The last post was about a de-international exposition and Yeosu EXPO. However this one is about something much more important and successful; the food. Yeosu is part of South Jeolla province and if you mention that area to a Korean person it elicits a beautiful response. They all go “the food is ssooo good“. And they are right.
Unfortunately this is not going to be the kind of post which helps you out and tells you where to eat and how to get there as I have absolutely no idea. We had the benefit of being guided by a great friend – S – who is working at the EXPO and loves food. For pretty much whole journey I was a pile of methylated spirits and under the influence of the great Korean god of soju so my memories are suspect at best. And I forgot to even grab any business cards.
The first place we went and you can probably find as it is right in the centre of Yeosu and down by the waterfront. There are row of tents doing what I love most about dining in Korea: plastic chairs and the 7-11 style of dining. This style of dining is not only more “local” but is also a virtual guarantee that you won’t be eating any simulated Western muck and just experiencing the best that Korea has to offer. It is all about keeping it local, attacking your soul with soju and eating whatever comes out. Being down South the speciality here was fish and we gorged ourselves on Korean-style plates of sashimi.
However, this was just the beginning of the good food. The next day for lunch we went and hit a famous ganjang (soy) gejang (crab) place for a meal based entirely around it which is known as gejang baekban (게장백반). As you can see from above the locals know how good it is and queue hard in the midday sun. If you have never had it, ganjang gejang is a Korean speciality where soy sauce is mixed with sesame oil, sugar, finely sliced scallions, minced garlic, ginger and fresh chillis and used to salt ferment raw crabs. It is insane.
You munch and suck and dig out the crab flesh and eat it off a bowl of rice and with an array of Korean side dishes (banchan or 반찬) around you. Finally once the flesh has been scrapped out you mix the crab brains with rice. It is one of the best things I have had for a while. They also had a spicier version called yangnyeom gejang (양념게장).
The way we knew we weren’t in Seoul is that the restaurant offered as much as you could eat for KRW 10,000 a person. The famous equivalent in Seoul – Pro Soy Crab (프로간장게장) – is about 5 times that for one crab. And the quality down in Yeosu was a different league to what I had had before. Outstanding.
Our final serious meal was something I and none of the other Yeosu expeditioners had had before. Korean fish wrapped in lettuce (ssambap or 쌈밥). Usually it is pork or rice but down in Yeosu they offer a fish equivalent. This was delicious but once again the real hero was the banchon. Whilst I think being a vegetarian in Seoul would be near impossible the freshness of the vegetable side dishes restored my faith in the non-meat side of life.
Finally, accommodation, and this is just because it is kind of funny. So Yeosu is not a major city and unsurprisingly when you add a couple of hundred thousand people each weekend who are visiting the EXPO it means accomodation may get a bit scarce. This gave me the opportunity to stay in my first ‘Love Motel’. The plus side is that it was cheap. The down side was that everything is controlled by that one remote you can see in the picture and coming back with a backpack of soju on and trying to work out how to turn off the lights, turn on the a/c and stop the world from circling is not easy.