Jeju has been famous for abalone (“jeonbok”) since ancient times and its harvest has not only sustained the economy, but infused the local cuisine. Seogwipo restaurant “Chakhan Jeonbok” is proud of this heritage and although it is part of a mainland chain, it offers many unique tastes at its Jeju operation, deep in charming Seogwipo City.
Chakhan Jeonbok offers a variety of dishes at reasonable prices and the main ingredient is, of course, abalone. The abalone is a kind of edible sea snail or mollusk, often referred as ear shell or sea ear. Even among Koreans, who eat more seafood than most, the item is considered something of a specialty, even on Jeju Island, where it is most famous.
As an expensive gourmet food, even for locals growing up on the shore and seeing the daily catch, abalone is not an everyday food. As a luxury ingredient, it was even presented to royalty and local dignitaries as a form of tribute in past times.
The abalone is also renowned for its healthiness, being a nutritional supplement and digestive aid. You shouldn’t be surprised if your Korean doctor, instead of prescribing some pills for a quick fix, recommends some abalone porridge!
▲ Photo by Agne Latinyte
You’ll have no communication problems here! Upon entering the restaurant you will be kindly greeted in English, Korean, Chinese or Japanese before being escorted to your seat. The staff might also recommend the abalone seafood beef “shabu shabu,” especially good for people not familiar with eating the creature, they insist.
Shabu shabu is a form of beef hot pot which originated in Japan - in turn being heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine - and involves thinly cut strips of meat being boiled in a seafood soup along with vegetables. The dish name is actually onomatopoeic, being derived from the sound the ingredients make as they are stirred in the cooking pot.
Diners cook the soup themselves with the kind guidance of the staff. Moreover, to make things even easier, the ingredients are set up in the order in which they should be placed in the boiling pot.
First, in go the shrimps and bigger shells, followed by the vegetables. After that you add the beef, and lastly in go the mushrooms and noodles. Thus, you could say the whole meal is actually three separate eating courses: beef, seafood and then noodle soup. Alongside the main pot comes various sides, such as abalone rice (“juk”), homemade kimchi, salads and a special sour corn sauce.
A unique feature of Chakhan Jeonbok is that the restaurant only uses organic vegetables grown on Jeju Island. Also, most of the seafood is also purchased at local fish markets. Could your abalone have been harvested from the seafloor by a haenyeo, a Jeju diving woman, that very morning? It is certainly possible.
The abalones are served so fresh that they are still moving as they are dropped into the soup. If this is too much for the customer, then they can be served fresh, but not as lively.
To finish things off diners, are treated to a typical sweet summer drink, homemade “sikhye,” made with rice and sugar. As if you weren’t stuffed already, there is even a small shop selling local goods next to reception where you can buy your very own frozen abalones. That is breakfast sorted, then.
▲ Photo by Agne Latinyte
119, Cheonjeyeon-ro, Seogwipo-si
7.000 ~ 35.000 won per person, while the most expensive special course set is 65.000 won per person. The shabu shabu is from 17,000 to 23,000 won per person (minimum serving of two) with various meat and seafood choices.
Call 064-738-8455 / 064-738-9455
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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