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

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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.

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Traditional Korean Sausage (Sundae) in Baegam, Yong-in.

Korean sausage, or sundae (순대, pronounced soon-day), is still a thing to avoid for many of my foreigner or even Korean friends alike. For these people, the unique smell or the mushy texture of stuffing wrapped in gummy intestine is just not so appealing. It took years for my sister to finally learn to enjoy the Korean delicacy but my mother still cannot stand the smell. Whatever the case is, I do not blame those who cannot make themselves to like sundae. Everyone has different tastebuds. I am just glad that I can excuse myself to travel around the country to try so many different variations of one of my favourite Korean foods.

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Baegam-style sundae in Yong-in, Gyeonggi-do

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Old Noodles Place on Streets of Seongbuk, Seoul

There’s Pho in Vietnam. And Udon in Japan. In Korea, Kalguksu (칼국수, literally translated to “knife noodles”) is the simple, basic noodle soup  made with flour noodles and fish or vegetable broth. You can find this humble dish all over the country but Koreans know that a version from Myeongdong district in Seoul has made itself famous over time. What I didn’t realize was that locals from Seoul also go to the streets of Seongbuk district–the old town up north of the river–to seek noodles restaurants with history.

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Soybean Sprouts Soup at Nambu Market in Jeonju

Last October, I attended 2016 International Fermented Food Expo in Jeonju as an interpreter. The city in Jeolla-do province is a popular tourist destination and a mecca of traditional Korean cuisine. World-famous bibimbap, the rice dish with colourful toppings on top, is also originated from Jeonju. But the locals of the historic city may also select soybean sprouts soup (kongnamul gukbap, 콩나물국밥) as the signature dish of their hometown.

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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.

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Monkfish is too ugly to eat? Hella no!

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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.

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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