Musings: My Eats in Jeju (2013) 제주도 식신로드 2013

PS- Please note I've made a sequel post for another visit in 2015. Click here to find out even more eating and sightseeing recommendations!

Oops, this is a long overdue post on my not-so-recent family trip to Jeju Island back in the fall of last year.

Of all the places in Korea, aside from Seoul, I've probably visited Jeju Island the most, even more so than Busan, Daegu, etc, and each time I've gone I've fallen more in love with the place.

I've learned the mistake visitors make when they go to Jeju Island is that they tend to only stay in one of the two major cities (Jeju City or Seogwipo) and few venture out to explore outside these two cities or the tourist-laden caves, erotic theme parks, and such.

It's fascinating that this island, with a population of less than 600,000, can be so Korean and yet so different. In many ways it's the antithesis of Seoul life as life in Jeju  is at a leisurely pace where life's seasons are appreciated there. The real charm and beauty of Jeju Island is undoubtedly found off the beaten paths of Jeju where the infamously independent but proud locals live and of course in the unique, sometimes quite peculiar, foods of Jeju.

But blessed with plenty of sun (albeit quite windy) and, of course, abundant fresh seafood from its seas, Jeju Island is quite a place for Korean food lovers to get a taste of something familiar and different at the same time.

This most recent visit to Jeju Island was my 5th or 6th but it was all the more special as it was the first time I went with members of my family. My dad and aunt were visiting in Seoul and decided we should take a few days to go on holiday to Jeju together with my grandmother. We rented a car and just went around the entire island seeing, sleeping, and eating what we wanted, whenever we wanted.Family time is always good times but when it's in a natural and beautiful setting like Jeju and then you throw in some excellent food, you have yourself quite the memorable time. I'll get around to posting up a comprehensive album soon on my private FB but for this blog, here's just a short roundup of some of the eats we had during our trip.

Ah, Jeju. How I love thee.



We got in to Jeju Airport late in the afternoon on our first day and dropped by the local traditional market in Jeju city to look around and came across some Hwanggeum Hywang (황금향). These little citrus fruits are an interesting hybrid that's like an interesting mix of tangerine, lemon, orange, and something else. It's not as tart with a mellow and bright sweet undertones but most interesting is the unique, zesty and fragrant scent it possesses (from which it gets its name which literally means, "gold scent"). It's a seasonal fruit and isn't offered year-round but quite the delicious treat. We liked the fruit so much we picked up a big box of it to eat while traveling round the island over the next few days. That big box didn't last long, however, and on our last day, before we headed to the airport, we stopped by the same market to pick up another box to bring back to the mainland!

If you're in Jeju and you come across it, definitely give it a try and sample something a little different than your usual tangerines and oranges!

Hwang Geum Hyang (황금향)

For the first day's dinner, my dad took us to a place called Udo Dong Gool (Udo Cave or 우도 동굴) which was a place he visited last time he was in Jeju with his local friend. You can almost look in any direction when you're in Jeju and seemingly spot a hwe (sashimi) place but I was very impressed by Udo Dong Gool (which I'll have to do a full review in the future). For 20,000 won per person, the courses and spread were unbelievable, tasty, and fresh. Starting things off with warm abalone porridge, seemingly everything from the sea was offered before us on the table from steamed octopus to braised fish eggs, boiled shrimp, cooked crab, and more.

Beginning course at Udo Dong Gool

This was all before the fresh sashimi arrived on the table, with loads of lettuce and fixings for wraps, and to wrap the dinner up, plates of fried shrimp, grilled abalone, grilled fish, and a big pot of spicy seafood stew (maeuntang or 매운탕) to bring things to a close.

Fresh sashimi

Grilled abalone

Tempura

Grilled fish

Maeuntang (매운탕)

I'm glossing over the details and other pictures for the full review later but not only was it truly belly busting but really fresh and delicious too. Definitely ranks in one of the top three sashimi courses I've had in Korea.

