By Lee Ji Hyun, Jo Eun Seok, Son Eun Mi, and Lee Eun Jin
Everywhere we go, we hear of the importance of tradition. What then does “tradition” mean? The answer is usually that it’s a custom and belief that has existed for a long time. In Jeju, there are many traditions covering many aspects of our lives. This time, however, we would like to concern ourselves with Jeju’s culinary traditions.
On Dec. 10, the JDC-Jeju Weekly junior reporters visited Kim’s Cooking and Baking Academy to meet Yang Yong Jin, a Jeju traditional food expert. Under his guidance we cooked two kinds of food, bing ddeok (buckwheat rice cake) and bean congee.
Why did these foods become part of Jeju tradition? It’s because of quantity. On Jeju, beans and buckwheat are very easy to grow. Yang said that beans in particular are easy to grow. The roots of the bean plants grip the soil and as a result firm up the land and prevent erosion. So at the end of the harvest season, farmers often sow beans.
However, did you know that buckwheat was brought to Jeju by Mongols? When the Goryeo Kingdom (918–1392) was a vassal state of the Chinese Mongol-controlled Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), they introduced it to Jeju, according to Mr. Yang, to keep them sick and weak, as the Mongols believed buckwheat was detrimental to one’s health. However, the Jeju people ate it and sowed it without problems. During barren spring weather, Jeju people would reap the buckwheat from the land around their homes. For this reason, buckwheat became part of traditional Jeju food.
When foreigners think of “Korean (including Jeju) dishes,” they automatically think “spicy,” particularly when they consider dishes like tteokbokki (rice cakes with hot sauce) and kimchi. However, this isn’t always the case. Some of the original foods of Jeju were very bland with little or no spice. However, by using every single ingredient which were only reaped in particular seasons on local farmland, they were truly authentic foods that became favorites with the people.
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