Posted by: Matt Kelley | 24 November 2008

Jeonju’s Hanok Village (Part 2)

jeonju_wall
Although much of Jeonju’s Hanok Village (전주 한옥마을) is enjoying new construction, there are also rustic sections that retain significant charm.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on November 22, 2008.)

In Part 1, we explored some of the historic city of Jeonju’s favorite attractions. This time, we’ll taste some of its famous food.

Like most countries, Korea’s provinces tend to have some regional rivalries. But when it comes to food, people from Seoul down to Jeju Island agree that the nation’s best food is found in the Jeolla provinces. And it makes sense that Korea’s southwest corner, also known as the country’s rice-basket, would boast delicious cuisine.

Lucky for me I had a local to guide for my culinary discovery. My friend Eun-hae grew up in Jeonju, and she knew just where to find the tastiest food. The historic city is probably best known for its namesake, Jeonju bibimbap (전주 비빔밥), which is a healthy combination of vegetables, rice and hot pepper paste served room temperature or in a sizzling stone bowl.

jeonju_bibimbap
Jeonju’s delicious bimbimbap (비빔빕) is a must-try when visiting the historic Jeolla Province city.

At Eun-hae’s recommendation, we ordered some at Honamgak (호남각), a celebrated restaurant located in Jeonju’s Songcheon-dong neighborhood (송천동2가).

In addition to their specialty bibimbap, we also ordered a simmered beef stew called kalbi jjim (갈비찜). Three types of kimchi, wild mushrooms and a subtly salty beansprout soup, among several other banchan (반찬), or side dishes, came free with our meal.

Satisfied with a delicious lunch, I went back to explore Jeonju’s Hanok Village (전주 한옥마을). But after a couple of hours spelunking on a warm summer day, I was craving something refreshing.

jeonju_horangguys
(l-r) Oh Min-taek and Pak Joon-ho run Horang (호랑), a friendly café located in Jeonju’s picturesque Hanok Village.

So I stopped by Horang (호랑), a charming coffee shop that opened just two weeks earlier by a kind young duo, Pak Joon-ho (박준호) and Oh Min-taek (오민택). From the outdoor terrace I ordered fresh kiwi juice and the delicious unsweetened drink was served alongside a plate of sesame crackers and a chocolate happy face. But a few minutes later, Joon-ho brought me something else.

jeonju_horangfood
At Horang (호랑), I enjoyed a complementary deodeok (더덕) smoothie alongside a whimsical plate of crackers.

It was a creamy white smoothie topped with almond slices. But I couldn’t place the subtly sweet taste. Joon-ho told me it was made from deodeok (더덕), an herb often used as a substitute to ginseng. Heretofore I was unfamiliar with deodeok, but I’ve craved for that smoothie many times since.

jeonju_banchan
The signature dish at Gookil Ddeok Kalbi (극일떡갈비) is their minced beef paddies alongside 20 delicious side dishes.

Before I left, the guys recommended another nearby restaurant for dinner. Since we covered Jeonju’s cultural and historical sights last week, how about we fast forward to the eating part? Seated on the floor of the unpretentious Gookil Ddeok Kalbi (극일떡갈비), I ordered their namesake Jeolla-do delicacy along with a tall beer. For 10,000 won I enjoyed two minced beef paddies marinated with sugar and soy atop a brass turtle’s back. And no less than 20 side dishes ranging from seasoned baby clams and kimchi pajun pancake to acorn jelly were also included. All were ridiculously delicious.

Thoroughly satisfied though uncomfortably stuffed, I decided to take a walk. Walking among the hanok village’s narrow streets and alleyways, it was clear that Jeonju’s hanok maeul isn’t just a tourist destination, but a thriving neighborhood. No doubt its businesses benefit from tourists, and I was thankful for the overnight accommodations recommended to me by the kind people at the tourism kiosk.

jeonju_hakindang
The Hakindang (학인당) was the home of Baek Nak-jung (백낙중), who was revered for his filial piety. The home, which is a typical example of upper class homes after the Joseon Dynasty collapsed, is now available for overnight guests.

The Hakindang (학인당) (site in korean) is a graceful upper class home from the Joseon-era that has been converted for visitors’ use. map_jeonjuUpon washing and arranging the heavy blankets on the ondol heated floor, a gentle rain started outside. Laying there in the quiet, it was a peaceful end to a charming two days in Jeonju.

Getting There:
→ From Seoul, trains leave Yongsan Train Station (subway line 1, Sinyongsan Station, exit #4) 13 times daily. The 3 hour+ Saemaeul train costs 27,900 won each way. The 4 hour Mugungwha train costs 16,300 won.  

→ From Seoul, non-stop buses leave every 10-30 minutes from the Seoul Express Terminal (subway lines 3 and 7, follow signs to underpass) and Nambu Terminal (subway line 3, exit #5) for Jeonju. The 2 hour 50 minute ride runs between 9,500-18,700 won each way.

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Responses

  1. wow..the food looks great! yah!

  2. It was so great. Definitely check out the Ddeok Kalbi place if you go to Jeonju!

  3. I also heard that restoring Hanoks is a big fad in Seoul now somewhat following Jeonju’s lead. I’m an architect, so that’s why I have interest in these things. People are buying hanoks and hybridizing them w more modern architecture, e.g. MOTOElastico’s work (an Italian firm that started an office in Seoul). Thanks for the Jeonju coverage. My family is from Jeollabuk-do and not until recently did I know growing up in the US that that’s why the women in my family cook so well! I’m so spoiled.

  4. Hi Christina,
    Thanks for your note. You’re right, it seems that it’s finally becoming hip to have a hanok… although there’s quite a bit of controversy about what kinds of modernizing is “appropriate.” That said, even the majority of the hanoks in Seoul’s most famous hanok district – Bukchon – are themselves unfaithful to traditional Korean architecture since they were generally built after the end of the Joseon Dynasty with shortened roof eaves and other changes to enable more to be packed into a small area. Anyhow, I’ll try not to be too jealous about your childhood food offerings!^^

    Best, Matt

  5. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the awesome site. I used it often during my (first) trip to Korea back in September when I stayed in & around Seoul.

    I’m now planning another trip for later this month where I’ll be exploring other parts of the country, including Jeonju. Would you mind providing directions or perhaps a (Google) map pointer to the restaurants that you mentioned above?

    thanks!


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