Located in the southwestern part of the peninsula, Jeollanam-do is known as Korea’s breadbasket. It has been said that, starting in their distant past, the Korean people would not have been able to have come into being had it not been for the food produced in this region.
The region benefits from being home to the Seomjingang River and the Yeongsangang River. Thanks to the two rivers, Jeollanam-do has plenty of water and fertile soil. Also, the Plains of Naju, about half way down the length of the Yeongsangang River, flowing in the northwestern part of the province, is home to the nation’s most fertile region, producing the largest amount of grain and food.
Gwangyang Bulgogi, Seasoned BBQ Beef
After the Korean War, the country was desperately poor and beef, a luxury at the time, was only consumed on special occasions or during festivals. As it was for the whole country, this was also true for Jeollanam-do.
On festival days, people who could not afford to eat a whole side of beef purchased only a handful of the cheapest cuts and used that to show off their culinary skills. After many attempts, a new type of “fire meat,” or bulgogi, was born. The people of Gwangyang sliced their beef very thinly to make it less tough. They invented a sweet savory sauce to go with the meat. The sauce was brushed onto the meat immediately before grilling it over oak charcoal. The beef taste was spiced up with the scent of the grill. The awe-inspiring taste of Gwangyang bulgogi went viral, so to speak, inspiring a series of restaurants to this day.
According to many connoisseurs, Gwangyang bulgogi should be grilled in a manner so that the scent of the grill lingers and is as strong as possible. It is important to put only a small amount of meat onto the grill and to spread it as widely as possible. It should only be slightly grilled, only to the point where the red color is barely gone. After grilling, the bulgogi restaurants in Gwangyang offer a boiling stew with the remainders, and with kimchi and side dishes added to the meat broth. You can only taste such a delicacy in Gwangyang.
Bulgogi consists of beef marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, and green onions. It is then cooked over a brazier. When Koreans eat Bulgogi, they usually wrap it with lettuce, sesame leaves, or other leaves.
Daetongbap, Cooked Rice in Bamboo Case
It has long been believed that well-prepared food is as efficient as medicine. With that idea in mind, an ancient chef discovered that bamboo produces an oil when it is heated to a high degree. The oil, called jukryeok in Korean, was found to have health-boosting elements. One of the recommended ways to include jukryeok in your food was to use a rice bowl made of bamboo.
The people of Damyang, known for its bamboo forests and for the high quality of its bamboo, were especially gifted at creating daetong, or “bamboo bowls.” Damyang has a long history with bamboo, dating back to the times of Goryeo (918-1392). Every May 13, according to the lunar calendar, the villagers of Damyang gather together to plant new bamboo shoots.
Daetongbap is a bowl of rice and other grains steamed in a large bamboo culm. It is loved for its fresh taste, for the fragrant smell of bamboo and for its nutritional value. The rice is usually served with a variety of side dishes that shows off the culinary skills of the province.
Finally, when enjoying your daetongbap, we recommend you choose some tteokgalbi, a type of grilled short rib patty, to enjoy with it. Tteokgalbi are minced beef patties, seasoned with sweet soy sauce and grilled over charcoal. This beloved dish is another local delicacy that represents Jeollanam-do.
Euneogui, Grilled Sweet fish
Euneogui, a dish of grilled sweet fish, comes from Gokseong along the banks of the Seomjingang River. There is an interesting story about the dish that has been handed down through time.
It is said that the women of Gokseong were jealous of the fish for their beautiful, glittering silvery color, their slim bodies and their red lips. Behind the supposed jealousness, however, there is more to the story.
Every spring and summer, when the sweetfish are in season, the nearby Seomjingang River becomes a silvery ocean with millions of them swimming upstream to spawn. The men of the village gather in the river, armed with nets or bamboo spears, to catch them. They stay all day along the riverside, eating filleted raw fish accompanied with some drinks, and come home late at night. Seeing their husbands so absorbed in their fishing, the women became upset.
The women chastise their husbands for being out so long, but, on the other hand, they enjoyed eating the remnants of the sweetfish that were brought home. The wives added their own touch to the fish to make an even tastier dish. One of the most popular recipes has the fish grilled, after being gutted, and filled with crushed garlic, chilies, ginger, pepper and sesame.
Jeonbokjuk, Rice Porridge with Abalone
Juk is a porridge made with cereals. There are many kinds of Juk made with cereals, vegetables, meat, and seafood. However, Jeonbokjuk is the most popular porridge in Korea and has abundant of nutrition and great taste.
Nakji Bokkeum, Stir Fried Octopus
Dokcheon Octopus Street is made up of 30 restaurants selling various version of dishes uding fresh octopus, caught from Yeongsan River Estuary, including horong-nakji (octopus stick) and gallak-tang (beef rib and octopus soup) and so many more.
Before the building where Estuary Bank was built along Yeongsangang River, octopus from Dokcheon mudflat was rated as the top. Though the mudflat is no longer available today, the fame remains for Dokcheon Octopus Street. Besides gallak-tang, a variety of octopus-made dishes such as yeonpo-tang (octopus soup) and nakji-bokkeum(stir-fried octopus), nakji-muchim (spicy octopus salad), san-nakji (sliced raw cctopus) and nakji-gui (grilled octopus) are also available in the Dokcheon Octopus Street.