Emma’s Food Diary #3: 족발 고집 | Jokbal Gojib 🐷

food, hiking, Travel

After the hike up Geumjeongsan and the visit to Seokbul temple thereafter, my friends and I found ourselves deserving of one hell of a meal. Luckily, being in Korea surrounded by the finest Korean cuisine, we were able to divulge ourselves and devoured a traditional dish called 족발 (jokbal).

Jokbal is literally braised pig trotters; they are boiled in a soy-sauce based braising liquid, normally infused with onion, garlic, ginger and green onions along with some dried chilli peppers, until the meat is just about to fall off the bone. They are then deboned and sliced in to individual pieces, each made up of three distinct layers; the collagen-filled, shiny dark skin (colour created by the soy-sauce liquid and shine provided by rice syrup), the white fat and the actual meat itself, ready to eat with lettuce or perilla leaves, 쌈장 (ssamjang – fermented soybean paste), sliced garlic and green chilli peppers and 새우젓 (saeu-jeot – tiny shrimp that have been salted and fermented, a normal accompaniment for pork in Korea).

thumbnail (1)

The meat along with its many accompaniments: the leaves, the garlic and chilli peppers, the 쌈장 and the 새우것

Many jokbal restaurants add their own twist, through different spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns) or other ingredients, to the classic recipe believed to have been created by a North Korean refugee called Lee Kyeong-sun who ran a small restaurant in Seoul during the 1960’s. For sure, dishes using pig trotters have been a staple of Korean cuisine for years and years, however this particular recipe was borne out of a need to survive as the cut of meat itself was extremely cheap and Lee Kyeong-sun flogged the dish at a reasonable price. Therefore, undeniably, the dish became exceedingly popular with demand for it to this day; indeed many people crave the gelatinous goodness of jokbal and order it to their doors as late as 2:00am.

IMG_2100

The OG jokbal dish with two of its three layers on show; you can see the shiny, gelatinous skin here as well as the white fat below

Furthermore, jokbal is a prime example of a Korean 안주 (anju), a term for food that is best consumed with alcohol. Indeed, as well as 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal – barbecued pork), Koreans love to eat their jokbal with soju, beer or 소맥 (somaek – a mixture of beer and soju together). The list of anju does not end here; Koreans tend to eat their fried chicken with beer and there is a long standing tradition of eating 파전 (pajeon – green onion pancake) with 막걸리 (makgeolli – Korean rice wine) on rainy days.

I first tried jokbal in September of last year; after filming ‘Perspective’, my friends and I converged at 족발고집 (Jokbal Gojib – Papago translates this as ‘sticking pig’s feet’ which I’m sure isn’t 100% accurate but let’s go with it) to both discuss our next film making venture and provide us with the opportunity of trying one of Korea’s more famous dishes. 족발고집 is located close to exit 2 of Myeongjang station, on line 4 and is owned and ran by a friend of a friend. As previously stated a lot of jokbal restaurants like to add their own twist to the classic recipe and the owner/chef at 족발고집 likes to add soju to his braising liquid; apparently it not only helps rid the meat of impurities and odour but also adds more overall flavour. I must admit I was rather hesitant to try the meat initially given the foot element but once I saw the dish in front of my eyes, and tried my first helping of tender meat, I was hooked.

thumbnail

The location of 족발고집 from Myeongjang station – the restaurant is the red smiley face and really is a short walk away from exit 2!

Therefore, after traipsing all around Geumjeongsan and building up quite an appetite, I suggested a trip to 족발고집, merely a short bus ride away from our ending point at Mandeok station. We arrived and straight up ordered a large portion of both the spicy and non-spicy versions as well as two portions of 주먹밥 (jumeokbab – rice balls). The rice balls arrive in a large bowl, a mixture of sticky rice as well as a variety of vegetables, normally chopped carrot, green onion and 단무지 (danmuji – pickled radish) with a topping of dried, shredded seaweed, sesame seeds and just a drop of sesame oil. A plastic glove is also provided for you to dig straight in and mix it all together before forming and squeezing your very own rice balls.

IMG_2096

주먹밥 (rice balls) before their formation!

