Monday 13 July 2015

Jeonbok Haemul Ddukbaegi Seafood Hotpot ~ Sokcho

This post was first posted at  

Thanks to Pauline's intensive Korean drama and reality show watching, I mean, research, we were lucky that she came across this amazing restaurant that serves Jeonbok Haemul Ddukbaegi, a seafood hotpot that left such an impact on us that we would come back to Sokcho (if we were ever in Seoul again) with the sole purpose of having this hotpot.

Refer to this photo so you'd know which is the right shop. The shop next door has a very similar signboard.

Click the map for the full image!

On the map above, Sokcho Bus Terminal is marked blue while the restaurant location is marked red. The walk from the bus terminal is much shorter than it seems and it's a downhill walk so you'll get there very quickly and slowly slug your way back up, full and contented.

The restaurant is across the road from the docks and more reviews as well as directions are available on Trip Advisor.

You're served a few side dishes and condiments - sheets of seaweed, kimchi, black beans, seasoned spicy fish eggs, seasoned anchovies and some gochujang. These simple dishes were bursting with flavor and had an noncommercial taste to it as everything was fresh and the ingredients probably locally sourced and produced.

My favorite was this seasoned fish eggs. Spicy and tangy, the little sacs burst in your mouth with every bite. This tasted amazing with rice wrapped in seaweed.

The star of the show, the seafood hotpot comprises of 2 abalones perched on top of a slab of tofu with assorted shellfish and prawns and a small bunch of straw mushrooms. All for 18,000 won ≈ RM60 per person.

I let out a little shout when the abalone moved and the rest of the table started noticing that all the abalones were still alive and wiggling. We started panicking wondering what to do as the pot is very full and there's no space to maneuver anything! Luckily, a Japanese couple at the next table noticed our distress and taught us that we have to de-shell all the shellfish quickly then submerge the abalone in the hot soup. You are provided tongs, scissors, spoons and chopsticks so pick your weapon of choice and attack that hotpot!

I'm so sorry, abalone (╥﹏╥)

The beautifully cooked abalone was springy and tender to the bite. I have never understood the appeal of abalone as I am a bigger fan of prawns but this was nothing like those that you get vacuum packed or in a metal can. The freshness of eating an abalone that was alive a few seconds before is an abalone experience like no other.

Here you see all the shellfish sans shell and the abalone submerged at the bottom right side of the pot. The abalone cooks very quickly so don't feel too guilty about the abalone dying a slow and painful death.

There's one very fascinating item in the soup that I want to point out - that marbled sac on the left side of the pot, resting on the top left corner of the tofu. To eat it, you chew on it and a somewhat floral scent as well as a mild clam essence will seep out of that thin skin that encloses the insides. Once there's no longer a taste, dispose of it. It was an interesting experience learning how to eat this - take a leap of faith and try it the way we did - the flavors that dance in your mouth will surprise you!

The tofu is not the silkiest but it tasted fresh and made in store. With the straw mushrooms, it added some variety in texture to the hotpot and I always find tofu in soup to be quite comforting.

Look at the size of that scallop! Served on its shell, you'll get at least 2 of these. In between fighting and savoring the fresh shellfish, mouthfuls of the soup laced with chilli powder gives you a nice hearty warmth. Well-seasoned, every bit of the seafood broth was polished off as we couldn't let any of that deliciousness go to waste.

They serve a bowl of rice per person so get some seaweed rolling happening and enjoy the briny but fresh mixture of ingredients.

A sign that states the price. The portions are per person and believe me, you will not want to share to begin with.

There is a strategically located window for onlookers to glance or stare at you. Instant marketing for the shop!

An endorsement by KBS, probably the channel Pauline was watching.

Our experience at this hotpot shop was beyond fantastic, we left satisfied and somewhat high, mesmerized by the brilliant taste of what the quaint town of Sokcho had to offer.


Here's a summary of what we ate during our trip, click the image below for a larger view.

Kindly compiled by my extremely efficient travel finance manager, the excel sheet for the above image is available here.