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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Vibin’ at the Han River! #litlyfinSeoul2

food, Travel

Every single time I have visited Seoul, I have made it a priority to visit the Han River; there is nothing better to me than being close to water, whether that’s the ever-expansive sea or just a small stream I stumble across on a hike. Therefore, without a shadow of a doubt, the Han River is my favourite site in Korea’s capital city. It stretches for miles and miles, is easily accessible and its banks are decked out with convenience stores, bike rental shops, street art and cozy little areas for you to just kick back and relax. During my last visit to Seoul, I wandered over to the Han twice. The first time was a ‘lazy’ Sunday affair; I wanted to walk and walk and walk and the banks of the Han River seemed like the best place for me to do that. I managed to hit well over 20,000 steps that day and found myself in a tunnel absolutely covered in dope street art so I rewarded myself with a Shake Shack burger (#wheninSeoul).

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Street art for daysssss!

The second time I ventured to the Han River, I was with my cousin, Sophie. Now as stated previously, the Han River stretches on for a loooooong time and is normally easy to get to HOWEVER I write that with my tongue in my cheek. For sure, it is accessible to those who know Seoul like the back of their hand but for me, given it was only my second time there, it can be a struggle. It just so happened that the apartment my cousin and I were staying in was super close to the Han River, yet it was on the northern side whereas I am accustomed to making my way to the water from the Express Bus Terminal which is on the southern side. Therefore, we spent a good hour and thirty minutes walking along the northern stretch of the river in scorching heat praying for the appearance of a Ministop to quench our thirst with water. No such relief came to us and we decided to catch a bus to the Express Bus Terminal to make our lives a little easier considering I was familiar with that route. I would highly recommend doing that to those who venture over to the Han for the first time; it is so easy to get to from that location, pretty much just a straight shot up one road.

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Fish for those compliments!

We arrived at the bus terminal and walked the twenty minutes to the banks of the Han, stopping every now and again to take pictures of the pretty scenery. Now, for the third time this post I am going to state just how long Seoul’s body of water stretches on for; I honestly cannot stress it enough, it is one hell of a long river! A good way to see a fair amount of it and a personal recommendation from me is to rent a bike from one of the many bike stalls you come across. It only costs 3000 won for one hour and 5000 for two! All you need is some form of identification for the person on the till and you’re off! We headed west spending our two hours snapping yet more pictures of the priceless scenery, a contrast of the high-rise skyscrapers on the northern side juxtaposed against the greenery and reflective water, having uncoordinated races between the two of us and fist pumping to EXO’s ‘Power’ (our song of the summer).

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Urban jungle

Our cycling escapade came to an end at Banpo Hangang Park; an area with free admission for people to just chill, eat, drink and watch the sunset or the 200+ lights that create a rainbow fountain spouting from Banpo bridge. This is such a lovely sight; a mesmerising blend of bright colours, splashed through streams of water, lighting up the night sky in a uniquely beautiful way. My cousin and I decided to order some food to the park as an accompaniment to watching the insanely red sun set. Despite both of us currently learning Korean, our proficiency in the language isn’t so great as to be able to order food to an unknown (by us) area hence we asked two lovely Korean girls for help with our mission. They ordered half crispy, half yangnyeom fried chicken for me and a big, steaming bowl of 떡볶이 for my cousin. Both arrived within fifteen minutes of being ordered and cost us under 29,000 won altogether. Perfect! Food and a view! An ultimate Korean experience in my opinion. Made even better by the availability of any beer of your choice at the Ministop just a stones throw away from where we laid our mat and our heads for the evening.

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BHC’s finest!

Have you ever visited the Han River? What are your thoughts on both it and the magnificent rainbow fountain? Let me know your stories in the comment section below!

Gwangjang market! #litlyfinSeoul

food, Travel

I am currently sat on a KTX back to Busan after embarking on a week long trip to Seoul. It was my second time visiting Korea’s capital city; a metropolis so alive and vibrant, full of exciting escapades, magnificent landscapes and opportunities to make friends. My week has been crammed with touristy site seeing, authentic Korean experiences as well as my first ever language exchange meet-up! I am in a little bubble of happiness right now, all a buzz with Hongdae’s imprint… of course Busan will always have my heart but I HIGH KEY love me some Seoul right now!