A whole host of other side dishes are also provided at no extra charge; there is a steaming bowl of 어묵국 (eomukgug – fish cake soup, a stone pot brimming with 계란찜 (gyeranjjim – steamed eggs), a platter of 쌈무 (ssammu – thinly sliced, pickled daikon radish; different from the aforementioned danmuji which is yellow in colour), 무말랭이무침 (mumalleangi-muchim – seasoned dried radish strips), a double sided plate with ssamjang on one side and saeu-jeot on the other, as well as each person having a shallow dish filled with soy sauce, chopped onions and a little blob of wasabi on the side, free for you to mix in to the sauce or leave as is.

IMG_2104

Us lot with our two jokbal variations! You can see the shallow bowls of soy sauce and onions in front of each person

I absolutely love everything on offer at 족발고집. I personally love eating the non-spicy version of jokbal as 쌈 (ssam), taking either a perilla or lettuce leaf, placing a piece of meat on it with a slice of garlic, some ssamjang or saeu-jeot on top (one or the other as both have a distinct flavour and are pretty salty) before wrapping it up and putting the entire thing in my mouth. The combined flavours are an absolute umami winner and the meat melts in your mouth so perfectly complimented by the crunch of garlic and leaf.

thumbnail (2)

An example of a 쌈; here we have a piece of meat atop a lettuce leaf with garlic, chilli pepper, onion and 무말랭이무침 (the dried seasoned radish strips)

For the spicy version, I like to wrap a piece in a thin slice of ssammu, for the sourness of the pickled radish hinders the spiciness just a little, allowing my taste buds the opportunity to relish the flavour a little more than they would if I just dove straight in. I must add here that the spicy sauce is normally made with some of the braising liquid mixed with both 고춧가루 (gochugaru – dried chilli pepper flakes) and extra hot dried chilli pepper flakes. It does give a spicy punch but is nonetheless delicious when mixed with the meat, chopped cabbage, sliced carrot and topped with sesame seeds.

IMG_2098

The spicy jokbal that packs a punch!

The rice balls too and the variety of side dishes are all superbly tasty! 족발고집 is a real treat of a restaurant, a personal favourite place of mine to go and fulfill any burning jokbal desires. In addition, I find my skin also benefitting from my love of braised pig trotters, for I like to believe the collagen gives me a more youthful and plump complexion. Ultimately I strongly urge any and all visitors to Korea make trying jokbal, as well as other staple dishes such as samgyeopsal, 비빔밥 (bibimbap – mixed rice) and 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki – stir fried rice cakes) a number one priority. Furthermore, if you find yourself in Busan, keep 족발고집 in mind and head that way for a taste of Korean heaven!

A part of Geumjeongsan and Seokbulsa! 🗿

hiking, Travel

There are numerous routes to take however we started our journey at exit 1 of Oncheonjang Station so I will be giving directions to follow should you ever wish to complete this the same way. Here goes…

A short walk from Oncheonjang, guided by Kakao Maps, leads you to Geumgang Park. Take the path furthest to the right, follow it around until you reach the cable car base (look for the ropeway signs). Pass the office and turn slightly left on to a pathway with a small incline that stretches out in between the parkland.

On and on along this path you go until you reach the trail; you know you have reached the trail when you get to a clearing on your right surrounded by the bushes of the park with a few steps across from you. Up you go, walk a little further along the level ground and then the real hike starts, for 80% of the hike up to the cable car platform are super steep stairs. Climb up, up, up. Even when your thighs are screaming out for you to stop, keep on going! You know you’re halfway up once you reach a small temple stowed away between a few rocks.

Continue on up the stairs… once you’re about 3/4’s of the way to the top you will see an extremely large rock which makes for an excellent viewpoint. I’ve climbed this peak twice now and both times, my mates and I have perched on this slab, chugging water, eating snacks and enjoying the view that stretches in front of our eyes, from the reaches of Nopo all the way to Dongnae, encompassing landmarks such as the Asiad baseball stadium and Busan Children’s Park.

IMG_2043

Atop the large rock

Onwards and upwards you go; the stairs start to level out once you reach a whole bunch of oversized rocks through which you climb, come out the other side and take an immediate left. From there you will find yourself on a muddy surface, still there are some steps but they aren’t as steep as the ones further down the mountain. Follow them through and you’ll find yourself at the cable car platform; a relatively flat area where there are shops, restaurants and restrooms.

IMG_2746

The view of the city from the cable car platform

The path to Seokbulsa also lies here; look for the signpost pointing the way to the South Gate (남 문) for these will be your best guide for quite some time! The path to Seokbulsa can become rather confusing, but you will know once you reach the South Gate, for it is a large decorative archway with a set of double wooden doors. The trail towards the South Gate is on a decline; a muddy route where the gate itself stands at the bottom but then has a sharp turn downwards to the left.

