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Visit Jeonbuk Year 2012 Special Feature Food Lovers Tour of Jeollabuk-do

Food Lovers Tour of Jeollabuk-do

Located in the southwestern region of Korea, Jeollabuk-do Province ("Jeonbuk" for short) is lauded as the food capital of Korea and promises visitors a rich culinary experience and an authentic look at Korea's traditional culture and arts.

Jeonbuk's well-developed culinary culture owes largely to its fertile lands. Mountains bordering vast plains rise up in the east. To the west, wide fields hug the coastline, resulting in a unique topography that offers up an abundant harvest of grains, produce, and fish.

These raw ingredients and the locals' passion for cooking have evolved over the course of many centuries into the fresh and savory Jeonbuk cuisine we know and love today. Though each region of Jeonbuk has its own unique recipes and culinary secrets, the area's food culture is largely characterized by the heavy use of red pepper powder and salted fish. These preferences date back many years and are rooted in the people's efforts to prevent food from spoiling, before the invention of electricity.

Representative dishes from the Jeonbuk area include: Jeonju Bibimbap from Jeonju; kkotge-jang (seasoned blue crab) from Gunsan; minmul-jangeo-gui (grilled freshwater eel) from Gochang; deodeok-gui (grilled deodeok root) from Jinan; sanchae-jeongsik (wild vegetable table d'hôte) from Muju; bajirak-juk (short-necked clam porridge) from Buan; and chueo-tang (loach soup) from Namwon. Each of these special dishes reflect the character of the region in which it originated, offering you a peak into the lives of the people. Keep reading to learn more about the background and ingredients of each of these dishes. There's no better way to celebrate Visit Jeonbuk Year 2012 than with a huge helping of the tradition, culture, and local fare of Jeollabuk-do Province!




Minmul-jangeo-gui (grilled freshwater eel)

Minmul-jangeo-gui is made by removing the fat from a freshwater eel, seasoning the eel, and grilling it 7 or 8 times. After the eel turns a slight yellow, it's done and ready to eat! Make sure to dip it in the sauce provided (a red chili-pepper paste with vinegar) to bring out the meat's full flavor. Eels caught in the Pungcheon region in Gochang, known as Pungcheon-jangeos, are particularly famous for their exceptional quality and taste. This is because they are caught in the estuary where the river meets the sea. Pungcheon-jangeo is tasty and high in nutrients, so it is very popular as a healthy summer food to reenergize and increase stamina.


KKotgaejang-baekban (set meal with seasoned blue crab)

Kkotgaejang-baekban is a set meal of steamed rice, soup, and side dishes served with kkotgaejang (seasoned blue crab), a regional specialty of Gunsan. Extremely popular among visitors to the Gunsan area, the dish is made by marinating the crab (after it's been cleaned) in a mixture of soy sauce and spices and letting it sit for three days. The result is fresh and tender crab meat whose mild yet succulent taste makes it one of the most sough-after local delicacies.


Minmul-gogi-maeun-tang (spicy freshwater fish stew)

Gimje and Sunchang lay along the Geumgang and Seomjingang river basins, which provide the perfect natural habitat for freshwater fish, the main ingredient of minmul-gogi-maeuntang. Minmul-gogi-maeun-tang (spicy freshwater fish stew) is a pleasantly spicy dish made with freshwater fish, red pepper paste, and dried radish greens, green onions, dropwort, and other vegetable. It is a nutritious dish packed with protein, calcium, and phosphorus, not to mention flavor!


Chueo-tang (loach stew)

Chueo-tang, a soup made from ground loach fish, is a representative folk dish of Namwon that was once eaten by farmers in the countryside to recover from the heat and exhaustion of the autumn harvest. Today, this rich, spicy soup can be enjoyed all year round. Made by simmering braised and crushed loach fish with dried radish leaves and wild herbs, the dish is flavored with red pepper paste and ash seed powder, which gives it its extra spicy kick.

Muju & Jeongeup

Sanchae–jeongsik (wild vegetable table d'hôte)

Muju is home to some of the most famous mountains of Korea including Deogyusan (alt. 1614m) and Jeoksangsan (alt. 1034m). Thanks to the wild vegetables and mushrooms that grow along these mountains, one of the most celebrated (and easy to find) dishes in Muju is the sanchae-jeongsik, a full-course meal of rice, wild vegetables, and wild mushrooms. Each set meal features up to 20 different wild seasonal vegetables cooked with handmade fermented condiments—gochujang (red pepper paste), doenjang (soy bean paste), and ganjang (soy sauce). Since the exact ingredients can vary greatly depending on the season and availability, this nutritious and aromatic set meal is best enjoyed by those with a sense of adventure.

Eojuk (fish porridge)

Eojuk (fish porridge) is another famous Muju dish with a touch of palate-pleasing spice. The dish is made using fresh fish caught in the clear waters of the upper Geumgang River which are then braised, boned, and simmered with red pepper paste, rice, and vegetables (dropwort, green onions, chili, sesame leaves, etc.). Muju's eojuk is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals and has long been regarded as a health food, particularly enjoyed in the summer months.

Pyogobeoseot-deopbap (shiitake mushrooms with rice)

A popular dish of Jeongeup, pyogobeoseot-deopbap features the shiitake mushrooms grown on Naejangsan Mountain as its main ingredient. Though most of the shiitake mushrooms used today are cultivated and are not found growing naturally on the mountainside, they still maintain the fresh, clean taste of their wild predecessors. Aside from these mushrooms, what makes pyogobeoseot-deopbap so special is that it is simmered in a broth mixed with starch flour instead of being stir-fried. This particular cooking method preserves the unique scent of the shiitake mushrooms and minimizes the loss of the mushrooms' nutrients, which are said to be effective in helping prevent cancer and geriatric diseases.

