중앙데일리

Ribs with a rich history

[FOOD & KOREA] Suwon galbi (Marinated beef ribs) Suwon, Gyeonggi Province

May 14,2009
Hwaseong fortress, built in 1796 by King Jeongjo, joined the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997. Provided by the Korea Tourism Organization
The city of Suwon is famous for its galbi, or ribs. The dish has its roots in the cattle markets that existed in the area until the 1940s.

Cows were vital to Joseon-era Korea, an agrarian society, and their killing was strictly prohibited. But King Jeongjo (1752-1800) also needed the workers in Suwon to be well fed because they were working on the construction of what is now Hwa Castle, located within the city’s fortress walls. He bent the rules and allowed one slaughterhouse in the country to process beef. The Suwon cattle markets grew and, of course, so did its meaty reputation.

The marinated and roasted form of Suwon galbi also has its own story. Around the time that Korea gained independence from Japan, a restaurant in Suwon named Hwacheonok, which specialized in soups that help relieve hangovers, or haejangguk, made a variation of the soup with ribs as one of its main ingredients.

A customer suggested roasting the ribs instead of putting them in the soup. The owners did just that and they were immediately mesmerized by the taste. They started trying different ways to cook the meat, marinating it in different kinds of sauce, and launched their Suwon galbi for the first time in 1946.

Suwon galbi is known not only for its rich, savory taste but also for its chunky size. Galbi’s juicy flavor and deep red color are emphasized when it is seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce, making it both appealing to the eye and tasty for the palate.

Wanggalbi, which means king-sized ribs, is a variation of the dish. The late President Park Chung Hee and his associates frequently traveled to Suwon for wanggalbi, and as word got around, the area gained a name for itself for having the best tasting ribs in all of Korea.

Today, there is even a festival for this celebrated delicacy. Since 1995, the Suwon Galbi Festival has offered visitors a chance to taste this regional speciality.



By Hannah Kim Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



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