Moments after eating ori baeksook at Bonga Jangsu-chon Restaurant in Shin Jeju for dinner. Scene 1
In a comfortable, nearby tea house and with the afterthoughts of an entire pressure-cooked duck consumed along with porridge, the critique begins ...
NARRATOR: For four people, this group had nurungji baeksook for 45,000 won. Included with the duck platter, there were ginseng, jujubes, ginko nuts, garlic, and sticky rice. All the ingredients were mixed together to make for a very healthy summertime food.
TM: I would rate the meal 5 out of 5. I feel it makes people physically stronger. It has the same effect as drinking tea. The porridge has a rather strong power to straighten the spine.
JWP: Deciding the feeling after eating, I prefer the porridge more than the duck meat. Overall, I would give the experience 4 stars.
JWC: The taste of duck meat is splendid just after falling cleanly off the frame, coated in a soupy mixture. There’s no better place to be when hungry: in front of a gargantuan dish, prying succulent duck meat off the bone. A solid 4.5 stars.
NARRATOR: According to various food research Web sites, the added ingredients serve to remove the bad flavor of the meat and provide a balance of ingredients. Duck has a lot of unsaturated fat, good for digestion. I was not concerned about the meat. Rather, I closely guarded the porridge bowl. (The group’s average is a 4.5 rating)
Flashback. One hour before. Eating at the crowded and noisy restaurant, sitting on the floor with fans blaring because of the stifling heat ...
NARRATOR: Looking at the menu, there are four main things at Bonga Jangsu-chon. By the way, the restaurant’s name translates to “Original Longevity Village.” We, of course, will have the duck. Nurungji samgyetang is available (40,000 won), where an entire chicken is used, substituted for the duck. Everything else remains the same. And, for 55,000 won, abalone is added with nurungji samgyetang. The first time I visited here our group had jaengban mak guksu, otherwise known as cool buckwheat noodle, without water, a sort of appetizer, a small (15,000 won) and large portion (20,000 won) are available. Only Korean ingredients are used.
JWC: Too few side dishes can make a ravenous eater at a Korean restaurant a bit off-kilter. Consuming a lot of cold mu kimchi cubes will have to suffice. (Happily noticing no one is really interested in the duck meat, and thinking, can it get any hotter in here?)
TM: Not enough side dishes are fine. But the cold dish dongchimi (a water-based radish kimchi) is not good for a starter. It should be at the end.
JWP: My family lives in the mainland. I have been to this same restaurant ...
NARRATOR: There is only one on Jeju, though.
JWP: The other restaurant I went to had geotjeori (a salted and dressed vegetable salad with garlic and chili powder). The main menu is the same. But, I would say, the side dishes are better in the mainland. A duck bone hits the discard pile.
Back in the tea establishment, talking about duck’s history in Korea ...
NARRATOR: Duck is more famous in Chungcheong province, according to all my extensive Internet research. As the location is in the middle of the peninsula, it is the center of transportation and its distribution and food history developed faster. Historically, in the Silla Dynasty, common people would send ducks to the king, as a sort of tax. They used duck and other wild, mountain animals for food.
JWP: (Helping with a translation.) Included in the meal we had today were ginko nuts.
JWC: Huh? Really? I saw jujubes, but not ginko nuts.
JWP: I had one.
NARRATOR: I had another.
JWP: We saw two, but assumed since it was a serving for four (both laughing) ...
JWC: Oh. (mildly disappointed)
NARRATOR: Jeju natives have not had much duck in the past. Recently, they are having it more. And today duck can be a good alternative. Any time of the season is good for this dish.
JWP: If you have good food with good friends, it’s good.
JWC: Duck meat is all the rage.
The curtain closes.
(Interpretation by Kim Soo Yang)
Bonga Jangsu-chon 735 Nohyung-dong, Jeju City Hours: Every day, 11 a.m., to 10 p.m. Phone: 064-711-3352
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