The 8 iconic dishes of YesanOne of the best parts of a trip is to try the local food!
Yesan sogalbi (beef ribs), Yedang bungeo-jjim (braised crucian carp), Yedang minmureojuk (freshwater fish porridge), Sapdari gopchang (tripe), Sudeoksa sanchae-jeongsik (set menu with seasoned wild vegetables), Yesan jangteo-gukbap (rice soup), Yesan guksu (noodles), and Gwangsi Hanwoo (Korean cattle) beef are famous local dishes that you can enjoy along with tourist attractions located throughout Yesan.
The local dish I’d like to introduce first is Yesan sogalbi (beef ribs), known for being extremely tender and savory as it is prepared using only special-grade Hanwoo (Korean cattle) beef produced in Yesan, designated as a clean area. The beef is aged in a seasoned broth for a designated amount of time and grilled over charcoal. The sizzling meat and its tantalizing smell will automatically draw you closer to the barbecue grill. Once you take a bite, you will realize that it was well worth the wait. Yesan sogalbi, which you can enjoy with all five senses, is something that you can truly appreciate only in Yesan.
Yedang Lake is a place that every fishing enthusiast in Korea has visited at least once in their lifetime. A delicacy associated with this area is Yedang bungeo-jjim (braised crucian carp), prepared by placing dried radish greens (siraegi) on the bottom of the pot for the flavor of the crucian carp to permeate. Even those who don’t normally eat freshwater fish will love the light yet spicy flavor and chewiness of Yedang bungeo-jjim, which compels one to reach for a glass of alcohol. Made with crucian carp caught from the pristine Yedang Lake, Yedang bungeo-jjim is as deep and rich as the vast lake.
The first thing that comes to people’s minds when thinking of Yesan is Yedang minmureojuk (freshwater fish porridge). A variety of freshwater fish caught from Yedang Lake is boiled along with the bone, and then the meat is removed to be boiled with red pepper paste and soybean paste. Then, rice and sujebi (hand-pulled dough) are added, and green onion, ginger, garlic, and sesame leaves are added. The contents are placed in an earthen pot called ttukbaegi, and it is served with vegetables and kimchi. At first glance, it appears like it’d be fishy, but freshwater fish is rich in protein and the more you chew the intestines and bones together, the more savory it becomes.
Even if you normally don’t eat eojuk (fish porridge), you will fall in love with the flavorful Yedang minmureojuk (freshwater fish porridge) if you eat at the right place Yesan. It was a bit different in that it contained somyeon (thin noodles) and that it was very thick, but it wasn't fishy at all and it was pleasantly spicy. I wonder if there is anything quite like it when you want to get rid of your hangover.
Grilled Sapdari gopchang (tripe) is a local specialty of Sapgyo, regarded as the backbone of Yesan. People in Sapgyo have been grilling tripe using coal briquettes for over 40 years. Gopchang-jeongol (tripe hot pot) cooked with various seasonings will tantalize your taste buds with its savory flavor and diverse textures.
The tripe will seem tough at first, but the more you chew it, the more fun and flavorful it becomes. Tripe, which had been one of the more accessible foods for ordinary people long ago, has become widely popular as nutritious and healthy food that is low in fat and calories. Grilled Sapdari gopchang (tripe) is prepared with fresh ingredients according to a special recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, and it attracts gourmets from all over the country.
Once you’ve seen the pristine Yedang Lake, it’s time to head to the mountains! Sudeoksa sanchae-jeongsik (set menu with seasoned wild vegetables) is prepared with the local specialty product, Sapdari deodeok (Codonopsis lanceolata), grown in the pristine natural environment and the fertile soil on the foothills of Deoksungsan Mountain. Deodeok is known as a natural power food that is often compared to wild ginseng. Sudeoksa sanchae-jeongsik, eaten after hiking Deoksungsan Mountain, is free of flavor enhancing agents, so it has a light and clean taste. It is served with dozens of side dishes, including deodeok. When you take a bite, the flavors of the fresh ingredients obtained from the pristine Deoksungsan Mountain will fill your mouth and it will make your body, mind, and taste buds feel completely refreshed.
In Yesan, a traditional market is held every 5 days. On market days, gukbap (rice soup) restaurants are perhaps the busiest. A spoonful of boiled beef and broth made from beef bones and seasoned with green onion and garlic will instantly cure any hangovers, and the large portion will leave you quite satisfied. It comes in large portions, but you will never get sick of eating this rich and flavorful rice soup.
Being able to eat jangteo-gukbap with a cup of makgeolli is a piece of joy that local residents can enjoy every five days.
Yesan guksu (noodles) is made by drying wheat flour and domestic sea salt of the finest quality under natural conditions at ideal temperature and humidity level. It is tasty, soft, and chewy, and it is popular with people of all ages across all four seasons. Chopped green onion and green chili pepper are added to anchovy broth for the noodles, which are then served with kimchi.
Gwangsi Hanwoo (Korean cattle) beef refers to highest quality Korean beef, both male and female, from Yesan. Most restaurants offering Gwangsi Hanwoo beef raise Hanwoo cattle themselves for quality control purposes. This is why this area receives endless streams of gourmets from around the country. The owner of the restaurant I visited confidently says that the beef from Hanwoo cows is so rich in flavor that there is no need to take a look at the marbling.
As soon as the meat was placed on the grill, a savory, enticing smell spread throughout the room. Once it was moderately cooked, I put a piece into my mouth to taste. It just melted inside my mouth before I even got a chance to chew it! It was absolutely sublime, especially when eaten with the spicy seonjitguk (ox blood soup).