The province of Jeolla-do (전라도) is known as a mecca of Korean soul food and home to traditional namdo (southern provinces) fares. Many foodies around the country travel down to the southern region for good foods and history behind them. Our 3-day hiking trip in winter Jirisan ended near Gurye, a small town located at the southwest corner of Jirisan National Park. After only having quick meals in the snowy mountain for three days, I craved for a nice, warm, home-cooked style meal with some makgeoli.
An old, shabby place with worn-out sign has been serving the small community of Gurye for over 70 years. The place is described as a jumak, or a traditional tavern. The old lady who runs the place was very kind and allowed us to keep our backpacks in the restaurant while we went to have a look around the nearby market after the meal. She even offered us a complimentary bottle of pop after letting us know that they do not accept credit cards.
Some dishes on the menu are something I have never heard of before. Such things as steamed stingray and pigs’ feet hot pot are very new to a city girl from Daejeon. We had a craving for some hearty broth after the long hiking so we went for the hot pot. Plus, the collagen in pigs’ feet should help revitalize our skin that’s been exposed to cold, dry air 1,000+m above sea level.
The large hot pot is loaded with so much pigs’ feet that I thought two of us would not be able to finish this (but of course we did naturally). The trick is to reduce the heat once the hot pot starts to boil. The collagen from pigs’ feet will thicken the broth and in the end an almost gooey soup is left. Add the ramen to the soup and the noodles will be coated with slimy, slippery broth as the soup is reduced. Personally, I really enjoyed the ramen at the end more than the meat. Almost like having Japanese ramen with thick pork broth.
Usually in Korea when people say they are having pigs’ feet I picture sliced meat that was boiled with spices. A hot pot with pigs feet in clear broth seemed strange at first but the first taste of the soup sent warmth to my heart and belly. It reminded me of pork soup in Busan but surely different flavour. Maybe it could be the fact that this was the first meal after being isolated in the winter mountains. Nevertheless, the traditional meal with homemade side dishes made me realize once again that I survived the winter Jirisan.