Udo Donggul Hwet Jib (우도동굴 횟집)
제주특별자치도 제주시 노형동 1068-8
1068-8, Nohyeong-dong, Jeju City
064-746-8844

From that first day we began our trip by going forth clockwise around the island from Jeju City. On our second day, after climbing Sungsanilchoolbong (amid a sea of Chinese tourists) we stopped by a place called Go Deung Uh Ssam Bap (고등어 쌈밥), which simply means mackerel ssambap. It was a place that appeared on the popular KBS variety show, "1 Night 2 Days" a few years ago and was already quite well known.

The good thing about going to a place like this with a group of people is that you can try out quite a few dishes and we wasted no time ordering the mackerel ssam bap (고등어 쌈밥), roasted tile fish (옥돔 구이), haemul ddok baegi (해물 뚝배기) and a bottle of Udo peanut makgeolli (우도 땅콩 막걸리).

The island of Udo nearby is famous for growing peanuts and this peanut makgeolli, because of the makgeolli's live cultures, is something you can apparently get only in this part of Korea. While I'm a big fan of makgeolli, I wasn't too impressed by the peanut makgeolli though, which seemed to have more of an artificial peanut taste than the nutty taste I was expecting. I still prefer it over the too-sweet citrus varieties in Jeju, however.

Udo's very own peanut makgeolli (우도 땅콩 막걸리)

Side dishes were fresh and plenty and made use of the local vegetables like radish, radish stems, eggplants and such.

Side dishes

The mackerel for the ssambap comes braised with big ol' whole leaves of kimchi, seasoning and other veggies atop the fish. The seasoning provides a spicy-sweet kick while the fermented kimchi gives it its savory kick. It's not as good as my favorite braised mackerel in Jeju (coming up later down in this post) but the mackerel here was still very delicious and my favorite of what we ordered here.

Galchi Jorim (갈치조림)

The haemul ddookbaegi doesn't skimp out on the seafood with abalone, crab, scallops, shrimps and more. Instead of a fiery and garlicky flavor to the broth, it's milder than it looks which is probably because of the bit of dwenjang (fermented bean paste) found within. Many seafood stews in Korea have quite the spice factor in it but this was a much more mellow stew. The variety in it allows you and your party to each take his or her favorite seafood too!

Haemul Ddookbaegi (해물뚝배기)

I don't know if I've ever had tile fish before as I've certainly never heard of its English or Korean name ('okdom" or 옥돔). The fish is simply cut flat, grilled with salt and a touch of lemon and presented whole. Maneuvering around the large bones is always a nuisance with fish but there was plenty of flaky, white meat with each bite having a perfectly golden and ever-so-crispy crust on the outside. My grandmother was especially a big fan of this dish.

Grilled Okdom (옥돔구이)

Godeungeo Ssambap (고등어쌈밥)
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 성산읍 고성리 232
232, Goseong-ri, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Korea
064-783-4944

Moving on from this meal, by the time we reached the southwest corner of Jeju, where we passed by a tiny town called Moseulpo (모슬포). We dropped by a place called Young Hae Shikdang (영해식당) for lunch to try out two Jeju specialities- mohm gook (몸국 - 5,500 won) and mil nengmyeon (밀냉면 - 5,000 won).

Young Hae Shikdang is a really old-school joint and looks like you stepped back in time some 30-40 years ago. Even my aunt and dad were marveling at the aluminum serving trays (complete with old school rose patterns) and bowls, which they said they hadn't seen in decades.

Mil nengmyeon itself isn't actually strictly native to Jeju Island as it's famously found in Busan too. It's a cold noodle with a pork-based broth that's akin to nengmyeon but comes with a bit of spicy sauce on top the noodles and, unlike nengmyeon, is a 100% flour-based white noodle; so instead of chewy noodles like nengmyeon, you get noodles with a simple bite.

The mil nengmyeon in Jeju is slightly different from Busan with a less savory broth and using only flour in their noodles instead of potatoes or sweet potatoes like Busan does. You can also order boiled pork on the side (soo yook). With just a few slivers of cucumbers, pear, slices of boiled pork, and half a boiled egg on top, this is quite the simple noodle dish and is to be enjoyed after mixing.

