Mr. Oh's studio is in Cholla province in the far south west of the country. The people from Cholla tell us that their food is the best and that even people in other parts of the country often agree. When I was in Seoul and people heard that I was living in Cholla they would often comment about the Cholla Food. We have been going to a lot of small home cooking type restaurants. Most restaurants have a specialty so when we go to a restaurants we rarely look at menus. Mr. Oh and his friends know before hand what they want and we go to the place that is famous for that. Here are some examples of some of the yummy things that we have been eating...
Above and below are photos from a Chang guk Chang restaurant. Chang Guk Chang is a soup made from fermented soy beans. In Korea they eat a lot of Tenjang Soup which is similar to miso. Chang Guk Chang is different- it is fermented quickly like yogurt and has a very strong smell. If anyone has had the gooey Japanese Natto it is very similar to that, except made into a soup. Many foreigners find the strong smell strange and don't like it but we love the deep rich flavor. You can see from the above photo how important side dishes or "Panchan" are to Korean food. The Panchan at this restaurant included nappa cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, mustard green kimchi, radish kimchi, hot pepper kimchi, soft shell crab in sweet hot pepper sauce, steamed bean sprouts with sesame oil, whole small fish in red pepper sauce, sauteed greens, perilla (green shiso) leaves, raw fish in red pepper sauce, and "jeotcal"- fermented fish paste. Wow!
Ooo, this was good... Below is a photo from the night we went to a duck restaurant. The duck was smoked first, and then we grilled it at our table over a charcoal brazier. There's lots of variations of Korean barbecue, but in often involves wrapping whatever meat you are grilling in lettuce or some other raw green, perhaps with a bit of garlic, pickled radish, or tengjang (fermented soybean paste). Yum!
One day that we were both feeling kind of sick, we went to a red bean soup restaurant for lunch. It is a thick red bean stew that is a little sweet and salty with homemade noodles.
At the same restaurant, we tried a seafood noodle soup.
Oh yeah, and this is when we went out for goat stew, which is sort of the specialty of the closest town, Hwasoon. Goat can be tough and smelly if it's not cooked right, although in this stew, it was very tender. There is sesame powder in the stew and more at the table to thicken the broth, and it also makes it very rich.
This is a similar style stew, but with duck.
Are you hungry yet?