Four hours of bus drive from Seoul left myself and my bicycle at a terminal in Mokpo, the biggest port city on southwest coast of Korean peninsula. My ferry ride to Jeju Island leaves after midnight and I got plenty of time to cruise around the city best known for its seafood in search for local delicacy.

There is a song that goes “Mokpo is the port”. As the lyrics say, Manho-dong, the neighbourhood near the Port of Mokpo, is a hub of fresh catch that never cease to release the smell of the deep blue sea. Restaurants serve all kinds of delicious local cuisine made with sea creatures harvested from the waters off Sinan, South Jeolla Province. Out of these unique regional seafood parades, fresh croaker sashimi is known as something that one should must give a try in their lifetime.

Croaker sashimi with a side of assorted “special cuts”

In summer when the heat wave rolls in, the Koreans seek out for seasonal healthy foods that are believed to help you go through the harsh weather. 삼계탕 (Samgyetang), or chicken and ginseng soup, is one of the popular and widely accepted summer dishes. However, down in southwest region, croakers are understood as the best and most effective healthy food of the season.

Croakers on the kitchen floor, looking like ancient creatures from Cretaceous Period.
Slicing up the sashimi for a take-out

민어(Mineo) is a combination of softness of red fish with lightness of white fish. It is considered a rare delicacy and had been favoured by the aristocrats for many years. The fish is still not cheap but also not unaffordable. Just like beef, mineo is never wasted and all parts of it is used in different recipes–steamed, stir-fried, boiled, braised–you name it. The flesh is also consumed raw as sashimi along with an assortment of “special cuts” of the fish. The air bladder, known as 부레 in Korean, is considered as finest and most precious delicacy and only a small amount is available from a fish. The skin and bones with a bit of meat on it are also served for the patrons to experience a variety in texture. A light dip in seasoned salt or sesame oil is preferred.

The clear soup is also one of the popular choices. The vegetables and croaker bones release amazingly hearty broth packed with flavour. The chopped chili gives a bit of a spicy kick and meat on the bone is tender. A great pair with the bottle of soju.

Croaker parts: chopped bones, skin, and air bladder
Clear croaker soup – so light

영란횟집 is one of the oldest restaurants on mineo street that is specialized in serving freshest croakers. The sashimi is also available for takeout.

영란횟집 Young-Ran Hwetjib
1-5 Manho-dong, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do