A sausage and egg butty (a sandwich to the uninitiated), half a pack of B&H Silvers (and maybe some hair of the dog) or bad, over-strong instant coffee if the mood took me. This was my hangover cure for the majority of the last decade (especially the university years). The relative lack of greasy spoons on Jeju selling artery-clogging butties stuffed with questionable sausage and smothered in brown sauce meant that the food component of my preferred cure was no longer an option. Obviously I could make it myself but I don’t want to because… I’m hung over.
This presented a considerable problem for someone who has to deal with more than his fair share of hangovers. I was sure, however, that the land of soju and liquid-heavy weekday work dinners must have come up with some good hangover cures themselves: I wasn’t disappointed.
I discovered the little hangover remedies in bottles (Morning Care, Dawn 808 etc.) on my first weekend in Korea. They worked fairly well but I needed sustenance too, so I asked around and was told about haejangguk, which literally translates to “soup to chase the hangover.” I’ve had haejangguk in several different spots and enjoyed them all, and each chased my hangover away very satisfactorily. Then I was introduced to this little spot Mipung Haejangguk in Jeju City, and found it produces an uber-haejangguk that honestly blows everything else out of the water.
When you walk in the door you get a deep olfactory hit of beef umami. Ordering is easy as there is only one thing on the menu. If you’re not Korean they might ask if you want them to make it less spicy. You should say no. In under five minutes you’ll receive a steaming bowl of beef broth studded with little pools of chili oil and containing tender pieces of slow cooked beef, spring onions, glass noodles, beans sprouts, cabbage, and congealed ox blood (this tastes much better than it sounds). Of course it comes with a bowl of rice.
I love the contrast between the bleached white rice, the deep vivid red of the chili oil and the green flecks of spring onion in the soup. There’s also a bowl of pureed garlic that you mix in to taste (I always put loads in). At first the soup is too hot to eat, so I skim chili oil off the top of the broth and eat it with the rice until the soup cools down then I dump the rice into the soup and go to town.
▲ Photo by The Jeju Weekly
The most exciting part of this dish is the outrageous depth of flavor that the broth has and the way it marries with the chili oil. The cabbage is soft. The bean sprouts add crunch. Tough cuts of beef have been stewed for hours and make the stew rich and hearty. The star turn of this particular show is the congealed ox blood, which comes in smooth black slabs of iron goodness. The texture is something like foie gras and it’s phenomenal in combination with the crunch of the bean sprouts.
I could go on forever about how great this restaurant’s version of haejanguk is but I guess I have a word limit so suffice to say go, it will be the best 6,000 won you will ever spend. You don’t have to be hung over to go but it’s just a more complete cultural experience if you are.
292-18 Yeon-dong, Shin Jeju
Hours: 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Closed every second and fourth Monday
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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Registration Number: Jeju Da 01093 | Date of Registration: November 20, 2008 | Publisher: Hee Tak Ko | Youth policy: Hee Tak Ko
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