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

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”

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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.

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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.

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Winter Hiking in Jirisan and the Night at a Mountain Shelter

So far, this winter in Korea has been very generous to us. The weather was unusually warm this year with above average temperatures and only a few snowy days. Highly unlikely for this time of the year. But last weekend happened to be the days that the cold struck back and snow hit many parts of the country. So what better days than the coldest day of the year to hike the mountain 1,915m above sea level?

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Jirisan National Park(지리산 국립공원) is the first national park in South Korea which was established in 1967. It spans across the southern part of the peninsula from east to west over three different provinces. The highest peak is Cheonwang-bong(천왕봉) and it is almost 2,000m above the sea. The weather at such altitude is unpredictable especially in the middle of winter. For a leisure hiker like myself, a 3-day hiking trip in the winter mountains was definitely a challenge of lifetime. Continue reading

Gyeongju Hwangnam Bread and Cherry Blossoms

Last April, I had a privilege of attending the famous Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Run. This is a national event that attracts runners all over South Korea. Springtime is when many Koreans travel to different parts of the peninsula in search of the best sites for cherry blossom viewing. Personally, I do not prefer to just stand there and admire the flowers at a crowded tourist attraction. I would rather run under the rows of cherry trees that are in full blossom for the season.

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Cherry blossom walk at night

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