Start to look for different signs at this point; either Seokbulsa (석불사) or Seokbul Temple. Bear in mind that the signs always lead you in the right direction however they tend to give you varying estimations of the distance left to travel. We set off from the South Gate with information from a signpost that the temple lay 3.1 kilometres away; the next pointer told us we were 3.3. Drove us all a little mad but made us laugh nonetheless!

IMG_2052

The confusing signposts: the top sign is Seokbulsa in Hangul and the third is the same destination – you can see the difference in distance remaining!

The majority of the route to the temple is super easy; a mixture of muddy and rocky paths lead you mainly downhill through Nammun village where again there are numerous restaurants and a restroom. Given the time of year we went, in the midst of winter, the trees were extremely bare and looked parched of life, however, it still made for pretty surroundings and I can only imagine how lush the trek would be in spring and summer time.

The last stretch of the journey to Seokbulsa is rather difficult; a winding, steep incline that the signpost will say is 500 metres but feels like a million. I recently learned that many Korean Buddhist temples employ the use of a winding path that crosses a stream leading up to the main gate of the compound. I’m not sure as to the reasoning behind this despite my research however I did not notice a stream climbing up to Seokbulsa but I may have missed it given the burn of my quads occupying all my focus.

The compound itself is extremely unique and superbly pretty; it lies nestled atop a ridge on the mountainside with nature rolling out beneath it. Another characteristic of Korean temples, indeed older ones, is to be situated atop a mountain; the seclusion and therefore impeccable quietness only adds to the peaceful, serene quality Buddhist worship evokes. However, Seokbulsa was only founded in 1930; the particular location was chosen by the founding monk due to the sandstone surfaces that were made of use for purposes I will explain below.

IMG_2081 (2)

The majority of Seokbulsa’s compound

Within the compound are numerous buildings and structures showcasing traditional Korean architectural style and displaying a multi-coloured paint job said to ward off bad spirits thus protecting the place of worship. A stone pagoda stands outside the main hall; this is extremely important for it represents the Buddha and the teachings but also houses a symbol of significance, a relic of the Buddha, an important sutra or other religious artefacts.

For me, the most impressive aspect of Seokbulsa, the reason why the sandstone surfaces are so important and pretty much the reason that implored me to venture there in the first place, are the statues carved there. Towards the end of the compound, you will find stairs on the left that lead you up to a platform surrounded by engraved rock. It comes as no surprise to me now to learn Seokbulsa literally translates to “Stone Buddha Temple”; the walls are covered in sculptures, handcrafted by the monk who founded the temple and some of the carvings stretch high across the rock face, standing at about 10 metres tall. You can’t help but feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft standing there observing such a magnificent sight!

Indeed, I now consider Seokbulsa to be my favourite temple out of all those I have visited in Korea. “Stone Buddha Temple” is a real hidden gem; so tranquil, so undisturbed, so noiseless, calling Busan home yet seemingly existing so far from the hustle and bustle of the city and crowds of people milling about below. Furthermore, unlike Haedong Yonggungsa, a seaside temple that is a short bus ride away from Haeundae station, Seokbulsa is not teeming with both local and foreign tourists.

After marvelling at the wonders of Seokbulsa, you can make your way down using the same winding pathway and there on out follow the signs for Mandeok (만덕). The descent itself, as always, is shorter than the ascent and we found ourselves at Mandeok station almost exactly five hours after we began our adventure. Sure, that sounds like a hell of a long time but it was worth every second!

Igidae Coastal Walk! 🍁

hiking, Travel

The Igidae Coastal Walks snakes alongside Igidae park, overlooking the turquoise shimmer of sea that flanks the path to the right. It is a 4.1-kilometre-long stretch of trail, sometimes muddy, other times rocky, an abundance of stairs both up and down as well as a few bridges that jump and bounce as you make your way across them.

Ultimately it is, in a word, wonderful.

I have completed it three times so far and I have already chalked it up as my most regular walking spot in my mind. The walk itself is fairly easy to conquer; yes, I have said there are an abundance of stairs, and while that is very much the case, I find the task of climbing them exceedingly easy given the gorgeous view that stays by my side almost the entire time I walk the path.

