Local Cuisine in Jeju: Largehead Hairtail Soup

Jeju is an island–the biggest island in South Korea. Largehead hairtail, or cutlass fish, is the one that comes to mind when Koreans are asked to name one seafood that represents the island. Jeju galchi is so famous that the name itself became a brand that usually followed by ridiculously high price. Nevertheless, tourists are willing to pay the dough to taste the fish freshly caught from the waters off the island’s eastern coast. What must be so special about it?

A bowl of galchi-guk (largehead hailtail soup)

The fish is long, slender, and radiant with bright silverly shine. No wonder it has given the name of eun-galchi, with “eun” meaning “silver”. Most Koreans are familiar with how they are cooked in Jeju–grilled or braised with spicy marinade are the two most common methods but there are many other ways to enjoy one of Jeju sea’s greatest offerings.

Big pieces of fish in the soup

Galchi-guk is pure representation of Jeju cooking: simple recipe that focuses on natural flavours of ingredients. The cooking time is short and very little amount of seasoning is used. To make the soup, fresh galchi is added to a pot of boiling water. Once the flesh turns white in colour as a sign of being cooked through, slices of kabocha squash and hand-torn napa cabbage leaves thrown in to bring out sweetness and savouriness.

Unlike 매운탕 (maeun-tang), literally translates to “spicy soup” which is a fish soup with spicy broth, galchi soup is not spicy at all. The milky broth is hearty and satisfying. The pieces of cutlass fish are large and thick. Just taking the flesh off the bones is a job itself but it’s worth the effort. The meat is so soft that it almost melts away in your mouth.

Arang Joeul Food Street in downtown Seogwipo, Jeju

A restaurant in downtown Seogwipo served a quality bowl of galchi-guk. The place has made its fame through media and it was quickly filled up soon after its opening hour. I was fortunate to start another day of biketrip with a breakfast quite unlike my usual.

삼보식당 Sambo Sikdang
319-8 Cheonji-dong, Seogwipo, Jeju-do
064-762-3620

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