Jeju style mil nengmyeon (밀냉면)

While I'm a big fan of nengmyeon, mil nengmyeon, like mil myeon which I had a few times before in Busan, is definitely not my preference. There's something about the pork-based broth that comes off as a less "cleaner" broth than the beef broth of traditional nengmyeon. I've found that the chewing of the slightly elastic buckwheat noodles from regular nengmyeon is what gives it a slightly nutty taste and brings out the flavors of the broth through the process. But the flour noodles in mil nengmeyon gave little in taste or texture. All in all, it tasted very "bunshik"style.

Mil nengmyeon after mixing

But the real reason for this particular visit to Young Hae Shikdang was to try a special Jeju soup called Mohm Gook (몸국). This uniquely Jeju soup is made from a sea plant called Moh Ja Ban (모자반) which is apparently called gulfweed in English.

According to food historians, due to Jeju Island's heavy winds and harsh soil, crops were easily ruined and the Jeju folks relied on moh jah ban from the sea to provide important sustenance in their diet. To provide protein and important animal fat, pork was used to help flavor the gulfweed soup and because meat in soup can be shared with more people.

Thus comes this very interesting dish that's not found elsewhere in Korea. Pork spine meat is the meat that's most commonly used but even pork intestine can be used to help make the soup. Though the light greenish color reminded me of mee yeok gook (seaweed soup), I certainly had no idea what to expect with my first mohm gook experience. 

Mohm Gook (몸국)

The soup was brimming with the gulfweed while flecks of the boiled meat and chopped peppers were found within. But for all the wonder this unfamiliar soup brought, I wasn't the biggest fan of the soup's taste. Seafood can sometimes come off as fishy while meats like pork give a gamy smell and in mohm gook's case I found the soup was both fishy and gamy which I didn't know was even possible...

"Strong" is the adjective often used to describe many aspects about Jeju... strong personalities, strong winds, strong characters... in mohm gook's case, "strong" is probably how I'd describe its underlying taste. Despite not even being a spicy soup it was a bit overwhelming in its distinct smell and taste. So even though it didn't win me over on my first try, I'm curious to give it a go on another future taste test elsewhere on the island to see if it's an acquired taste (like pho was for me so many decades ago).

Plenty of gulfweed and specks of pork and peppers

Perhaps I still have some getting used to the more traditional Jeju native cuisine? Despite both dishes not being exactly on the top of my lists in Jeju, the eating continued!

Yeonghae Shikdang (영해식당)
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 대정읍 하모리 923
923-1, Hamo-ri, Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Korea
064-794-2262

While hiking through one of the olle trails, we came across a table selling dragonfruit slices. It's been interesting to spot these non-Korean fruits in various markets the past year and being reminded of my various trips in SE Asia, we couldn't refuse to partake in some in Jeju, especially in the heat!

Lady selling dragonfruit on an olle trail

Despite often being knocked as "bland", I like the mellow and subtle sweetness of dragonfruit while the little black seeds are always fun to chew on. The juicy fruit was a perfect little refresher on the trail.

Dragonfruit slice (용과)

Jeju is famous for its black pork and after an afternoon of hiking, we stopped at Jungnang Galbi (정낭갈비) in Hwachoon to dig into some fresh Jeju black pork ribs and ogyubsal (belly).

For a mere 17,000 won, you get over 400 grams of pork rib and meat which you can get either plain or marinated.

Jeju pork rib (제주산 흑돼지갈비)

The usual side dishes, wraps and fixings are all included.

The spread at Jungnang Galbi

The big thick meat slab takes a while to cook and it's almost torturous to be in front of it when you're starved but, as always, grilled Jeju Pork is always worth the wait with its juicy, clean, and succulent taste.

Rib meat grilling up

Whether dipped in the accompanying fermented seafood sauce (ala Jeju style), dipped in simple sesame oil and salt, or eaten as a wrap, any of the choices are delicious for the pig here and we enjoyed each morsel.

Mmm....

