“Korean Rice Wine with Nice Munchies.”
Makgeolli is a food rather than an alcohol in Jeonju.
Makgeolli is the traditional fermented rice liquor which is high in protein, ten essential amino acids, and vitamin B complex. It is usually served in a large metal kettle and is accompanied with a vast array of side dishes. Jeonju produces one of the three best-known kinds of Makgeolli in the country, and a glance at the city map will show not one but seven Makgeolli towns.
Makgeolli houses here are bustling and have long wait lists to try the unique style of Jeonju Makgeolli. Anju (side dishes eating over alcohol) is typically what you have to order with alcohol; however, Jeonju Makgeolli houses are famous because when you order a Makgeolli kettle, all kinds of anjus—chicken soup, squid sundae, live octopus, kimchi, eggs, and more— come out.
Moju is also a special drink to try. This is a beverage created by brewing herbal ingredients including ginger, jujubes, and cinnamon with Makgeolli. As it is boiled for more than an hour, it has lower alcohol than regular Makgeolli. For those who want to try much healthier alcohol, Moju is a good recommendation. Moju is more like a dessert, but you can also try it with hot soups. This is mostly served as a cold drink, but you can also ask to warm it up.
Jeonju is a well-known place where people are generous with food to guests. That is why you can easily find places where you order Makgeolli or beer, and anjus come out endlessly, all included in the price.
This trend started in the 1980s in front of the university so that students could enjoy alcohol and could also have a full meal on a low budget. The medical school of Cheonbuk National University used to be located near the Hanok Village in the 1980s. As medical students had to study at school until late, after they finished their hard work, they gathered in in Makgeolli houses.
My father has his favorite place for Makgeolli. It is located in front of the old medical school, which has now moved into the Cheonbuk National University main campus in Geumam-dong. However, the Makgeolli house still remains on the old campus where no students study. Ironically, after the medical school left the area, this place has become famous for tourists and there is always an endless queue in front of the small store where the old male owner grills octopus and fish outside. Whenever my father enters, an ajumma (middle-aged lady) greets him by calling him “old buddy.” She recognizes him because this place was where he came every day with his friends during his medical school days. He talked over one Makeolli kettle with many friends and enjoyed every sip. It was the time when he did not have much money but had great hopes for his future dreaming for the better world. Yeah, my father used to be young too. Now I have the youth that my father once had, and I wonder what my future will be. Makgeolli is a good buddy with whom you can agonize about difficulties of life and also hope for the better future. People say that Makgeolli teaches life lessons. Unfortunately, Makgeolli can give you a terrible hangover. Yes, Makgeolli teaches you a good lesson: Do not drink too much.
If you are not a glutton, you can enjoy it better when you go with more than three people. With one kettle, twenty different side dishes come out on one table. And when you order another kettle, three or four new dishes add up each time.
[Photo credit: http://www.samsamstory.com]
Yetchon Makgeolli (옛촌막걸리)
(Opening: 13:00 , Closing: 00:00, Tel: 063-282-6455, Address: 295-2 Jeon-dong, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Price: 20,000~)