A personal favourite anecdote of my trip: the street food I devoured at Gwangjang market. Interestingly one of the first questions the natives ask all foreigners is “Do you like Korean food?”. Food is such an important element of the Korean culture, so many people I have met here are so proud of their nations best dishes and furthermore eating together is a social necessity. I always answer the question with a solidly enthusiastic “Hell yeahhhh!” to much surprise and glee. At the language exchange meet-up in Seoul, I was asked that very question and after giving my response, I was then asked if I had visited Gwangjang market yet to try the selection of food on offer there. I was thrilled to exclaim I had actually been there just the day before for a full on, three course culinary extravaganza!

An ahjumma prepping food at her stall!

First on the menu was 파전; 전 (jeon) in Korean means savoury pancake and 파 (pa) stands for spring onions (scallions to Americans). There are so many various different 전 however 파전 is the Korean go to on rainy days, always to be eaten whilst drinking 막갈리 (makgeolli). The day we visited Gwangjang market happened to be the rainiest day during our trip to Seoul so naturally 파전 was the way to go. The ahjumma we bought from was adorable; she flipped our 파전 in the pan and made it nice and crispy with a side dish of sliced green chillis swimming in soy sauce. It was a nice thick pancake, stuffed with not only spring onions but what I also believe to be Asian chives as well as potato. All that for 3,000 won (roughly £2.10)… such a steal!

I had a major hankering for 비빔밥 (bibimbap) that day, and after fulfilling the rainy tradition for 파전, I was a woman on a mission to find Korea’s staple rice dish. The food zone of Gwangjang stretches on and on, numerous stalls offering various versions of 떡볶이 (rice cakes in a spicy sauce), 순대 (blood sausage that is normally fried) and 만두 (dumplings). We were drawn to one lady’s stall in particular; I cannot tell you the reason why but I’m guessing it has something to do with the multitude of veggies she had lined up on display ready to pile on top of a bowl full of rice. We took a seat, ordered our 비빔밥 with a side order of 김치만두 (kimchi dumplings) and tucked in. The ahjumma again was adorable, refilling our bowl with different veggies once she saw us running low whilst also gasping in faux, jokey horror when she saw the amount of 고추장 (gochujang – red pepper paste) I squeezed out over my rice.

Loaded veggie 비빔밥!

We wanted to finish off our meal with 붕어빵 (bungeoppang); a fish shaped pancake stuffed with sweet red beans however we could not find any at Gwangjang and have since been told that they are normally more readily available during the winter months as a warming snack. We settled on 꽈배기 (kkwabaegi), twisted doughnuts, instead. The texture of the 꽈배기 is unlike the standard doughnut; it is more bready yet it is still light. I love buying these when they are straight out of the fryer, warm and super soft, coated in a thin layer of sugar for added sweetness. They are ridiculously cheap too; 1,000 won is all it costs to take you to Korean doughnut heaven!

Our bellies were fit to bust after all of the food we ate but every last morsel was super delicious! All in all everything cost us 15,000 won… 7,500 won each! £5.20 to all the Brits reading this!! 😱 If you’re ever in Seoul and fancy some street food then Gwangjang market is the place for you!

Have you ever been to Seoul? Did you go to Gwangjang for street food? Or is there somewhere else in Seoul that serves food just as good for a similar price? Let me know in the comments! 😄

My first Korean dinner experience!

Travel

A week ago I went out for dinner with around 10 other people; I was the only foreigner amongst many South Korean nationals and ordinarily I would find such a situation rather daunting however I had a blast! We headed to a restaurant called Dragon Dream for a seafood extravaganza first; unfortunately I have no idea what the best mode of public transport is to this restaurant as I was driven there in a car however I do know it is super close to the Seomyeon area and therefore you should be able to walk if you live or are staying close to either Seomyeon or Jeonpo subway stations. Anyway back to my experience… Dragon Dream is a restaurant that specialises in seafood and it is built within the walls of a cave. A literal cave. Carved within the walls of a mountain, it used to serve as a World War II Japanese bomb shelter during Japan’s colonisation of Korea. The salty scent of water hits you as soon as you walk through its doors, the place is lit up through the use of strategically placed fairy lights and take heed to mind the floor; although it has a covering, water still seeps through so do not make the same mistake I did and dump your cotton bag on the floor whilst eating to only then discover it sodden wet through!