Photo courtesy of the Jeollabuk-do
Provincial Government


Bajirak-juk (clam porridge)

Perfect for seafood lovers, bajirak-juk is a rice and mung bean porridge mixed with a generous helping of whole, short-necked clams. Though this type of dish can be found throughout Korea, the bajirak-juk in Buan is particularly famous thanks to its fresh clams and locally produced rice, which is recognized nationwide. Not only a delicious and filling meal, the porridge is said to be extremely healthy, owing to the detoxification properties of the clams.

Baekhap-juk (baekhap clam porridge)

Another popular dish of Buan using tasty treats from the sea is baekhap-juk, a mild but tasty porridge made of Baekhap clams, rice, and dried laver. Baekhap clams are one of the local specialties of Buan and were once considered of such great value that they were even presented to the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) as gifts. Baekhap clams contain over 30 different nutrients and are rich in iron, making them a go-to food for those suffering from anemia, hangovers, or fatigue.

Wanju & Imsil

Bungeo-jjim (braised crucian carp)

Bungeo-jjim is one of the eight delicacies of Wanju and is made using the crucian carp that inhabit the Gyeongcheon Reservoir. To make this enticing fish dish, the carp is braised with radish leaves, potatoes, white radish, and spicy seasoning. Bungeo-jjim is highly effective in strengthening the digestive system.

Daseulgi-tang (marsh snail stew)

Though a foreign concept to some, it's common knowledge among the residents of Imsil County that the marsh snails caught off the clean waters of the upper Seomjingang River make for some good eating! The snails are simmered with soybean paste and vegetables such as pumpkin and leeks to make daseulgi-tang, a "hangover stew" rich in protein and minerals. Pair daseulgi-tang soup with sujebi (hand pulled dough soup) for the perfect taste sensation!


Heugyeomso-jumulleok (broiled seasoned black goat)

The people of Jangsu, a mountainous area at the foothills of Deogyusan, make their living by raising cattle, pigs, and black goats so it comes as no surprise that one of the delicacies of this rugged region is heugyeomso-jumulleok (broiled seasoned black goat). Since the goats graze on the medicinal herbs of Jangansan Mountain (alt. 1237m), heugyeomso-jumulleok is also said to contain a variety of nutrients and is one of Korea's most unique health foods. However, preparing the dish is no easy feat! First, black goat bones are simmered for 3 to 4 hours to make a thick meat broth. The broth is then poured out onto seasoned goat meat and the concoction is set aside to marinate for an additional hour. Finally, the meat is broiled with leeks, green onions, mushrooms, and other vegetables before being served up to hungry diners.

Photo courtesy of Jeollabuk-do
Provincial Government


Jeonju Bibimbap (Jeonju-style bibimbap)

Jeonju bibimbap is a national icon that has become one of the most beloved traditional Korean dishes worldwide. This classic dish is made of steamed white rice topped with over 30 kinds of garnishes including freshly-cut vegetables, meat, gingko nuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, and walnuts that are stirred together with red pepper paste before eating. What sets Jeonju bibimbap apart from bibimbap served in other areas is the addition of yukhoe (sliced raw beef). A colorful and artfully arranged meal, Jeonju bibimbap is perhaps one of the most easily recognizable dishes in Korean cuisine.

Jeonju Han-jeongsik (Jeonju-style Korean table d'hôte)

Jeonju's delectable han-jeongsik (Korean table d'hôte) culture stems from the region's variety of quality local ingredients—fresh seafood from the western sea, abundant produce from the fertile fields, and an assortment of wild herbs grown in the highlands. Served with rice, soup, stew, and around 30 different side dishes, Jeonju's han-jeongsik gives you the perfect chance to sample a wide variety of traditional Korean foods all at one time.

Jeonju Kongnamul-gukbap (Jeonju-style bean sprout and rice soup)

Another dish packed with the region's characteristic spice, Jeonju kongnamul-gukbap is made using locally grown bean sprouts, which are nationally recognized for their quality and taste. The bean sprout and rice soup goes perfectly with moju, a traditional liquor of Jeonju made by brewing makgeolli with cinnamon, jujube, black sugar, and other medicinal herbs. Ironically enough, kongnamul-gukbap is also widely enjoyed as a hangover food thanks to the naturally occurring aspartic acid in the bean sprouts (said to help dissolve alcohol).


Deodeok-jeongsik (Deodeok root table d'hôte)

Another mountain herb promising restoration, deodeok roots are grown on the high plateaus of Jinan. The fresh mountain air and clean soil are said to give the roots their deep fragrance and taste. Deodeok-jeongsik is an unusual table d'hôte in which spicy seasoned deodeok root is served alongside rice, side dishes, and a special dish of grilled pork with mushrooms. Compared to many of the other dishes we've introduced here, this dish is a bit more difficult to find in other areas, with most restaurants specializing in deodeok-jeongsik clustered around the base of Maisan (alt. 685m), Jinan's representative mountain. Not just a culinary curiosity, deodeok contains plenty of saponin, a key nutrient in preventing cancer and geriatric diseases.

More Info

☞ Transportation
>> Jeollabuk-do Bus Terminal
>> Korea Railway

☞ Accommodations in Jeollabuk-do: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Jeollabuk-do Food Culture Homepage: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Jeollabuk-do Culture & Tourism Homepage: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

☞ Related Columns
>> Recommended Travel in Jeollabuk-do Province
>> Special Feature for Visit Jeonbuk Year 2012 - Festivals in Jeollabuk-do Province

☞ 1330 tt call center in Jeollabuk-do:
+82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Photos Courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization

Date 10/04/2012

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