April has been so far wonderful in Korea. There were some chilly days with rain and wind that it seemed like spring would only show itself for a little while and never actually come. Nevertheless, my friends back home tell me that it still feels like winter in Toronto and I am glad that here in Korea I would not need to face long, harsh days of cold. For the last few days the temperature has been rising and during the day it almost feels like summer is just around the corner.
It was a lovely Saturday with just a few clouds and cool breeze in the air when I found myself in my friend’s car driving down the country road. We were coming back from visiting his mother’s grave – the deceased has passed away just a few months ago. My friend led me to a restaurant where we would have lunch which turned out to be a place where he used to come with his mother when he was younger. The restaurant is located in Byeongcheon – a town so famous for its distinctive style of soondae (Korean sausage) that the entire town is filled with restaurants claiming that they are the “original” creators of Byeongcheon soondae.
Apparently, this soondae town was built over a traditional marketplace – and not just any marketplace – a very famous historical site called Aunae Jangteo (아우내장터). Aunae is the market where 3.1 Independence Movement was held in 1919 after the Japanese forcibly absorbed the Korean government. This is the place where many heroic patriots were slaughtered under the gunpoints of Japanese soldiers as they screamed out “daehan-dokrip-mansae” (hooray for Korea’s independence).
I looked up to find out why the soondae developed in this part of Korea became so popular so quickly. Unlike the other regions, here in Byeongcheon they make soondae with very little or no dangmyeon (glass noodle) and instead they fill in the beef or pork intestines with more seonji (ox blood) and vegetables. The result is plain yet more hearty and juicy soondae without the distinctive smell that most soondae have.
The handy-dandy online encyclopedia explained that it was about 40 years ago when the soondae streets began to form within Byeongcheon’s marketplace. Most of the soondae places here have been in business for decades and some have been managed by three different generations.
It was just the two of us but we ordered a lot. We each had our own bowl of soondae soup along with the big plate of assorted soondae. This is a place where we would not be able to come as often so might as well try everything once we are here. Of course, a bottle of regional makgeolli is something that should not be missed with a table full of delicious soondae dishes.