 

The best picture of the restaurant’s cave interior I could get!

 

The servers at Dragon Dream laid out the side dishes first; I tried caviar (not bad!) and also a dried jujube (similar texture and taste to a date in my opinion) for the first time as well as digging in to the expected side dishes of pickled veggies and seaweed. The group ordered three massive plates of seafood (including fish, mussels, crab, prawns, octopus) mixed with bean sprouts, other veggies and a whole load of a typically Korean yummy and spicy red sauce. It was delicious! We washed it down with copious amounts of alcohol; soju and beer mixed together to make somaek! I actually learnt a new Korean custom (or courtesy) during this meal: as a sign of respect you should not drink before the oldest person at the table has. Unfortunately, me being me and therefore at times a raging alcoholic, I took a sip of my somaek without knowing this information! ☹ But I was assured that it was fine considering I was foreign and therefore didn’t know this unwritten rule beforehand. Needless to say, I will definitely not be making the same mistake again! Once we had devoured the majority of the food on the plates, noodles were brought out and added to the remaining sauce and veggies. It was all mixed together and we dug in once more! I also knocked back one, two or three glasses of soju which was a great accompaniment!

 

Fewd, glorious fewd!

 

After our meal at Dragon Dream, we walked out in to the mild evening air. I thought perhaps it was home time or maybe a few of us would head to a coffee shop for a drink however I was so wrong. Another Korean custom I learnt that night… it is perfectly normal to go to a different restaurant for a second round of food and alcohol! Apparently some groups even head to a third restaurant for a final round! So off we went, around the corner to a savoury pancake place. 범일빈대퍽 (roughly translated to Beomilbindaepeog) specialises in Korean pancakes; a type of food wholly different from the pancakes I am so used to tucking in to on pancake day back home. Korean pancakes are savoury; they are made using various different vegetables and a batter mainly consisting of flour and water (and maybe other ingredients dependent on which veggies you use) and you fry them until they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Before that evening, I had tried kimchijeon (kimchi pancake) in Manchester and a few weeks earlier had eaten pajeon (spring onion pancake – food to be eaten on a rainy day!) and both were extremely tasty. But this place was next level; the pajeon came with seafood and we each had a tiny little bowl of soy sauce to dip the pancake in for added flavour. We all added a little dash of vinegar and a sprinkle of chilli powder to our soy sauce just to enhance it that little bit more.

 

Jeonnies

 

We had makgeolli with our jeons; the oldest Korean alcoholic beverage, makgeolli is a milky, creamy off-white, sparkling rice wine which when mixed with cider (or Sprite/7-Up to other Westerners) is a treat! I was pre-warned by the group that makgeolli has the potential to gift you a bad hangover in the morning but I could not get enough of the stuff! I was overjoyed every time I saw my bowl being refilled, brimming to the very top with that sweet, bubbly mixture of rice wine and cider! Another thing to mention here; the more someone fills your glass, the more they like you! Also if you ever visit Korea and dine out with Koreans, do make sure you serve their drinks for them. This is another polite courtesy and illustrates your respect for the people you are with.

 

Ma makgeolli! ❤

 

With a super full tummy and a merrier-than-normal mood, I left the pancake restaurant with the group; most people headed home by walking to the nearest subway station however myself and a few others decided to head to Starbucks for a late-night coffee before turning in. Given the time of year and the emergence of the season of spring, there has currently been a heavy emphasis on the cherry blossom theme here in South Korea, with coffee being no exception. Starbucks has an assortment of cherry blossom inspired beverages including a cherry blossom Frappuccino and a cherry blossom latte. I went for the Frap; it was pink and brown, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of sweet, cherry flavoured candies! Super cute, super sweet and super appropriate given the time of year!

 

Cherry blossom inspired drinks at Starbucks!

 

So, there you have a break down of my very first ever true Korean dining experience… the shorter version: food, food and more food! I can’t wait to enjoy a couple more evenings out like this during my time in Busan!