Regional food specialties are one of the reasons to travel. If you go to a place of prominence—let’s say to Gyeongju, Jeonju, or Jeju Island—your friends and family will expect snacks from that area to commemorate the journey. For business trips, you’ll often have to get snacks for your colleagues. Now if you do go to an area and don’t eat at the area’s famous restaurant, your friends and colleagues might think you were foolish for wasting the opportunity.
In this article, I’m going to highlight several lesser known culinary destinations and not already popular tourist destinations. My belief is that the best foods are off the main path.
Dishes Made with Eco-friendly Agriculture
The blood of Yangpyeong County is the Namhan River that flows heavily from the mountains and through the valleys. The city’s focus on eco-tourism and organic agriculture has helped build its city brand. Currently, it is one of the few small cities to experience positive population growth and it has a robust organic farming industry.
Yangpyeong County is also home to famous Chef Yim Ji-ho and his destination restaurant: Sandang. The food is a combination of health, art, tradition, and modern cuisine. Course meals consist of tea marinated pork with salted shrimp, delicately weaved fried baskets of potato with lotus, and chestnuts set aflame. Meals end here with bowls of skillfully fermented kimchi, soy-marinated crabs, and rice steamed in a stone bowl. The other famous restaurant in this area is Okcheon Naengmyeon. It specializes in fresh made buckwheat noodles with wanja (seasoned meat patties dipped in egg and fried). The savory wanja pairs perfectly with the refreshing, chilled buckwheat noodle soup.
Address: #138-12, Gangnam-ro, Gangha-myeon, Yangpyeong County, Gyeonggi Province Tel: +82-31-772-3959
Address: #884-12, Okcheon-ri, Okcheon-myeon, Yangpyeong County, Gyeonggi Province Tel: +82-31-773-3575
Cheonan City: Walnut Cakes
If you make it over to the central province of Chungcheong, you should stop in Cheonan City to pick up some walnut cakes for your journey. These cakes are made in a “rube-goldberg-esque” machine that bakes a bread in the shape of a walnut and then injects red bean paste and a walnut inside. The walnut symbolizes good health, good fortune, and intelligence; and this city is supposedly where the first walnut trees in Korea came from. The story goes that a court official brought a walnut tree seedling from Yuan, China. He planted the seedling on the Gwangdeoksa temple grounds and this tree grew and prospered, later fathering trees around the country. In the year 1934 a couple from Cheonan near Gwangdeok Mountain had too many walnuts. They had a smart idea to make a walnut cake. Now this cake has become a popular food to eat while traveling and you can find it at almost every car rest stop throughout the country.
Andong City: Andong-jjimdak (soy-sauce marinated chicken)
This regional dish from the southeastern city of Andong was invented in the 1970s to combat the rising popularity of fried chicken places. The latter were using up smaller chickens and there was a surplus of older, boiling chickens. That is Andong-jjimdak. Out of necessity, a new dish was created.
It is fabled that this dish got its start at the humble Andong City Traditional Market. Since everyone in the market claims to be the original, it is hard to know the true creator. The dish uses the region’s famous chicken. They boil it to make a simple chicken soup called dakhanmari, which translates to “one whole chicken.” The dish is like poule le pot, a simple chicken soup dish. Then they made a seasoned soy sauce reduction and used this to root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions. They also added chewy and glossy sweet potato noodles called dangmyeon. Slices of cucumber and green onion were put in for freshness and also some dried red chili pepper to add spice. The result is a flavor bomb that has sweet, savory, and spicy elements with many chunks of delectable chicken. At the market, each shop has its own recipe for the sauce and the Andong-style sauce has a slightly herbaceous quality that tastes like oriental herbs such as licorice, yellow root, and cinnamon. After all, food is medicine in Korea. This dish became so popular that now there are copycat franchises in every city and this dish has been taken overseas.
Andong Traditional Market
Address:# 184-4, Seobu-dong, Andong City, North Gyeongsang Province
Directions: It’s across the street from Andong Train Station.
Gwangmyeong City: Street Foods
Speaking of hometowns, this is my residence, and Gwangmyeong city hosts a number of great food streets and a very impressive traditional market near Gwangmyeong Sageori Station. The market is a glimpse of the past so you can get pumpkin porridge, fresh tofu, medicinal herbs, ugly donuts, Kalguksu (Korean noodle soup) and more. The prices seem to also be frozen in the past since a bowl of noodles costs just KRW3,000 and a whole fried chicken is just KRW5,000. On top of that, the city has Bam-il Village, which hosts a number of gourmet Korean eateries. These include Cheongdam Bon Galbi, which is famous for marinated beef barbecue and beef bone soup with an exceptional broth.
Gwangmyeong Traditional Market
At Gwangmyeong Sageori Station Line 7
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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