In a log cabin-turned restaurant on a quiet eco-farm in Seogwipo City, a very special burger awaits visitors. Between a bun the size of two dinner plates is an impressive stack of seven organically-grown vegetables, a giant grilled pork patty, three kinds of sauce, and a chewy wheat pancake.
Weighing in at 1.3 kilograms and at 26 centimeters round, this is a beast of a burger.
Created in 2003 by farmer Kim Seo Joong, the restaurant was taken over by Bae Sang Woon in 2005 and renamed it Hwanggeumryung Burger, appropriately meaning “golden hill.”
▲ A beast of a burger. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
Now Bae’s burger restaurant is a popular tourist spot. During the peak tourism season of summer, over 2,000 people come to eat every day, with between 400 and 500 burgers being prepared by a kitchen staff of four. Sometimes waits for a full-size burger (17,000 won, serving three to four) or a half burger (11,000 won, serving one or two) can stretch to an hour.
The reason why the restaurant is so popular is not just because of the burger’s giant size. It’s special because the ingredients are nearly all local, including the vegetables and herbs which are picked in the fields on Bae’s farm. The latter include rosemary, lemongrass, lemon scented tea tree, basil, and camphor tree which are baked into the bread, and added to the sauce and pork patty mix, which itself is 70 percent Jeju black pork and 30 percent Jeju white pork.
The burger also contains three kinds of handmade sauces; milk-made white sauce; fruit sauce of apple and tomato; and mustard sauce of mayonnaise, egg, garlic, and various herbs.
The only exception to the local ingredients happen to be mainland apples.
A lot of experimentation with the recipe over the years has resulted in Hwanggeumryung Burger’s current taste. According to Bae, he was looking to improve upon the original. “The taste is quite different from what it used to be,” he said.
▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
His last innovation was carried out very recently. The only thing Bae wasn’t satisfied with was the use of canned pickles in the burger. He came up with a solution last December when he started using a handmade mix of radish, cabbage, cucumber, kohlrabi, and carrot as the pickle element.
“I had thought of making pickle mainly using radish, which is very common in Jeju. When I finally made it, I was amazed,” he said. “[It is surprising that] Jeju agricultural products can be cooked delicious like this.”
Now Bae is quite confident this current iteration is the tastiest yet. He pointed to feedback he got from a customer who asked if the radish in the burger was added by mistake. The individual had never imagined that such an ingredient would make a burger taste so good.
One family of nine from Gyeonggi province, who heard about Hwanggeumryung Burger online while preparing for their trip to Jeju, were enjoying their lunch of three burgers. Park Hyung Chul, the father, praised the food.
“The fresh vegetables and delicious black pork make for a light taste,” he said. “I like this soft bread, too.”
Bae’s mission now is to promote his unique product and increase its popularity. In addition to upgrading the restaurant with outdoor tables, English menus, and more, he has a long-term plan to export the recipe abroad. He said he has already received favorable input from foreign customers, including those from France and the US. Another goal he is close to achieving is an “eco-experience farm project” at his farm. [This was featured in a previous issue of The Weekly -- Ed.]
▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
“I’d like Hwanggeumryung Burger to be considered Jeju’s [representative] burger, the must-eat food in Jeju,” Bae said of his dream.
“I hope customers recognize our mind. We are making the burger with organic ingredients we grow. It is not the one for making money, but the one which contains Jeju healthy ingredients and Jeju people’s sincerity.”
Lastly, I think I should take back my words due to a shocking story Bae told me. This year a man appeared at the establishment and actually finished off two burgers!
Hwanggeumryung Burger 10 Shindo-ri, Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo City 064-773-0097 Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily The cabin can accommodate 120 to 130 customers at a time.
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