Photo: Ganjang-gejang (a crab dish marinated in soy sauce)
For each of Korea’s four distinct seasons, a different set of foods takes center stage in Korea’s culinary scene. Autumn marks the season of the nation’s three most popular kinds of seafood: blue crabs, jumbo shrimp (prawns), and gizzard shad. Plump blue crabs are cooked in savory soup or steamed, while gizzard shads are enjoyed either raw as sashimi or grilled. Succulent and fleshy prawns are also great eaten raw or grilled, and the most common method for eating prawns in Korea is to peel them and dip them in a vinegar and red chili-pepper sauce.
On land, the best fall seasonal foods include flavorful and nutritious pine mushrooms (or ‘songi’ in Korean) and sweet persimmon. Pine mushrooms come in stewed, grilled or steamed dishes. They are great with beef or abalone. Persimmons are particularly sweet in the fall and are widely enjoyed as a dessert item. The dried version, called gotgam, is dried under the autumn sun and in the wind; it has a different texture from the fresh, undried version.
Foods are best in terms of taste and nutritional value when they are eaten in season. Read on to see more what’s in for this fall!
Photo: Ganjang-gejang (marinated blue crab in soy sauce) (left) /
Yangnyeom-gejang (marinated blue crab in pepper paste) (right)
Blue crabs are in season during spring and autumn. The abundant, creamy roe of the pre-spawning female crabs are best enjoyed in the spring, while the flaky, plump meat of the male crabs is a delicacy best enjoyed in autumn. Crabs are prepared in a variety of ways and can be made into spicy crab soup with vegetables and other seafood, or it can also be steamed, shelled, and eaten plain. Another delicacy is gejang, or raw crab marinated in soy sauce or red chili-pepper paste sauce. Prepared in any form, freshly-caught crabs are a true seafood lover’s delight.
Not only are blue crabs tasty, but they are also packed with nutrients. The crab’s shell contains calcium and chitin and the meat has an abundance of essential amino acids and vitamins. In Korea, blue crabs are known to be effective in the prevention of geriatric diseases and aid in alcohol detoxification.
Photo: Grilled jumbo prawns (left) / Deep-fried jumbo prawns (right)
Jumbo prawns are a mouthwatering fall specialty even to those who do not generally eat seafood. Those caught at sea are not easy to find outside local fishing areas, as these short-tempered crustaceans die quickly after they’re caught. Compared to farmed prawns, jumbo prawns caught at sea have longer antennas, thicker shells, and chewier meat.
You can eat them boiled, steamed, or fried, but for a fuller flavor, heat a large pot, sprinkle it with coarse sea salt, and cook the live prawns for about 10 minutes until they turn crimson. Prawns are savory therefore can be eaten as is without any sauce. If you prefer more seasoning, try dipping the prawns in a mixture of red chili-pepper paste and vinegar.
Photo: Gizzard shad sashimi (left) / Grilled gizzard shad (right)
In the fall, gizzard shads store up plenty of nutrients for the long, cold winter; meaning they are packed with healthy oils and plenty of flavor. The best months to eat these delicious fish are between late September and mid November. Larger gizzard shads are higher in fat, so make sure to pick a fish over 15cm to enjoy the fish’s true taste.
There are many ways to cook and eat gizzard shads. Slices of raw gizzard shads taste best when wrapped in lettuce and seasoned with chili and garlic sauce. The spicy taste of a seasoned gizzard shad platter mixed with various vegetables and condiments is also a local favorite. However, the best way to cook gizzard shad is to take a whole fish, salt it lightly, and put it on the grill. There’s no need to debone it, so it is ready to be eaten as soon as it is done.
Photo: Wild pine mushroom (left) / Grilled pine mushroom (right)
Pine mushrooms only thrive on live pine trees and are harvested in autumn. Pine mushrooms are referred to as diamonds in the forest for their high nutritional value and efficacy. The mushroom is great for preventing geriatric diseases and protecting the stomach. More than anything, it is known for its cancer prevention qualities.
Pine mushrooms are expensive as they cannot be grown commercially, but must be collected in their natural environment. Despite the high price tag, it is in great demand thanks to its delicate flavor and nutritional value. The mushroom can be sliced and grilled over a light fire, but it is more commonly cooked with other ingredients. When it is cooked along foods like abalone or beef, it is fortified with minerals and proteins, turning into a great stamina health food.
Photo: Persimmon tree (left) / Persimmon dessert (right)
Persimmon is a major autumn fruit in Korea. Depending on the level of processing, it is called by different names: hongsi refers to persimmon ripe to a color of yellow-orange or dark red-orange with no astringent taste; gotgam is persimmon peeled and dried under the sun and the wind; and bansi is seedless persimmon. Persimmon is high in vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals. The fruit is particularly good for the skin and for getting over a hangover. The fruit is also highly effective for stopping diarrhea-related symptoms, so most advise against consuming persimmons in large quantities to prevent blockage.
Freshly picked persimmon can have an astringent flavor. But over time, it will ripe and becomes sweet, and its color will transition to a deep orange. This fruit is mostly eaten as it is without cooking. Hongsi can be frozen and eaten in shaved form or like an ice-cream. It is also enjoyed as a jam or in a salad.
* This column was last updated in July 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated in August 5, 2015>