There aren’t a lot of opportunities for my girlfriend and I to check out restaurants far from our home in Oedo-dong despite having a durable scooter to get us around and the weather being more than agreeable. If possible, we try to avoid traveling long distances for safety reasons and for the simple fact that there are, quite sadly, more dangerous regular drivers who care little about us scooter people. However, this past weekend presented us with an important meeting, so we found ourselves in the port town of Hallim, an area known for its fishing boats and seafood restaurants. This good fortune gave us the chance to try out one of Jeju’s prized food: kalchi (hairtail).
No different than a lot of places we like to visit, Mijin Sikdang is a small, old-school (20 years and counting), and unpretentious place run by two friendly ajummas. Sandwiched between two larger businesses, partially obstructing its front view, and hidden in an even smaller alleyway, we had the hardest time tracking down the place even with the help of some locals. Once we did find the place, the two ajummas were more than helpful in explaining and pointing out their signature dish: kalchi guk (hairtail soup). In addition to the soup, we added a jeongsik set meal comprised of always delicious godeungeo jorim (spicy braised mackerel). First off, the hairtail soup lived up to its hype of being super “clean” in taste and having an invigorating, refreshing broth. From past experiences with hairtail soup, the fish pieces usually break apart into smaller bits during cooking, leaving it annoyingly difficult to eat. Here, you get the whole pieces intact which makes it not only easier to eat (still, be careful of the bones!) but provides some meaty goodness that I was looking for. The broth was on the mild end but still had a nice depth to it a la myeolchi (anchovy) broth. As for the jeongsik, the braised mackerel was solid, except the yummy radish pieces were nowhere to be found along with extra sauce. Nevertheless, everything worked in harmony and our stomachs were singing praises for another fantastic meal. As if our meal couldn’t have been more fish-centered, the kind ajumma surprised us with a complimentary dish called gajami gui (grilled flatfish). Crispy outer skin, meaty flesh, and unique texture made this another winner, but strangely it’s not on the menu. To feel less guilty about our binge eating, we burned off the extra calories by taking a walk near the fishing port. 🙂
Galchi (hairtail) is a prized ingredient here on Jeju Island. Here are some interesting facts about this wonderful sea creature:
- Shiny, silvery fish reaching lengths of 3 feet and a width of an adult’s palm.
- Frequent the waters around Jeju in the autumn from August to December with winter being its peak time.
- Hand-caught with the use of a fishing pole or line instead of nets on the mainland, keeping it in pristine condition for market sale.
- Important commercial export with most being delivered to mainland Korea, Japan, and beyond.
- Fish is mild flavored with firm flesh, and exceedingly easy to clean and debone.
- Excellent ingredient when served raw, in soups, in braised dishes, or simply grilled.
- High in protein, low in fat and calories, and highly nutritious, making it an ideal gift for adults.
Food ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Mijin Sikdang (미진식당)
1328-16 Hallim-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju City (제주시 한림읍 한린리 1328-16)
Hours: 10am ~ 8pm
Directions via Naver map: http://me2.do/IDWaHKH8