Rare local treats, from persimmons to fried eel bonesAlthough the signature produce of Cheonan, South Chungcheong is walnuts, the area is known more for walnut cookies, or hodugwaja in Korean. Similarly, Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang, is famous for apple cookies, while Yeongdong County, North Chungcheong, boasts grape chocolates as its specialty product.
Except for these well-known sweets, not many people in Korea will be able to name local desserts that use an area’s signature produce. Even still, each region across the country has one or two such products it makes.
Tempting as it may be for many, it is nearly impossible to drop everything and head to the provinces just to taste the local desserts. The good news is, now these regional delicacies are just a click away, as they can be ordered through the Internet. I placed a gluttonous variety of orders, and some came in frozen form packed sturdily, while others had old-school packaging that was a bit out of date. Some tasted excellent, while others were so-so - but the greatest pleasure was that the main ingredients were derived from unique produce that is sometimes hard to find in the Seoul metropolitan area.
1 Ice persimmons
Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang
Two kinds of ice persimmons are available through www.icehongsi.com - persimmons that are frozen right after they ripen, and persimmons that are seeded, then skinned and frozen. Ice persimmons, a common dessert in Korea during the summer, taste a bit like sherbet. One box, including 12 frozen persimmons skinned and seeded, costs 15,000 won ($12). A box of 35 frozen persimmons with skin and seeds intact is 30,000 won. For more information, call (054) 373-6784.
2 Walnuts, dried persimmons and grape chocolate
Yeongdong region, eastern Gangwon
Three kinds of chocolate containing Yeongdong specialties - walnuts, grapes and dried persimmons - can be bought through www.gg8814.com. The walnut chocolates contain around half a walnut each, while the dried persimmon chocolates have small pieces of the fruit embedded in them. Grape extract is included with the grape chocolates. One box with 18 pieces of chocolate is priced at 20,000 won. For more information, call (070) 8879-8814.
3 Apple chips and cookies
Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang
Apple chips sold through www.mgapple.com, are packaged in circular boxes, while apple cookies are packaged individually. The chips are apple slices which have been dried naturally. Because they were not fried in oil, they are more chewy than crispy. The apple cookies include ground, dried apple and are dense, with a strong apple flavor.
One box, containing 20 individually wrapped cookies, costs 25,000 won. Three boxes of apple chips (one box weighs 30 grams or 1.06 oz), are priced at 15,000 won. For more information, call (054) 552-6995.
Let them eat cake - and dumplings
4 Handmade pumpkin dumplings
These dumplings are made from pumpkins grown near the Imjin River, which flows through Yeoncheon County, and they can be bought online at www.arirang2.co.kr. The dumpling skin is made using cabbage, onions and potatoes, with pumpkin filling inside. The dumplings are frozen and packed in ice. Because the dumplings have been steamed first before being frozen, they only need to be heated up in a microwave before consumption. One box priced at 50,000 won contains 10 bags with 500 grams of dumplings. For more information, call (031) 833-2606.
Potato cakes sold at www.ogamja.net are made with potato starch and come in three colors - white, green and burgundy. The green cakes include mulberry leaves, while the burgundy ones include bokbunja, or black raspberries. The white ones are plain potato cakes. One bag (1.7 kilograms) costs 13,000 won. For more information, (033) 731-2334.
Breads and buns for a hearty snack
6 Steamed bun with mulberry filling from Chuncheon, Gangwon
The steamed mulberry buns sold through www.wowobbang.com, are green on the outside because the dough contains Korean angelica roots. They’re filled with mulberry paste, then steamed. All the buns are handmade. One box, with 20 buns, costs 10,000 won. For more information, call (080) 5278-5000.
7 Pear bread from Namyangju, Gyeonggi
Each order from new.hi-farm.com/store/A00233, comes with 310 grams of bread in a paper box. The bread is made using ground pear, flour, olive oil, walnuts and jujubes. One box is priced at 9,000 won. For more information, call (031) 592-0032.
8 Mushroom jerky
Instead of beef jerky, residents of North Chungcheong often enjoy mushroom jerky as a snack. The mushroom jerky sold through www.mushroomjangajji.com looks like beef jerky. A mixture of garlic, onions and apples is used to glaze the mushroom sticks, which are then dried at a high temperature. The sauce is sweet and sour, and the jerky is quite compatible with alcoholic beverages. They go for 3,000 won for a 35-gram bag. For more information, call 1644-5939.
9 Fried eel bones
Pungcheon, North Jeolla
Fried eel bones sold at poongchun.co.kr are a savory, bite-size snack with a crispy texture and a deep flavor. The main ingredient is eel bones extracted from Pungcheon’s famous eels, and they’re eaten often with alcoholic beverages. For more information, call (080) 246-9292.
By Lee Jeong-bong [firstname.lastname@example.org]