The Village of Handmade Tofu in Gangneung

Lunch on our second day in Gangneung was an unexpected one. Unlike other coastal cities, Gangneung’s signature dish is not of a seafood but the simple, handmade tofu. There’s a small village on the beach that is dedicated to making this special tofu and it is known as Chodang Tofu Village. Just a brief research pointed us to head towards this destination so indeed the lunch menu was an easy choice. But I had doubts even as we were on our way. After all, tofu is just tofu. How special can it get?

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No sauce needed – looks bland but good as it is!

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The ocean, the pine trees, and the tofu. I’m done.

The tofu village greeted us with rows of tall, skinny pine trees looking much like a scene from an oriental painting. The story behind tofu village is related to father of Heo Gyun, a Gangneung-born scholar and politician of Chosun Dynasty who is famous for being the author of the novel Honggildongjeon (The Story of Hong Gildong).

Heo Yeop, the father of Heo Gyun, was also a scholar and a politician who was sent to Gangneung when he was demoted during shift of political power. It is told that during this time, Heo Yeop used water from local well to make tofu which became popular by word of mouth. From the 70’s, number of restaurants began to follow his traditional method to make handmade tofu which earned the entire village its national fame as tofu town.

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Spicy soft tofu with clams
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Handmade firm tofu with buckwheat dongdongju

There are only three things on the menu: firm tofu, soft tofu, and spicy soft tofu hot pot with clams. The soft lumps of handmade tofu was accompanied by soy sauce dip but wasn’t necessary. The tofu was naturally seasoned with saltwater and the subtle taste of the sea was perfect without any sauce. Still, I tried various ways using side dishes. I wrapped the firm tofu with kimchi or sesame leaf. I also dipped the tofu in salty soybean paste soup.

After all, tofu was just tofu but this one was REAL tofu. Unlike prepackaged, manufactured products that we are now unfortunately family of, the tofu at Gangneung Chodang Village looked, tasted, and felt like homemade. The enjoyed the distinctive flavour soybean that is difficult to taste from commercialized tofu. I really missed my vegan friends as I was having probably the most healthy meal I will have this week. I hope to one day bring them to Gangneung to have them try the delicious meal at one of the most beautiful beach towns in Korea.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “The Village of Handmade Tofu in Gangneung

  1. Marcus January 5, 2017 / 7:28 AM

    I live in Gangneung and when I lived near the village I had tofu about once a week or more. Now I live on the opposite side of the city and rarely get up that way because I have no car. Also, my favourite restaurant in the village did extensive remodelling to accomodate bus tourists and now it looks like a highway rest area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yMoon January 5, 2017 / 8:32 PM

      Such a shame when your favourite place becomes a commercialized foodcourt. What was the name of the place, if I may ask? I went to 초당할머니순두부.

      Like

      • Marcus January 6, 2017 / 8:25 AM

        It’s very close to 할머니순두부. 동화가든. I really liked the side dishes and the 된장찌개 there. There were large rooms for groups and smaller rooms for families, etc. It was cosy, especially because the interior was somewhat old-fashioned. Service was personal as well. The servers recognised us and we often had a short chat when we arrived or paid. The last time I was there I felt like I had to leave as soon as possible to make room for another tour bus group. I haven’t found a replacement yet. The side dishes at 할머니 are a bit TOO traditional for my tastes.

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