The seasonal foods of spring
One way to enjoy this time of year is by eating seasonal foods such as spring herbs and seaweed, which are plentiful in the area around Mount Jiri and Korea’s southern coast.
On a visit last week to a traditional outdoor market in Gurye-eup, a town located between Mount Jiri and the Seomjin River, the place was full of life. At around 7 a.m., a group of middle-aged women began to gather, carrying on their heads and backs baskets full of spring herbs, which they said they had just picked from Mount Jiri and the surrounding fields.
“Shepherd’s purse is just delicious when seasoned with doenjang [bean paste] or gochujang [red pepper paste], a little garlic, sesame oil and starch syrup. It leaves a refreshing taste in your mouth,” Kim Young-suk, 53, one of the herb vendors, said.
“You can make a fantastic soup using mugwort, another spring herb, mixed with small shrimp and doenjang,” Choi In-sun, 55, another vendor said. “It has a sweet scent and a refreshing taste. I’ve seen many people eat an extra bowl of rice with it when the soup is served - it’s that good.”
“Cho-oh [Aconitum Ciliare Decaisne, which is a species of crowfoot] is the first spring herb from Mount Jiri to appear. When the herb is boiled with dried pollack, it is good for those who have cold hands and feet,” Kim Hwa-sun, 55, said. “But make sure to let it cool down before you drink it because the herb was originally used to make poison in the old days and it can cause trouble if you drink it when it’s hot.”
“It is fair to say that gamtae is always served here. In this region, gamtae is used for almost all foods, including kimchi and buchimgae [pan-fried vegetable pancake],” said Kim Jeong-ja, an elderly woman who said that she has been gathering gamtae for about 40 years now.
“My children, who moved to the city many years ago, often still ask me to send them some food made with gamtae, saying that they miss the taste,” Kim said.
“Gamtae cannot be raised artificially, which means that it is available only at this time of year, and our job of gathering gamtae will be finished for the year at the end of this month,” she added.
People living by the sea say that for them, seaweed is a sign that spring has come. Seaweed is now in season in Deukryang Bay, which extends from Goheung to Boseong and Jangheung counties in South Jeolla.
“Unlike other forms of brown seaweed, soemiyeok is usually eaten as ssam [food wrapped in lettuce or seaweed],” said Gang Deuk-young, 46, who has been farming brown seaweed in Deukryang Bay for 12 years now.
“It tastes good when you eat it raw, but the taste is enhanced when you eat it as ssam after it’s been boiled lightly. It is usually used to wrap slices of raw fish or simmered pork, which is just delicious.”
*Seaweed that has been frozen with salt, which is the typical method of preservation, should be soaked in cold water for 30 minutes before serving to remove the salty taste.
Ten kilograms of soemiyeok cost 15,000 won ($13); 10 kilograms of kosiraegi, 15,000 won; and 10 kilograms of kelp, 7,000 won. There is usually an extra cost for home delivery.
For more information, contact Badasusan at (061) 867-9975.
By Yoon Seo-hyun [email@example.com]