Here’s a special PSA for those looking for the ultimate Korea experience out of the city. The place is called Jeong Gang Won (or The Institute of Traditional Korean Cuisine) and it’s a landmark I accidentally stumbled upon while riding my bike in Gangwon Province back in the day. Unfamiliar with Gangwon-do? That’s where the most recent Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were held and it’s by far one of the most scenic and mountainous provinces in Korea (I’m probably a little biased since I lived there for a year).
Aimed at preserving and sharing the food culture of Korea, privately-owned Jeong Gang Won is able to do so with its behemoth complex (33,000 square feet) housing different traditional buildings, annexes, gardens, and 500+ onggi earthenware. They offer a wide range of programs and activities, but the most popular one is learning how to cook and prepare several classic dishes and jang (sauce), the latter made in the same manner as the past using a gamasot (iron cauldron) with wood fire as the main heat source. I really wanted to take a few classes, but a minimum of 6 persons per class persuaded me to just buy them instead, which was nice because they’re priced reasonably and cooly wrapped in a traditional style, making it an ideal gift for loved ones.
For those who prefer a less hands-on experience, the place has its own restaurant serving modestly priced full-course meals called hanjeongsik. The basic course meal runs 20,000 won person, is deceptively massive, and covers all the basics and then some: local memil jeon (buckwheat pancake), saengsun gui (grilled fish), doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean soup), gaeran jjim (steamed eggs), and a healthy dose of banchan using ingredients grown organically on the premises. Needless to say, the meal was fantastic and we were barely able to finish everything despite our hefty appetites. After the meal, we walked around the spacious complex to burn off all the calories and, if the dogs weren’t waiting for us at home, we considered lodging in the most majestic hanok that sat adjacent to the restaurant.
If you’re in Korea or planning a trip to the peninsula, this is a terrific place to experience the real side of Korea away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Check out their website for full details in English, Chinese, and Korean.
Food: ★★★★ ½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Jeong Gang Won 정강원 | The Institute of Traditional Korean Cuisine 한국전통음식문화체험관
21 Baekokpo-ri, Yongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon Province 강원 평창군 용평면 금당계곡로 2010-13
Hours: Open every day 9:00 am ~ 10:00 pm
Phone: 033-333-1011 or 010-9968-7500
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/FYJceeU0