We also put in an order or two for the ogyubsal (300g for 20,000 won or 100g for 6,660 won). Eating it with some grilled garlic slices or grilled kimchi helps cut down on that extra fatty layer. I'm not a big fan of ogyubsal in general but my dad and grandmother enjoyed it over the pork ribs while my aunt and I preferred the latter.

Nevertheless, all the pork at Jungnang Galbi was fresh and at some very good prices.

Jeju Black Pig Ogyubsal (흑돼지 오겹살)

Hwasun Jungnang Galbi (화순 정난갈비)
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 안덕면 화순리 243-3
243-3, Hwasun-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Korea
064-794-8954

On our final day in Jeju, we began our first meal with some haemul jjim (해물찜). I forgot the name of the place but it was a chain and much geared towards tourists. The seafood was fresh and plenty from giant razor shell to crab to squid, abalone, and more.

Haemul Jjim (해물찜)

The abalone was a little small compared to the ones I had before. It was an average meal but nothing I'd say one has to go out of the way for.

Jeju's famous abalone (전복)

After circling around the entire island and coming back to Jeju City, for our final meal I took my family to the famous Yuri Neh (유리네). An institution of Jeju and seemingly visited by every Korean celebrity, politician, and important person there is, Yuri Neh is one of my favorite restaurants of Jeju for its top-notch dishes. It is a bit pricey but I've never had a bad meal experience here and this most recent trip was no exception.

For our meal, we placed an order for the okdom gui (옥돔구이 or grilled tile fish- 24,000 won for the small and 29,000 won for the large), jeonbok mool hweh (전복물회 or chilled abalone soup - 13,000 won), the sunggye meeyeokgook (성게미역국 or sea urchin seaweed soup - 9,000 won) and, of course, the infamous galchi jorim (갈치조림 or braised hairtail fish - 30,000 for small, 45,000 for medium and 60,000 for large).

The grilled okdom comes with a beautiful golden, crispy exterior which was much more crispier than the one I had a few days prior to it. But underneath the crackling crust were flaky mounds of beautiful white fish lightly kissed with some sea salt as its only seasoning. Yuri Neh knows how to let its fresh fish do all the talking.

Grilled Okdom (옥돔구이 )

Mool Hweh is most famous in regions like Pohang but there's no reason Jeju can't pull it off with its abundant and fresh seafood. The chilled, tangy, savory and slightly sweet soup is a burst of flavors with the toasted seaweed, chopped chives, carrots and cucumbers all offering a different texture and taste to really make it a party in your mouth.

The fresh shucked and sliced abalone couldn't pair any better with the broth its in as its sweet and creamy flesh is given a nice coat of flavors to make you want to keep chewing and sipping the broth.

Chilled abalone soup (전복물회)


Miyeokgook, or seaweed soup, is a common soup in Korean cuisine but I had never known it could be made with sea urchin in it. While the soup at Yuri Neh was tasty by itself, the bits of sea urchin meat provided nice occasional surprises and came together quite beautifully. Another dish done well. 

Sea Urchin Seaweed Soup (멍게미역국)

Yuri Neh is probably most famous for its braised hairtail fish and, despite it being my third or fourth time trying this dish here, it didn't disappoint again. My picture doesn't do it justice and I wish I took another picture showing the individual fish cuts that are buried under the spicy sweet seasoning but Yuri Neh really knows how to do this dish right.

A lot of fish places tend to go heavy on the seasonings for their braised dishes, making it extra strong, spicy, and/or sweet which ends up masking the taste of the fish meat on its own. But Yuri Neh's seasoning sauce is really something special that's plenty flavorful without being overpowering and letting the fresh hairtail fish shine on its own.

Even my seasoned and experienced cooking grandmother laid down plenty of praise about this dish, saying they really knew how to do this dish justice. As galchi (hairtail) is one of the more popular foods of Jeju you may as well get it from the best, and I have yet to find elsewhere that takes that title from Yuri Neh.

