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

Jeju Local Food: Congee with Conch Meat

You can taste conches nearly anywhere along the coast of South Korea. Interestingly, depends on where you are the species of conches that are commonly available in the area may slightly differ. On the island of Jeju, the conches size of an egg with bumpy shells are known as 뿔소라 (bbul-sora), with “bbul” meaning “horns”. They are consumed raw or cooked in various ways to feed the natives who lacked protein from meat.

Congee with conch meat

Continue reading

Mudfish Noodles Soup in Icheon

Located at southeast of Seoul, Icheon, Gyeonggi-do is famous for their rice cultivation. When we drove up to visit a friend I thought it’d be a good opportunity to try one of the restaurants serving rice and side dishes. But instead, we ended up on a narrow country road in which our GPS led us. There stood a little shaggy place with a sign saying that they serve food. Not just any kind of food but their speciality: fish soup with noodles.

kakaotalk_photo_2017-02-08-23-34-23_9
Mudfish soup with noodles inside

Continue reading

Uiryeong’s Famous Rice Cake Wrapped in Herbal Leaf

The district of Uiryeong(의령) in South Gyeongsang province sounded unfamiliar at first. Must be just one of those small towns without much worth seeing, I thought. I quickly realized how wrong I was when I stepped into the marketplace of Uiryeong-gun.
Line-ups.
Where are all these people come from and what are they so anxiously waiting for?

kakaotalk_photo_2017-01-28-13-14-18_47
Bite-size rice cakes under the covers of leafy blankets

Thanks to my above-average height I was able to peek above the heads that are all facing the same direction. We are all looking towards the inside of a small room of a building at a corner of the market. Inside, it’s a group of women in work cloth and aprons sitting around a large table. They are busy working with a big mound of white batter. This is where they make the mangae-dduk(망개떡), or rice cake wrapped in mangae leaves. Continue reading

Spicy Steamed Monkfish in Masan

The city of Masan is located in southern coast of Gyeongsang province. It is about one-hour drive away from Busan. The former provincial capital is more famous for birthplace of steamed monkfish or agu-jjim(아구찜), a regional comfort food that became national favourite. Agu, or monkfish, had originally been treated as scrap fish and was often discarded when they were accidentally caught in the net. The main reason was that the fish looked inedible–it was just too ugly. So it has only been 40 years or so since agu was cooked and served on table. And it all began in no other place but Masan.

kakaotalk_photo_2017-01-27-23-46-47_66
Monkfish is too ugly to eat? Hella no!

Continue reading

Seafood Pancake in Dongnae District of Busan

If you are a beginner who just start to learn about Korean food then pajeon is probably one of the very first dishes that you get to try along with other popular dishes such as bulgogi and bibimbap.  Pajeon, or seafood pancake, is one of those classic Korean dishes that is enjoyed by so many. It’s simple, tasty, and has been around for many years.

kakaotalk_photo_2017-01-26-15-40-35_12
Dongnae-style pajeon served on brass plate

History tells that the famous Dongnae Pajeon, a regional style originated from Dongnae district of Busan, was presented on royal dining table back in Joseon Dynasty. It was first introduced to general public in 1930s when the neighbourhood of Dongnae was filled with taverns and bars serving government officials. The popular recipe then spread amongst merchants of Dongrae marketplace where the workers and peasants began to enjoy what was once only presented on royal tables. Continue reading