▲ A perfect pair: A big bowl of pheasant buckwheat noodles with Korean cucumber provide a soothing pairing with spicy traditional kimchi. Photo by Kang Hye Kyung
Hikers walking on country lanes that wind around Jeju may spot a large, soft brown bird dashing into the brush. This is the South Korean ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus karpowi). They prefer to live in the forest and eat fruits, grasses, chestnuts, acorns, grains, beans and small insects.
The delicious and tender meat of the bird is renowned in Korea for increasing vitality and being easily digestible. Jeju cuisine boasts a wide variety of pheasant dishes to try this autumn when pheasant is in season.
For a cool day, a warm bowl of ggueong maemil kal gook su, or pheasant buckwheat noodle soup, is filling and comforting. The pheasant meat is cooked into a thick broth, full of the pleasant flavor of the pheasant, a cross between duck and chicken.
The buckwheat noodles are firm and hearty and they complement the flavor of the broth well. Served in a large bowl, one order will usually feed two people for lunch or a light supper.
In Shin Jeju you can find the Tah-eem Restaurant, hidden behind the Café Phil-harmonie near Halla Arboretum. They serve Ggueong toryeom, or pheasant shabu shabu, which is a pan of boiling pheasant broth which simmers on your table, cooking fresh greens and mushrooms.
A plate of raw pheasant slices is served and the diner quickly cooks each slice in the broth before eating with a dipping sauce. The sauce is made of soybean paste, soy sauce, sesame and/or perilla seeds, and sometimes citrus juice. The sauce adds an excellent tang to the rich flavor of the meat. After the veggies are gone, homemade buckwheat noodles are cooked in the remaining broth.
Head to Gu Jeju to find Mae Mil Chohn, a restaurant specializing in pheasant dishes.
From City Hall, head up the hill, take a left at the first major intersection and look for the pheasant on the sign. They offer a pheasant set which is a feast that easily feeds three or four. The set includes pheasant shabu shabu, pheasant buckwheat mandu, roast pheasant pieces, and individual servings of pheasant porridge, as well as many vegetable side dishes.
The roasted pieces of pheasant are especially delicious with a deep, rich flavor clearly setting the pheasant meat apart from other poultry. Although roasted to a crisp, the meat retains its tender texture. Getting a good solid bite of meat reveals the wild and robust flavor of Jeju pheasant.
Pheasant meat is very low in saturated fat but high in protein. It is a good source of essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Other ways to try pheasant are raw (ggueong hweh), sweet and sour or in a casserole. For those who would like to hunt your own, Jeju features one of the only year-round pheasant hunting tours in the world. The Daeyu Hunting Grounds offer hunting expeditions which include a guide, a hunting gun, a hunting dog and hunting uniform. For 100,200 won you can get up to three pheasant per person per day.
Visit www.daeyooland.net for more information on pheasant hunting tours.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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