Always a recurring theme these days, I am still not accustomed to this unpredictable weather here on Jeju Island. I know it’s still warmer than the mainland (most notably Seoul), but there are other aspects that might make it even harder to bear: cold, strong winds and plenty of rain/drizzle/sleet/snow action that never seems to abate. And these last few days have been no exception with hurricane-like winds causing our windows to rattle, doors to shake, and leaving us wondering if it was a good idea to live right on the coastline. Even our scooter couldn’t withstand the wind despite it being nestled in the corner of the building (no joke!). To make a long story short, I guess I just want to let family and friends know that it’s not always fine and dandy living on an island (at least the case these last few weeks).
The colder weather does have its advantages as this is the time we crave something warm and hearty. Nothing fits this description better than momguk, an old-school dish with humble beginnings. This is a native Jeju dish that quite nicely reflects early island life – simple, practical, and born out of necessity. It’s a combination of leftover pork bones and seaweed boiled down for many hours, sometimes days, until it turns into a thick, slightly mushy consistency. In the past, it was enjoyed and shared among the villagers as a communal feast, but these days the dish has become harder and harder to come by. Luckily, my girlfriend and I found one of the more popular, local momguk restaurants called Sinseol Oreum here in Jeju City. Open for over 20 years, they have been serving up delicious momguk and other traditional dishes like dombae gogi, gogi guksu, and a range of hwe dishes. As with most old-school dishes, you usually encounter an old-school atmosphere and that is exactly what you get here. It’s a no-fuss establishment filled with outdated wooden tables and chairs, slightly tattered walls, old beer and soju posters, and my favorite— a digital neon clock like the ones you see in dangujangs throughout Korea (no, there is no time limit here). Just by observing the decor, I knew the food was going to be good….and it was! For a reasonable 6,000 won, you get a steaming bowl of momguk (served in a ttukbaegi), which can only be described as hearty, thick, and slightly gelatinous. In some ways, it tastes like something your mom would cook for you if you were sick or in need of something warm and comforting (me!).
Not surprisingly, this is also served as a popular haejangguk with the local ajushis who need to recover from a hard night of drinking. Lucky for us, we won’t be needing this soup as a haejang anytime soon, but we will be back to try out their other two signature dishes in the future.
Korean Vocabulary Explained: Mom-guk 몸국 - gulfweed soup; known as mom in Jeju and mojaban on the mainland; high nutritional content Dom-bae Go-gi 돔베고기 - boiled pork belly served on a wooden cutting board; similar to bossam and suyuk Go-gi Guk-su 고기국수 - noodles and pork belly slices in a pork broth; "meat noodles" Hwe 회 - raw sashimi or raw seafood varieties Dang-gu-jang 당구장 - pool or billiard hall Ttuk-bae-gi 뚝배기 - earthenware pot usually served with stews and soups Ah-ju-ssi 아저씨 - middle-aged or married men Hae-jang-guk 해장국 - soups and stews that help people recover from hangovers; "hangover soup" Hae-jang 해장 - something to relieve a hangover
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Sinseol Oreum 신설오름
409-5 Ildo 2-dong, Jeju City (제주 제주시 일도2동 409-5)
Hours of Operation: 11 am ~6 am, closed on the 2nd Monday of every month
Click here for directions: http://me2.do/xwSWRXop