Eating Mokpo (South Jeolla Province, Korea)

Even though it’s been over two months since my road trip to the seaside port of Mokpo, the visit with some foodie friends is still fresh on my mind because of one thing: the amazing seafood. After spending two days, one night eating (and drinking) the best that Mokpo had to offer, I came back to Seoul a few pounds heavier and, more importantly, with a deeper appreciation of regional foods that highlight famed ingredients from the land and sea. To get to the point, just a few of the delicacies sampled and embedded in my mind forever are yangnyeom gejang 양념게장 (spicy raw crab), jangeoh tang 장어탕 (spicy eel soup), and bangeoh hwe 방어회 (yellowtail sashimi) — all wonderfully washed down with Mokpo’s finest, Ipseju 잎새주 (regional soju at 19% ABV).  Due to time constraints, we were unable to try other local favorites like mineo 민어 (croaker), nakji 낙지(octopus), and hongeo 홍어 (fermented skate), but I have a feeling that a future trip will take care of those dishes. Regardless, the weekend trip really opened my eyes (and palate) to an array of flavors and textures previously untried before this visit.

Although eating was our main priority on the trip, there was plenty of free time to burn off all that food in between. Other highlights included a lovely bike ride near the ocean shore, a visit to the local fish market where some of us got to sample the infamous hongeo twigim 홍어튀김 (fried skate balls), and a lovely water and light show held in the evening (supposedly, it’s the world’s largest water show with music).  Some of the few places that we didn’t have time for were the National Maritime Museum and Yudalsan Park, both being must-see places when visiting Mokpo. The museum is the only one of its kind dedicated to the country’s maritime history, highlights being two shipwrecks dating back as far as the 11th century. Yudalsan Park, which houses Yudal Mountain, is a scenic area filled with themed sculptures from international artists. And if you can make it to the top (a short 228 meters), it offers panoramic views of the city and the ocean with a big welcome from Korea’s beloved hero, Admiral Yi Sunsin, in statue form.

Just a little bit of information on Mokpo. This is a port city of roughly 100,000 people located on the far southwestern tip of the Korean peninsula. It is largely divided into the old town near Mt. Yudalsan and the new town near Gatbawi Rock. The new town is connected to Yeongam by a bridge. Since it’s a port city defined by the sea, plenty of the best seafood can be had with the best ones hidden out of plain sight. Here are some of the best restaurants that we had the privilege of eating at during our short time in Mokpo. Enjoy!

Jangteo Sikdang 장터식당

Joongdong 1-ga, Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (전남 목포시 중동1가 1-17 장터식당)

Phone: 061-244-8880

Click here for an interactive map:

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Fresh banchan, anyone?
Kkotgaesal (raw crab meat in spicy sauce). Although fiery in appearance, had a soft buttery texture that melted in the mouth.
A delicious bowl of kkotgae muchim (spicy raw crab mix) on the right. Similar in taste but a little more labor intensive.
Gotta take a picture, right?
Up close and personal.
Can’t leave out regional soju called Ipseju. Did you see the logo? Hmmmm.
Food porn.
Yes to bibimbap.
They are also well-known for their kkotgaetang (spicy crab soup) that reads first on the menu.

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Hanguk Hwegwan 한국 회관

1106-3 Sanjung-dong, Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (전남 목포시 산정동 1106-3)

Phone: 061-243-4224

Click here for an interactive map:

Food: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

The banchan spread to start us off. Plenty of briny and seafood-salted banchan that I really enjoyed.
Up close and personal.
Raw beef. Complimentary too.
Mineo hwe (croaker sashimi). Soft, surprisingly mushy (in a good way), and very fresh.
Mineo hwe food porn.
Some people like to eat sashimi on its own, I prefer the wrap.
Maeuntang (spicy fish soup) using leftover bones and head. Unlike other spicy soups and stews that are heavy on salt and seasoning, this broth was very subtle in taste. Some would describe it as clean and simple, but I’d go as far to say it tasted buttery, full of depth, and super invigorating from the long boil of the fish bones.
We got a bartender in the house.
Cheers, again!

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Haeshin Soosan 해신수산

#45, 8 Chungho Seafood Market, Sukhyun-dong, Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (전남 목포시 석현동 1171 청호시장)

Phone: 061-284-9870

Click here for an interactive map:

Food: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

A restaurant willl only be as good as their banchan. Lucky for us, the banchan at all the restaurants were very well prepared, highlighting many of the seasonal ingredients available.
Sannakji (chopped octopus). I should have shot this in video mode.
Can’t remember the name of this, but it was the most interesting dish out of them all. I would have enjoyed it thoroughly if it were’t for the spiny, prickly, and hard-shelled creatures that presented in my bowl.
The thin jelly-like pieces are made from seaweed, making them a perfect contrast to the fresh vegetables and tangy, tart, and refreshing cold broth.
Hello jangeotang (spicy eel soup). Delicious in every way imaginable, the eel tasted like regular fish and the broth was super invigorating, feeling like it was boiled down for hours to develop richer and deeper flavors.

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Mokpo’s Fish Market 목포 종합 수산시장

1635 Sanjeong-dong, Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (전남 목포시 광동1가 4-13)

Phone: 061-274-6468

Click here for an interactive map:

The making of hongeo twigim (fried fermented skate balls). Similar to mandu filling, they are rolled into balls and then coated with flour.
Once coated with flour, they make a line before being deep fried.
Deep fried until golden brown.
And here you have it, a stinky ammonia-laden ball of fried fermented skate. You would think by frying them it would lessen the acrid scent. It doesn’t one bit. Luckily they kind ajummas gave us a sample of this regional treat.

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