, once enjoyed just a few decades ago, placing them back on the contemporary table. Their buckwheat naengmyeon features a distinctive pheasant broth complemented by the robust essence of Dongchimi broth, with plain buckwheat noodles restoring the original essence of Korean cuisine.

This culinary excellence has earned Onjium the patronage of Michelin-starred chefs in Korea, with Chef Jongwon Son of Eatanic Garden expressing, "For chefs exploring innovative Korean cuisine, Onjium is akin to an educational institution—a place to experience and learn by delving into the authentic aspects of Korean food."

More than just a restaurant, Onjium functions as a research institute delving into Korean food, clothing, and shelter culture. Within the same building, research institutes focused on Korean clothing and architecture coexist. Onjium periodically shares research findings on these diverse aspects, incorporating them into the development of its food menus.

Interview with chef Sungbae Park of Onjium

What defines the essence of Korean food?

Park: The essence of Korean food lies in its reflection of seasonality, achieving a unique taste through the convergence of fresh ingredients and fermentation. The preferred taste among Koreans stems from a harmonious blend of ingredients undergoing distinctive fermentation processes, resulting in a well-balanced diet. Korean cuisine stands out by utilizing seasonal ingredients in the right context, offering rich flavors and nutrition through fermentation. These traditional aspects underscore the value of savoring healthy, delicious food and maintaining a balanced diet in harmony with nature's changes.

Onjium draws inspiration from traditional food, clothing, and shelter culture to develop Korean cuisine. Occasionally, I seek to infuse differentiated Korean nuances while drawing inspiration from China and Japan. The restaurant creates a modern and innovative food culture by interpreting various facets of traditional elements.

What sets Onjium restaurants apart?

Park: Onjium Restaurant serves as a unique space that harmonizes the timeless beauty of Gyeongbokgung Palace's stonewall road with the contemporary allure of residential areas. It offers guests a blend of both past and present beauty. The interior design reflects the passage of time through a modern interpretation of Korean traditional elements in food, clothing, and shelter styles. Through this, Onjium provides a distinctive space where guests can immerse themselves in a singular gastronomic culture by seamlessly combining space, movement, and scenery. Moreover, the restaurant ensures a flavorful and aesthetically pleasing experience by considering the seasonal and regional characteristics in its cuisine.

With Korean food gaining attention, what opportunities does it present for chefs?

Park: With the current surge in interest in Korean food, chefs have an opportunity not only to showcase Korean culinary delights but also to spotlight the broader food, clothing, and shelter culture. Emphasizing the value and beauty of Korean traditional elements, including food, clothing, and shelter, can offer guests a more profound and enriched Korean culinary experience in various ways.

How do you envision the future development of Korean food?

Park: For the future development of Korean food, it's crucial to foster knowledge and experience-sharing among chefs, promoting widespread awareness through continuous exchanges. Additionally, enhancing the taste and value of Korean cuisine requires diligent efforts, ongoing learning about its history, building competence, and cultivating craftsmanship.


bottom of page