“One Pot Meal Perfect for Hangovers.”
If you have hangover after makgeolli fever last night, Kongnamul Gukbap is the best choice.
Piping hot soup full of yellow bean sprouts and chopped squid on top is served in a black stone pot called ttukbaegi with a soft-boiled egg in a metal bowl on the side. You might think this doesn’t sound much appetizing if you are not so interested in soybean sprouts. Maybe you have not experienced soybean sprouts before because this is an unusual ingredient that can be hardly seen in other countries. But if you are on a food journey in Jeonju, you should definitely adventure to try this soup.
Jeonju kongnamul (soybean sprout) is known as the best in Korea because the Jeonju water is clean and the soil is ideal for growing the breed of beans called ‘mice eyes’ beans. Its soft texture of Kongnamul and hot soup makes an ideal food for relieving hangovers.
Going through the rapid industrialization after the Korean War, cheap restaurants for workers had increased near the Jeonju Nambu Market along the stream. In the middle of hard labor, workers would eat rice with soup in a bowl, which was an easy meal to finish off so that they could go back to work early. And after a long and arduous work, they would also enjoy Makgeolli over cheap soup as a side dish. That is why this soup is also called sulguk (soup after alcohol).
In the early morning in the market, you could see many people gathered around at a small table to alleviate morning hunger and a painful hangover from Makgeolli. Kongnamul Gukbap reflects the lives of ordinary people in Jeonju who went through upheavals after the Korean War. It represents all the difficulties and sorrows that people had suffered just to support their families during the turbulent period. This one hot bowl has been a true comfort food for sure.
I used to eat Kongnamul Gukbap with my dad when I was young. In the early morning, dad would take me to a small and humble restaurant inside the Nambu Market. In a room filled with steam from hot boiling soup, I used to warm up my cold body and tried to awaken from sleep. Even though it was early morning, the restaurant was always packed with customers just like the beansprouts growing inside buckets in the market.
My father liked Kongnamul Gukbap very much. I couldn’t understand the taste, but I just followed the way he ate it. And he said, “Gukmul siwonhada (directly translates to soup is cool).” I laughed at him and proudly told him that soup was obviously hot. Then, he explained that I was too young to understand its zesty taste that cools down the heat inside the body. I wondered when I would understand this profound taste.
Now twenty years have passed, and I crave for its “cool” zesty taste of hot Kongnamul Gukbap whenever I had a long night with drinks. Yes, hot soup cools down the heat inside of me for sure. You will never understand this until you really experience it.
There are two kinds of Kongnamul Gukbap. One is called “Nambu style,” which is served with a soft-boiled egg on the side in a metal bowl. The other one is called “Sambaekjip style,” which has much hotter broth with an egg inside the soup.
Nambu style can be enjoyed in many different ways. You can either put an egg inside the soup or eat it separately. To enjoy clear soup, eating the egg separately is highly recommended. First, take three spoons of the soup and add it into the egg bowl. Tear up a packet of salted dried laver and sprinkle on top of the egg. Mix the egg, and you could enjoy it as it is. Or you can add beansprouts and rice.
Hyundaeok in Nambu Market (현대옥 남부시장점): It is the first Kongnamul Gukbap restaurant started in Jeonju. You can order more squid added inside the soup for extra money. Also, you could choose the level of spiciness.
(Opening: 06:00, Closing: 14:00, Tel: 063-282-7214, Address: 2-gil 63, Pungnammun,
Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Price: 6,000 won)