GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA: Gangneung is the easternmost part of South Korea, and it has some of the most beautiful beaches in Korea. Facing the East Sea, many tourists travel here to watch the sunrise; to the point that Koreans will drive to the east coast and especially to Jeongdonjin to admire the first sunrise of the year, every year. Gangneung hosted all the ice events for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and you can still see the mascots all over the city. One can do many things, including visiting some of its many heritage sites, cave exploring, or enjoying a cup of coffee at Coffee Street at Anmok Beach. And not to be missed is to sample some of the unique local cuisines.
Here is the list of fantastic food we have discovered in Gangneung.
엄지네 포장마차 (Umjinae)
A couple, Choi Geun-Yeong and his 53-year-old wife Kim Mi-Ja, started selling Cockles Bibimbap (Kkomak Bibimbap 꼬막비빔밥) on a pushcart and it got so popular that they opened their first restaurant, 엄지네 포장마차, in 2018, and the rest is history. Today, they have eight branches, including in Seoul and Gyeonggi. In addition, they currently own three buildings in Gangneung, which shows how well they have been serving their invention.
Upon looking at the dish when they served, the first impression is "This is cockles overload!". Half of the large plate is covered in seasoned cockles with chilli, green onion and sesame seeds. The other half is seasoned rice with even more cockles. The waitress is kind enough to tell us not to mix the food. The correct way to eat it is to start with the rice and then proceed to the cockles.
Not to be outshined by the Cockles Bibimbap, their meat sashimi (육사시미). It looks like a flower on a plate. The high-quality beef, slightly chilled, is thinly sliced and comes with strips of sweet Korean pear. To eat the tartare, get a slice of the meat and wrap it around the pear, garlic and chilli; dip it into the sesame oil and garlic mixture and have it in a single bite. The taste of the beef with the sweetness from the pear is simply irresistible. This is one restaurant you have to go to every time you visit Gangneung.
Address: Gangwon-do, Gangneung-si, Gyeonggang-ro 2255beon-gil, 21 엄지빌딩 1층
광덕식당 (Gwangdeok Restaurant)
Inside Gangneung Jungang Market (강릉 중앙시장) lays one of the oldest restaurants, started in the 1950s, known for selling Beef Soup for the past 70 years. Their signature dish is Beef Soup 소머리국밥, but it is the inclusion of soft tofu that makes this place unique. 광덕식당 opens very early in the morning, making this place ideal for breakfast. For those who don't like to have beef, there is Chicken Soup 닭국밥 as well.
Address: Gangwon-do, Gangneung-si, Seongnam-dong, 53-11 KR
I am not a big fan of Korean Marinated Raw Crab, Gejang (게장), as I'm not too fond of the fishy smell, you usually get from a fish market. However, this restaurant, 동해일미, has kind of changed my mind. We didn't specifically know Gangneung was the place to eat this dish. We just had a craving and decided to look for it. Lo and behold, 동해일미 turned to be serving the best I have ever tasted.
When we first walked into the restaurant, we thought we had just stepped into someone's living room. The owner quickly came up to us, unable to speak English, trying to ask us if we were dining in. Once we sorted that out, he had this worrisome look and was trying to ask us do we know what the restaurant was serving. There is only one item on the menu: the marinated raw crab. The options you have are small female crab, medium female crab or male crab. The owner told us that the small female crabs are the best without hesitation.
A moment later, he came back with a ton of food. Besides the marinated raw carbs, we got umami filled crab soup, stirred fried spicy squids, steamed egg and all the banchan dishes we can eat. This turned out to be an unexpected meal that I will never forget.
Here is where we go to get Marinated Raw Crab in Singapore.
Address: 5 Myeongju-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
Tofu is a typical food you can find it everywhere throughout Asia. But I bet you can never find tofu made from fresh seawater, especially those made from seawater collected from Gangneung beaches. And Chodang Dubu Village (초당두부마을) at Gangneung is where you get your tofu craving satisfied.
There are many tofu restaurants around the area, and we decided to go to 정은숙초당순두부. We had a very high expectation since it has a massive portrait of the chef outside the building wall, and we were not disappointed.
We ordered the Tofu Pot with Meat set. It came with a hot pot filled with tofu, and in it, you can see a whole crab and small dried shrimps. The delicious seafood soup enhances the taste of the soft tofu. We chased the tofu with the boiled pork, and the meal was complete.
Address: 200 Nanseolheon-ro, Chodang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강릉 중앙시장 맛집 감자바우
강릉 중앙시장 맛집 감자바우 serves some of the most unique traditional Korean food I have ever tried. A unique restaurant in Gangneung made famous by many TV coverages. So I was told. They specialise in Gamja-jeon (감자전), Potato Dumplings (감자송편) and Potato dough soup with Cut Noodles (감자옹심이칼국수와) It has a simple light taste, but very filling due to the starchy dumplings. It might not be the tastiest Korean food you have tasted, but it is quite an enjoyable experience.
Address: 35 Geumseong-ro, Jungang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do