“A Variety of Visually Pleasing Dishes on One Table”
If you want to experience Joseon Royal Cuisine, Hanjeonsik is the answer.
Hanjeongsik is served with many side dishes using local produce, and dishes harmonized in different recipes, seasonings, temperatures, and colors come out at once on a table. These requirements fully reflect local food characteristics of Jeonju, and one can get a good grasp of Jeonju food culture by taking a glance at a Hanjeongsik table.
The basic table setting of Jeonju Hanjeongsik includes fourteen side dishes, such as soup, kimchi, salted fish, jangajji (pickled vegetables), seasoned raw crab, dry side dishes, roast soup, steamed dishes, sanjeok (skewered meat and vegetables), vegetable, slices of boiled pork, raw fish, and stew. These dishes vary in accordance with seasonal ingredients. The array of side dishes and the main dish are put out on one table, and main dishes are served several times with other additional side dishes.
The most lavish Hanjeongsik traditionally originated in the banquets served in the royal palaces or the homes of aristocrats. Jeonju and Namwon in Jeolla Province are classical scholars’ villages. The classical scholar houses were supposed to maintain wealth, learning, and dignity, and the house food had to be made according to the dignity of the house.
Food represents the house and the noble character of the house owner. Reputable houses serve proper food from which the dignity of that house can be understood and appreciated. Jeonju home-style Hangjeongsik, especially the table setting of native people in the Jeonju area, had a dignity of taste and style.
My grandparents on my father’s side have lived in Jeonju since right after they got married. My grandfather was a public servant in Jeonju and later worked as the governor of many counties near Jeonju. Whenever I visited my grandparents’ house in Jeonju, the house was always full of guests. Moreover, my grandfather was the oldest child and had many siblings. During the biggest holidays, the house was even more crowded than ever. Once my grandmother told me that she had to cook rice in a huge gamasot (iron pot) two times or more for a meal just to serve all the guests visiting the house.
My grandmother was a good cook. Whenever I ate at my grandparents’, it was a feast. The table was full of all kinds of side dishes. She made the best mulkimchi (watery kimchi), and this went well with grilled gulbi (dried yellow corvine fish). On one spoon of rice, grandmother placed a piece of fish meat carefully separated from bones. I was so happy to put it in my mouth—it melted so softly on my tongue—and to take a sip of cool and refreshing mulkimchi. I even wrote a poem about her delicious food and love when I was eight. Hanjeongsik sounds like formal Korean dining in fancy restaurants; however, for Jeonju locals it is a special home-made meal prepared with love and care.
The meal starts with cold vegetables, like salads, and warm soft porridge. And main dishes include either grilled, boiled, steamed, or fried mixed with seasoning: japchae (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables), sanjeok, and meats such as galbijjim (braised short ribs), samhap (fermented skate and steamed pork slices served with kimchi), seafood such as grilled fish and soybean-sauce-marinated raw crab. And in every course, hot soups are served together. The highlight is when sinseollo (Korean royal hot pot), a rich broth with meatballs, mushrooms, and vegetables, comes out in a brass bowl with a hole in the center where hot embers are placed to keep the dish hot throughout the meal.
Hanjeongsik is definitely a long-running meal. To enjoy it the best, you should slowly savor every dish on the table, making sure not to overeat earlier. If you are not familiar with certain foods such as meat or raw foods, you may even ask to take it out of the course and replace it with another dish.
Jeollado Umsik Yiyagi (전라도 음식이야기): This place is famous for Jeonju Hanjeongsik and develops new dishes in order to offer different tastes people cannot experience at other restaurants.
(Opening: 11:00, Closing: 22:00, Tel: 063-244-4477, Address: 899-1 Wooah-dong 2-ga, Deokjin-gu, Jeonju, Price: 25,000 ~ 70,000 won)