Traditional Korean Fermented Food Made with Fresh Oysters from Pollution-free Mudflat
There is a small island called Ganwoldo in Cheonsu Bay of Seosan City, South Chungcheong Province. It is a mysterious place that only becomes an island during the high tide. When the sea retreats during the low tide, it reveals a path connecting the islet to the mainland. A famous Buddhist temple - Ganwolam (看月庵) - is nestled on Ganwoldo. “Ganwol” literally means “observing the moon.” The place gained this name in ancient times after the great Buddhist priest Muhak (he was an adviser to King Taejo, founder of the Joseon Dynasty 죂1392~1910죃) came there to practice asceticism. He would find enlightenment while watching the moonlight.
Ganwoldo is also associated with eori-gul-jeot - a traditional fermented dish made with salted oysters and hot pepper powder. The name of the dish is presumed to come from the Korean verb “eol-eol-ha-da” (to be spicy), which was modified into the prefix “eori-.” Eori-gul-jeot earned nationwide fame after priest Muhak, charmed by the flavorful, piquant taste of the salted oysters, offered them to King Taejo. Since then, the dish has been considered a local specialty of Seosan City.
Ganwoldo Oysters, Small in Size, Firm and Fine in Texture
The oysters inhabiting the coastal waters of Ganwoldo are two to three centimeters in size. This is smaller than oysters produced in other regions of Korea. However, the flesh of Ganwoldo oysters is very firm and thus chewy. This occurs because their growth process is the repeated cycle of submergence under water during the high tide and exposure to sunlight at the low tide. The oysters thereby grow slowly to absorb a sufficient amount of nourishment from the mudflat. The rapid currents of the area contribute to the development of strong flesh as the oysters have to fasten themselves to rocks in order not to be washed away by the currents.
In general, Ganwoldo oysters are caught between mid-November and April of the following year. The annual production is about 330 tons. Among the harvest, the oysters caught between December and February of the next year are considered to be the most delicious and healthy. They are used as the main ingredient for eori-gul-jeot.
Tasty and Not Too Salty
The secret of eori-gul-jeot is in light salting. Generally, in fermented fish dishes, the proportion of salt to other ingredients is 1/3/1 to 1/1. But when making Seosan eori-gul-jeot, they limit the amount of the salt to about 20 percent of the amount of the oysters. Even with this little salt, common oysters would become soft, but the Ganwoldo oysters remain firm and do not lose the original shape in the process of fermentation. This explains the unique scent and rich flavor of the dish.
What’s more, Seosan eori-gul-jeot boasts excellent nutritious value. Oysters contain a plenitude of nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids. So they can be helpful to replenish energy and prevent anemia. They are also a high-protein yet low-fat food, which is good for skincare and dieting.
Favorable Response in Overseas Markets - the US, Canada, and China
Seosan eori-gul-jeot was first exported to the US in 2003. It enjoys popularity with overseas consumers as can be seen in the recent expansion of exports to Canada, China, Australia, and Eastern Europe. At a series of promotional events Seosan City organized last October in New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles; the dish received a favorable response not only from overseas Koreans but also from the local population.
Mr. Im Jong-kun, head of the food industry team at Seosan City Hall, said, “Eori-gul-jeot is a high-class healthy food that represents the Seosan area. The Seosan City administration is planning to focus on developing overseas marketing strategies so that oyster foods join kimchi, pastes, and sauces in the ranks of traditional fermented foods representing Korea.”
Additional Information 1
Seosan Eoriguljeot Corporation
The Seosan Eoriguljeot Corporation was established through the joint investment of eori-gul-jeot producers in the region. This agricultural enterprise started its business in earnest in 2011 with the goal of making Seosan eori-gul-jeot a world-class dish. Several industrial, academic, and research organizations are also participating in the project and contribute by resolving technical problems, marketing the brand, pioneering overseas markets, and developing high-quality products with the potential to become hits.
Additional Information 2
Ganwoldo Eoriguljeot Corporation
Seommaeul Ganwoldo Eoriguljeot is an eori-gul-jeot producer native to Ganwoldo. Located in Seosan, South Chungcheong Province, it’s been in business for four generations. Mr. Yu Myung-gun, CEO of Ganwoldo Eoriguljeot, was the youngest head of a village in Korea when, in 1993, he became the chief at the age of 27. He applied for the trademark “Seommaeul” in 1995 and started the full-scale processing and distribution of the product. The company uses a traditional jar fermentation technique and carries out rigid quality and hygiene controls in order to produce top-quality products and lead the exports of eori-gul-jeot. Seosan City recognizes Mr. Yu’s efforts to produce top-notch local agri-products by using traditional knowhow and developing new technology. For his contribution, Mr. Yu was awarded the title of the first food master of Seosan.
How Seosan Eori-gul-jeot Is Produced
1. Harvesting oysters: Naturally grown oysters are harvested in the period between the first frost on the mudflat in early November and April of the following year. They are immediately cleaned in seawater and put in storage.
Sun-dried salt, from which the bittern has been removed through two years of storage, is added to the oysters. They are put in traditional jars and placed in a traditional-style fermentation room where they are fermented for about 15 days.
The fermented oysters are mixed with red pepper powder made from sun-dried chili peppers. The oysters from Ganwoldo have many fine hairs, so it is important to fill in all the gaps between the hairs when seasoning the dish. Through this process, Seosan eori-gul-jeot obtains its unique flavor.
Packaging the seasoned oysters takes place at modern, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certified facilities in accordance with thorough quality control standards.
Inquiries Seosan Eoriguljeot Corporation
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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