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. Continue reading

Jeju Local Food: Buckwheat Noodles in Pheasant Broth

The volcanic island of Jeju is full of life–around 1,800 species of plants and over 4,000 species of animals. As the winter rolls in and you feel the chill in the air, the small animals up on the Mount Halla descend to the foot of the mountain in search of food. For the villagers, the season is their golden opportunity to hunt the pheasants. The birds are another important source of nutrition for the people on island where rice farming is nearly impossible.

Thick buckwheat noodles in warm pheasant broth

Traditionally, the hunting is done in groups and usually with ferocious dogs ready to chase the birds that are unable to fly long distance. Pheasant hunting is called 꿩사농 (ggwong-sa-nong) in Jeju dialect. The captured bird is immediately frozen in snow to be cooked, dried, or even enjoyed as sashimi.

Continue reading

The Croaker Street in Mokpo, South Korea

Four hours of bus drive from Seoul left myself and my bicycle at a terminal in Mokpo, the biggest port city on southwest coast of Korean peninsula. My ferry ride to Jeju Island leaves after midnight and I got plenty of time to cruise around the city best known for its seafood in search for local delicacy.

There is a song that goes “Mokpo is the port”. As the lyrics say, Manho-dong, the neighbourhood near the Port of Mokpo, is a hub of fresh catch that never cease to release the smell of the deep blue sea. Restaurants serve all kinds of delicious local cuisine made with sea creatures harvested from the waters off Sinan, South Jeolla Province. Out of these unique regional seafood parades, fresh croaker sashimi is known as something that one should must give a try in their lifetime.

Croaker sashimi with a side of assorted “special cuts”

Continue reading

Noodles in Beef Broth: An Old Seoul Classic

Noodles in beef broth was one interesting variation of korean noodles dish that I came across in Seoul. In Daejeon, where the traditional kalguksu noodles is famous for, the broth is often seafood or vegetable-based. Dried anchovies or whole clams are boiled to release the savory flavour of the soup. However, in the old part of Seoul where seollengtang, or beef bone soup, has been widely consumed, it is no coincidence that here the noodles are served in same type of beef broth.

Continue reading

Charcoal-Grilled Chicken & Beer at Daejeon Tongdak

This is one place that I miss in Daejeon already. Chicken and beer is everyone’s favourite in Korea but from so many different varieties that I’ve tasted this place in Daejeon was surely one of a kind.

Charcoal-grilled chicken coughing up thick clouds of smoke

Daejeon Tongdak, literally meaning Daejeon chicken, operates in its own building in Yuseong district of Daejeon. They do have good old regular fried chicken and half-and-half with sweet and sour sauce. However, the signature of this place is charcoal-grilled chicken, with or without sauce. Continue reading

North Korean Dumplings Soup at Libuk Sonmandu

Ever since moving to Seoul, I gained the joy of visiting old restaurants in my neighbourhood. To be more specific, old hanok restaurants. Jongno, the heart of Seoul, is a forest of modern skyscrapers but among those, in the back alleys, are the old hanok (traditional Korean architecture) structures waiting to be discovered.

I was happy to find a North Korean restaurant right across from my work, and then I was even more thrilled to learn later on that the restaurant was built by renovating the owner’s personal hanok home. Park Hye-sook, the lady who owns the place, is from Pyeongyang, the capital city of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Continue reading

The Old Noodles Restaurant That Became Historic Site

Cold buckwheat noodles is now a popular dish in South Korea but many are aware that naengmyun is regional food originated from Pyeongyang, the capital city of North Korea. ㅡMy local friend who is in love with Pyeongyang-style naengmyun told me that I must try Wooraeok, one of the oldest restaurants and a pioneer responsible for popularizing such significant dish in Seoul.

Pyeongyang-style cold buckwheat noodle soup. The signature dish at Wooraeok.

Continue reading