For mainland Koreans, yukgaejang is a hot, spicy beef stew. The brownish-red broth is the result of generous amount of chili powder. The slices of beef, leeks, and strands of gosari, the baby bracken fern, make up the popular hangover soup.
A big surprise for tourists from mainland: Yukgaejang in Jeju is anything but the traditional, ubiquitous red-coloured soup. The broth is made with pork bones, not beef. Lots of gosari is added and boiled for a long time until they break apart. Buckwheat flour thickens up the soup and gives it a nutty flavour. The soup is not spicy nor pungent but seems a bit bland. Just like most local foods in Jeju.
The island’s damp weather and rocky landscape makes a perfect garden for brackens. Although some types are known to be toxic (it impedes the absorption of vitamin B), the not-so-harmful young ferns are collected and dried to be consumed as a popular side dish in Korea. Korea may be the only country in the world that uses bracken ferns as an ingredient for daily meals.
The wild green has unique scent to it, in which lingers in your mouth after the first spoonful of thick, brown stew. It is something new. Something I have never tasted before. Add the half bowl of rice to the soup and savour it with the side kimchi. Not the usual kimchi as well. The seasoning is light. The colour of the radish blocks are not so bloody red as they normally are on the mainland. Crispiness of kimchi is a good match to thickness of the soup.
Ujin is a 24hr restaurant conveniently located in the city of Jeju. Regardless of how late or early your flight/ferry is, you can always stop by to enjoy a bowl of hearty Jeju yukgaejang.
Ujin Haejangguk 우진해장국
831 Samdoi-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do