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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Skewer Sister — More Authentic Chinese

As a longtime patron of Gugugu, I’ve never felt much need to seek out other authentic Chinese restaurants in Ulsan. My wife and I go there at least 3-4 times a year, and it’s even been a go to place for special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s.

When I say “Chinese,” I guess I mostly mean lamb skewers cooked over charcoal and imported Chinese beer. We usually fill things out with side dishes, plus one other menu item — fried pork Tangsuyuk (탕수육), non-Korean style dumplings (만두), or, my favorite, a sauteed pork wrapped in tofu paper with cilantro (건두부 보쌈).

That said, I’m always on the lookout for something new. I’m a cheap date that way. And low-and-behold I’ve found a new Chinese place that might be more than a decent alternative.

Located in an old meat restaurant across the street from city hall (detailed directions below) what jumps out first and foremost about Shinmanwon Jamae (신만원자매) is the space. Note: the Chinese character for Jamae (자매) means “sister,” but the first character, which translates to Shinmanwon (신만원) isn’t used by Koreans.  So I hereby declare this place “Skewer Sister,” in English until someone comes up with the correct Chinese.

This was formerly a gogi house with a large front room that fits 15 tables and runs back to an open kitchen. There are also two rooms on the side that I didn’t get a good look at, but I’m sure would easily fit another 40 people. The point being, you’re never going to be denied a table at Skewer Sisters, which isn’t always the case at Gugugu where there are only three tables in the main room, and most of the side rooms are without the skewer pit.

The second advantage of Skewer Sister are electronic rotating skewers, which allows you to relax and enjoy your side dishes and beer while your meat cooks evenly. This might seem like a small detail at first, but it was actualy quite a revalation for me. My first thought was “this is the best lamb skewer I’ve ever eaten.” By the end I realized it wasn’t the quality of meat so much as method of cooking.

For now, the menu is entirely in Chinese save a single page of items they think Koreans will like translated into Korean. This is often the case at non-Korean ethnic restaurants. Tangsuyuk was one item, of course, but the pork with tofu wrap was not, so we went with a Kung Pao Pork (12,000), which was perfectly fine as a supplementary dish.

The lamb skewers are 20 for 20,000, which is pretty standard for these types of places (there’s actually another such restaurant at Gongaptap/main rotary that I wouldn’t bother with). The beers available were Harbin and Tsingtao. Gugugu typically has three or four brands, but I’ve seen as few as two. I wouldn’t be surprised if this place came up with a few more. Each beer was 4,500 won, and they have a full assortment of other Chinese alcohols.

I don’t want to declare Skewer Sister better than Gugugu. To nitpick, the side dishes and the beer selections at Gugugu are a touch better. Really, it depends on your mood and company. Gugugu is gritty. It’s where local Chinese and Chinese-Korean construction workers go to hang. The patrons sit in close quarters, drink, yell and smoke up a storm. If you want something more on the calm side, where you can sit and talk with a group of friends while your meat cooks evenly as the good lord intended, this is an exciting alternative just on the other side of the street.

Starting at Taewha Rotary going south toward Lotte Mart look for a new Cafe Pascucchi on your left (City Hall would be soon thereafter on your right). Make the left at the Cafe Pascucchi, and then the next immediate left down a side street.