Galchi Jorim (갈치조림)

Yurineh (유리네)
제주특별자치도 제주시 연동 427-1
427-1, Yeon-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea
064-748-0890

Whew. Despite all the good eats we had, I can reassure you we did plenty more aside from just eating. I can't help but note, once again, just how much good food cements good times with good people.

Even though I've been to Jeju Island a number of times already, it was all the more special because it was with members of my family for the first time and it provided a good time of rest and healing for all of us.

Me, pops, grandmom and auntie :)


The trip also reminded me just how much I love this little island and what I would do to get a vacation home here one day...

Now if only I can get used to the mohm gook and mil nengmyeon there... :P

Jeju! Can't wait to visit and eat through you again soon!

Comments

  1. Hi....nice review on the foods....i might try it out on my next trip to jeju.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, foods looks very tasty. Where is udo dong gool restaurant located.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you! I definitely recommend Udo Dong Gool.

    The English address is
    425-12, Ido 2-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea.
    And their number is 064-756-1769 or 010-3693-5209.

    It's located close to Udo neighborhood park. Here's a link for a Naver map: http://map.naver.com/local/siteview.nhn?code=32032165

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Stewart,

    I was just visiting your blog yesterday and today you have already shared on the address and Naver Map link for Udo Dong Gool.
    Sincerely appreciate it! Will be planning a visit to Jeju this coming Mid June, and perhaps find some Dol hareubang to rub the nose *grinz*

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Frederick

    ReplyDelete
  5. No problem!

    In Mid-June it will be pretty hot so bring plenty of summer-appropriate clothes. It's also the beginning of peak season so expect a lot of people around the tourist spots. If you can, I highly, highly recommend renting a car which is not only inexpensive but will make your stay in Jeju that much better. They accept international driver's licenses which, I'm not sure where you're from, but in the States is very quick and easy to obtain.

    Food is great in Jeju, especially the seafood and pork. Citrus fruits are abundant too. As for the Dol hareubang, they're all over the island so I'm sure you'll receive plenty of good fortune from all the noses you'll rub! Hope you enjoy your time there!

    ReplyDelete
  6. laughs!! so we heard about the weather too!!! was in seoul/busan previously during End-March period and it was so awesomely cold!! Didn't have a choice this time and had to go during Mid-June. Oh well, nothing beats Singapore's weather - it's burning hot here. Will be in Seoul till End-June and is now planning perhaps a short 2-3 days trip to Jeju after seeing your posts on the food, and yes, we heard about the sweet citrus and black pork meat as well!!

    Shall do more research on travelling and staying in Jeju! Cheers Stewart!

    ~Frederick

    ReplyDelete
  7. hi, do you have any idea if Udo Dong Gool opens for lunch? ive tried to google them but theres very little information about this restaurant in english. the way youve described the meal sure sounds delicious!!! i have just got to visit this place!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi.

    I believe they do operate for lunch. There's a few of them scattered around Jeju City and their phone number is 064-746-8844 for the Nohyeong branch, 064-726-9233 for the Eedo-dong branch, and 064-756-0423 for the Samdo branch.

    I just saw other Naver blog reviewers who had visited last month and they still operate the 20,000 per person assortment hwoe too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,
      when you mentioned 20,000 per person, is it a buffet or per package?

      Thank you

      Delete
  9. Hi Stewart,
    Kindly check with you, have you heard about Ggeomeong (꺼멍) or DonaDona restaurant (Served black pork) in Jeju before? I am trying to search their address, but cant find it. Do you have any info?
    Appreciate for your kind help.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anyone have the recipe for the green abalone porriage soup pictured above? sp6retired@aol.com
    Many thanks - I loved this dish!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. hi! is the udo dong gul restaurant still around and serving the KRW20,000 set meal? thinking of visiting in oct this year.

    thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  12. i agree with all your suggestions, i wish i had seen this post before i went :)

    http://nomadicenvy.com/what-to-eat-in-jeju-island/

    ReplyDelete
  13. Okay, it looks like i need to bookmark this post, in case I am going back to Jeju Island on my next visit. Nice sharing. :)

    ReplyDelete

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