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In Korea
Take a Culinary Journey with chef Joachim Textor
gourmet articlesarchivein korea with joachim textor
Dear traveling friends ,
Our last holiday destination combined the sheer excitement of a bustling city and quiet rest and relaxation. We arrived on October 13, 2001 at Incheon Int. Airport in Seoul the capital of Korea. Seoul is a dynamic city that, a buzz with energy yet keeps the traditions of the ancestors alive. Old temples are still well visited, and many palaces of former rulers remind visitors of Korea's ancient history.

We passed through Seoul on the way to our Holiday destination - Sokcho.

Sokcho is located on the east coast the journey took us about five hours. With the breathtaking awe inspiring landscapes, lakes and valleys our five senses are well stimulated during the "passage". Sokcho is also the gateway to the famous Mt. Sorak National Park, considered the backbone of the Korean peninsula and is the highest mountain of the Taebaek Mountain Range.

The foliage was imbued already with brilliant autumn leaves, which created a beautiful collage of colors. The Park is divided by a long winding ridge known as the "Hangyeryeong Pass." The ridge offers breathtaking scenery that is dotted with many valleys and waterfalls like Piryong and Towangsong Falls as well a few Buddhist Temples which are located in the vicinity.

As a relief from all our walking we took a jump into the Choksan Hot Springs, which were actually sprouting from six hot spring geysers. Another set of springs - the Osaek Mineral Springs are believed to bring relief from digestive ailments!

We finished of the day with some delicious dishes from the Eastern area like gamjajeon ( potato pancakes ) and sotorimuk ( a corn jelly ). But the Sorak area is also famous for food dishes made with wild plants such as sanchoe bibimbap ( cooked rice with assorted mountain greens ) or various fresh Tofu. Another new thing which I had never eaten before was the fresh Sesame Leaves, my wife who is more familiar with them than I just wrapped around some grilled beef slices. Two bottles of smooth Korean Sake a day was another part of the menu!

Another specialty which can be found only 70 Km away from the North Korean border is a kind of root also known as Dou-la-gi. During our few days visit in the Sokcho area we also enjoyed freshly cooked and raw seafood such as squid, abalone and sea cucumber, all at very reasonable prices and very tasty.

We bought a few locally produced specialties as souvenirs such as dried seafood, mushrooms and honey. Our last few days were spend in Incheon and Seoul were we visited the traditional Kung-doung wet market - one of the town's highlights.

It was also there where I saw people selling dried caterpillars, roasted cocoons and mountains of different ginseng roots, woods and various deer horn chips which are believed to be good for medicinal purposes.

Even fresh moos (a type of edible grass) were offered between rows of various fresh seasonal specialty mushrooms. All these ancient, unique products took me back a decade when I had worked in Beijing. It seems that the local medicine here in Asia is still booming as it were 10 years ago.
Lastly I tried a herbal forest bouillon and I felt pretty active for a day - if you know what I mean .

Once I returned to my home in Singapore, I preserved some fresh ginseng root which I picked up at the market. Using the finest Armagnac in town I created a concoction that is excellent to drink in the winter time - it can get you pretty heaty. So if you are ever in Singapore you are welcome to stop by and try it out.

Meanwhile happy cooking the Korean way - a little spicy and rather healthy...

Best regards,

Joachim Textor
Executive Chef
The Mandarin Hotel Singapore
More from Joachim

Joachim's food and travel photographs are now available on CD! To find out more e-mail Joa at [email protected]

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