The three times I have been and done the trail, I have started by the Oryukdo rocks. Pretty easy place to get to; a lot of buses make their way directly down the road, reaching the skywalk by a short walk. I always hop on the 24 bus, which is about a 20-minute journey without much traffic. The rocks themselves are pretty cool; greyish-black, they stand in the midst of the water, silhouetted against the sky forming a remarkable juxtaposed image of rock and sea.

IMG_8771

Sorry – I’m taking up a lot of this photo but it seems to be the only one I have of Oryukdo!

Between the Oryukdo viewpoint and the beginning of the coastal walk is an information centre, a restroom and a map which highlights the places of interest along the route. I must admit, I cannot exactly pinpoint each location stated on the map and confidently exclaim ‘I’ve been there!’ but given I have at least another year here and the already stated opinion (or fact) that Igidae will be my regular walking haunt, I already know I will visit everything the map has to offer.

Anyway, back to the trail… imagine you are stood in front of the information centre; the Oryukdo rocks are to your left, straight in front is the road, with a small car park coming off it and therefore to the right is the beginning of your walk. There are two options for you; one is a smooth pathway and the other are steps, about twenty or so. Both options lead to the same place; a flattish stretch of land with greenery, water and in the not-so-far distance, stairs leading upwards.

IMG_8777

This body of water is at the top of the first set of stairs – leading up from the road, Oryukdo and Igidae’s information centre

Climb these stairs all the way to the top; to the right is a seated viewpoint and to the left is the continuation of your route. Follow the wind round to the right, up a few more steps and you’ll find yourself at a fork. Take the right side, up along a path lined by trees to either side where you will then reach a clearing with two benches facing the ocean. Everything is pretty straight forward from here on out, stretching from Oryukdo until close to Gwangandaegyo, a sight that remains in your view along the trail.

IMG_2260

Gwangandaegyo! The diamond bridge of Gwangan! A view of your endpoint that is almost always constant along your route

What I love most about Igidae is the scenery. You are literally walking on the edge; stepping along a cusp of woodwork, strategically placed to separate land and sea. Despite being in the middle of winter, plush, green leaves and the first of the buds envelope you; to your left, right and above you, they frame the path ahead of you. Even the branches that stand leafless are pretty; I love the way they look, their gnarly, barren arms reach out over the edge adding more beauty to the path you are upon. Rocky, craggy surfaces stretch out beneath you; reminiscent of Oryukdo, they perfectly clash with the calmness of the sea that their pointy edges cut in to.

Honestly, it is a beautiful view.

The first half of your walk is spent on the wooden structures, stairs and all whilst the second half levels out on to nature’s own surface, more inland but still close enough to the shore to see the ever-nearing Gwangalli beach. Your final stretch sees you cross four short bridges and from there you reach a final stretch of narrow land which takes you to the end of the Igidae Coastal Walk.

1c242767-afaf-411b-a95a-c4289bc0b599

One of the four bridges you encounter towards the end of your route – and also me, jumping for joy!

A road curves off to the left of the trail’s end, going slightly downhill before weaving right. You can follow this road (with the aid of Naver or Kakao maps – although it is pretty damn simple) directly to Gwangalli beach, taking in the expanse of water still on your right hand side, the iconic bridge that stretches across it and also the plethora of street art on offer, highlighting some of Busan’s best and more well known attractions such as the Firework festival that happens annually during autumn.

If you ever find yourself in Busan, make walking along the coast at Igidae a must-do! No matter the season, you can always enjoy the view whilst getting a good amount of exercise in as well.

Cherry blossoms in South Korea!

Film, Travel

Pretty pink petals, dark tree bark, a festival to celebrate their arrival… cherry blossoms are a big deal in Asia. Here in Korea, they symbolise purity and they are made all the more special due to their short time in full bloom, forcing humans to stop their busy lives and just appreciate nature at its finest. But they haven’t always been viewed so sweetly; they are also integral to a desperately sad part of Korean history, the Japanese occupation which spanned thirty or so years before the surrender of Japan at the end of WWII. Korea, Japan and more recently, China, all stake a claim to the origin of the cherry blossom tree however this post will not delve in to that debate. It will primarily focus on my experiences with the blossoms in Korea; something I thoroughly looked forward to and enjoyed.

thumbnail4

Blossoms at my girls school!

