Siraegi-guk (radish leaf soup) is a representative folk dish that Koreans made in poor times by collecting radish leaves which are abundant in the fields. It is a simple yet healthy food that reminds Koreans of the love and devotion of their mothers who did their best to feed their children. A franchise company, Bareun Changeop, took note of this nostalgic sentiment and created a franchise brand, Soonnam Siraegi, themed after the soup. It offers consumers healthy square meals just as their mothers would make for them.
Casting New Light on Siraegi as a Health Food
The history of Soonnam Siraegi goes back all the way to a dining table with siraegi-guk that was wholeheartedly cooked by a grandmother, Kim Soon. Later, her daughter-in-law, Jang Soon-nam, learned the recipe for the soup and cooked it for a local food contest in North Jeolla Province in 1996. She received a prize and decided to start her own franchise business.
The interior decoration and menu of Soonnam Siraegi evoke nostalgia for the warm heartedness and delicate hand of a mother. The design of the restaurants reinterprets the atmosphere of traditional Korean cuisine from a simple and refined modern viewpoint. The nature-friendly concept of Soonnam Siraegi is reflected in the environmentally-friendly wooden decoration. As a motif, the brand uses a simple table that a mother would set for her children in front of a buttumak (traditional wood-burning stove) in the 1960s and 1970s, so there is a stylized buttumak in each of the brand restaurants. In this way, a bowl of siraegi-guk in Sunnam Siraegi represents some 60 years in the life of a common Korean family.
Efforts to Popularize Siraegi-gukbap
Soonnam Siraegi sticks to four basic principles. Firstly, it serves healthy food and side-dishes without limit. This is intended as a demonstration of a mother’s love who always wants her children to have more. Each restaurant has a buttumak self-service bar where customers can get as much japchae (potato starch noodles stir-fried with assorted vegetables), dotorimuk (acorn jelly), namul (various vegetable dishes), and traditional snacks as they want. Secondly, Soonnam Siraegi only uses siraegi grown in the Korean soil in a natural way. The supply of siraegi for the restaurants comes from Yanggu in Gangwon Province, an area famous for its clean, natural environment.
The third principle is the cooking method. Sunnam Siraegi makes siraegi-guk with the juice of ground and pressed raw perilla seeds. The taste of raw perilla seeds adds richness and a soft mouthfeel to the soup while removing the unpleasant taste. Lastly, the restaurants offer a wide range of dishes so customers can stop by any time—whether it is for a meal or evening drinks. The dishes that can be used as an accompaniment to drinks include domasuyuk-jeongsik (a light yet savory meal with steamed pork served on a traditional wooden cutting board) and ssuktteok-tteokgalbi-jeongsik (a meal with grilled short ribs in marinade, which are wrapped in slices of mugwort rice cake; its biggest merit is the combination of crispy and chewy textures of patty and rice cake). Customers can also try noeulgureum makgeolli, which is unrefined rice wine with omija (a type of berry, schisandra chinensis) and bokbunja (black raspberry).
# Additional Information/ A Guide to Dishes of Soonnam Siraegi
* Samdae siraegi-guk (a three-generation radish leaf soup)
Samdae siraegi-guk is a healthy dish for modern people. The stock is made with eight ingredients including siraegi (which is known to contain vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers), deonjang (soy bean paste) and shiitake mushroom (known to have an anti-cancer effect), kelp, perilla seeds, and anchovies.
* Domasuyuk-jeongsik (a meal with steamed pork served on a traditional wooden cutting board)
Domasuyuk-jeongsik consists of steamed pork and siraegi-guk. The pork belly (samgyeopsal) is fermented in a deonjang-based sauce and then boiled. The dish originated in Jeju Island and is a perfect match to siraegi-guk.
* Ssuktteok-tteokgalbi-jeongsik (a meal with grilled marinated short rib patty wrapped in mugwort rice cake)
Ssuktteok-tteokgalbi-jeongsik is made by cutting siraegi and adding it to Korean pork and vegetables. The patty is very juicy.
* Ssiat-doenjang-siraegi-bap (cooked rice mixed with soybean paste, nuts, and seeds)
Ssiat-doenjang-siraegi-bap is made by mixing rice cooked with siraegi and low-salt deonjang to which sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other kinds of seeds and nuts have been added.
* Jeonssine-muk-bibimbap (Mr. Jeon’s special acorn jelly bibimbap)
Jeonssine-muk-bibimbap is a low-caloric diet food made by mixing rice with crispy yeolmu-kimchi (young radish kimchi) and dotorimuk (acorn jelly).
* Other dishes
Soonnam Siraegi’s menu also includes bomhyangssuk-guk (springtime fresh mugwort soup), dotori-haemulpajeon (acorn and seafood pancake), and traditional Korean alcoholic drinks such as homemade makgeolli, yujataengtaeng makgeolli (fresh citron makgeolli), and noeulgureum makgeolli.
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