The seven-day bike trip along the east coast of South Korea was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. During the Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) holiday in 2016, a friend and I decided to go on a 280km ride going southbound from Gangneung to Pohang. We planned seven days because not only we wanted to ride our bicycles but we also wanted to go swimming, snorkeling, sightseeing and most of all trying all the delicious foods that the East Sea has to offer.
We biked through Uljin-gun and Yeongdeok-gun, districts belong to the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do, the eastern part of Korean peninsula famous for their fresh catch from Donghae (East Sea or Sea of Japan). The Yeongdeok snow crabs are in season mostly in the cold days from November to May. It was mid-September when we pedaled through the town and the markets were just starting to get busy with their first catches of the season. At Hupo Port(후포항) near Uljin, the auctioneers were getting ready for a new season of appraisal.
There’s an interesting tale behind the name daegae (대게: snow crab). In early Joseon Dynasty, the snow crab was presented on royal table as a regional delicacy. The king fell in love with the taste of snow crab that he devoured the creature with pieces of flesh all over his face. Because of how its legs looked like bamboo, the King named the crab from Yeongdeok “daegae” and the name stayed ever since.
At Ganggu Port(강구항) near Yeongdeok, the seafood vendors and crab restaurants have created a Yeongdeok Daegae Town. Tanks filled with live crabs are lined along the street and the merchants were out touting their catch. It is common to bargain the price of crabs as they vary according to quality and “fattiness”. We managed to get a discount plus a few “fallen-off legs” that were stashed away.
The upstairs of fish market is restaurants that allow you to eat-in or take out. With a small additional payment, they cook your purchase in the large steamer for you. A convenience store down the street also sells dipping sauce, utensils, and booze. Taking all the spoils to our room to enjoy the private feast was the best and most affordable way to experience the famous Yeongdeok snow crabs.