The Jinhae Gunghanje festival (진해궁한제) is an annual event held in the small district of Jinhae, located in Changwon city, at the beginning of April. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to this festival every year with the desire to view the abundant cherry blossoms, snap an Insta worthy photo and to revel in the official start of spring. This year, the festival was held from 1st April – 10th April so I headed to Jinhae to become a cherry blossom viewer on the first day of the festival. Living in Busan, Changwon lies just to the west and therefore getting to Jinhae was super easy; a 1 hour coach trip, costing only 5,100\ from Sasang station. I caught an early coach with friends on the 1st April with my camera at the ready… Our first Jinhae stop: Yeojwacheon Romance Bridge (여좌천 로망스 다리).
I’m not 100% sure which bridge is the actual Yeojwacheon Romance Bridge as there are numerous bridges in a row that cross over the Yeojwacheon stream however I am certain this place is absolutely stunning! The cherry blossom trees line either side of the stream, their branches hanging low and swaying in a gentle breeze over a shallow body of water. I walked the length of the stream before venturing down to stroll along the cobbled bank. Despite the mass of people surrounding me, I felt at peace amongst the blossoms and the water; I could have stayed there for hours just appreciating the scenery around me.

thumbnail

Loveleh Yeojwacheon!

Our next stop in Jinhae was Gyeonghwa (경화역 봊쏯길); a now closed railway station labelled Cherry Blossom Road due to the abundance of trees planted there. The Korean government have left an old Korail train in situ on the tracks to make photos appear more authentic as back when the station was still in operation, carriages used to whoosh past the trees, enabling petals to fall elegantly and allowing visitors to snap beautiful photographs. The old train itself reminded me of the one used by Seok-woo, his daughter and Seong-Kyeong at the end of Train to Busan when they make one last, desperate attempt to flee an onslaught of zombies and I was tempted to pose just like our hero against the rails before he transforms in to the undead however I ditched the idea due to the crowds of people at Gyeonghwa. The queue to take a photo by the train consisted of roughly 50 people alone! People were milling here, there and everywhere over the tracks and around the food stalls that had been erected especially for the festival! Gyeonghwa was pretty but too busy for me.

thumbnail3

Just a handful of the people queuing to take a picture in front of the Korail carriage!

The following week at work, I showed my co-workers some of the snaps I had taken in Jinhae and the first question the majority of them asked me was: “was it very busy?”, to which I answered: “yes!” to a chorus of: “ahhh!”. One co-worker was then kind enough to suggest a more unique, less touristy cherry blossom viewing experience; a hike up Hwanglyeongsan (황령사) to witness awesome views before a descent down Busan’s very own Cherry Blossom Walkway. Ever since being in Korea, I had been keen to start exploring the numerous mountains dotted around the city so I jumped at the chance to get my first hike under my belt and made arrangements with a friend to accomplish Hwanglyeongsan the following Saturday.
The climb itself is pretty easy; the toughest part is the steep stretch on the residential streets before reaching the actual trails. All in all it took roughly two hours to reach the summit and that is including one brief toilet break and numerous extended photo op stops. The view at the top is quite simply exquisite; an expansive sight stretching from east to west, covering numerous Busan neighbourhoods, the sea in the distance, whilst also including various sky scrapers and bridges such as the Diamond Bridge/Gwangandaegyo (관간대교). My friend and I spent some time trying to decipher the different areas to no avail before just sitting and appreciating what lay before our eyes.

thumbnail5

The epic view from the top of Hwanglyeongsan!

To reach the Cherry Blossom Walkway, we had to descend Hwanglyeongsan in the opposite direction of our ascent; it was a 15 minute amble through some shrubbery and across some boulders with another spectacular view. The walkway itself is just an ordinary road that serves as a path for people and vehicles alike however during the first two weeks of April, much like Yeojwacheon stream, the road plays host to a bounty of cherry blossom trees lined up on either side, pink petals and almost black branches framing the concrete beautifully. Yet what made this unique compared to Yeojwacheon was the absence of other people. Sure, a few cars passed by, stopping now and then to snap a photo or two but there were no crowds, no buzz, no craziness; it was just me, my friend and Mother Nature doing her thing. We stayed on the walkway for well over an hour, venturing back and forth before finally watching the sun set through the branches whilst we made our way down the winding path.

thumbnail7

Sunset n blossoms!

Have you had the opportunity to view cherry blossoms in Asia? Share your experience down below in the comments! 🙂