As a new week begins, I always ask my students “what did you do at the weekend?” So I’ll answer my own question for a change! We went to Yangyang county which is on the east coast of Korea – about three and a half hours away from Seoul by express bus. Visitors go to Yangyang to hike in the Seoraksan mountains, chill out on the beaches, or visit nearby temples such as Naksansa – an impressive temple right on the sea cliffs looking out over the East Sea.
It’s still too cold to hang about on the beach (without a jumper and wind-breaker) and school kids have just gone back to school, so these are two reasons why Yangyang was reasonably quiet when we were there. I can imagine it’s heaving in the summer time or perhaps during the festival seasons – Yangyang has a songi mushroom festival and a salmon festival every year. So you can go there during the off peak season and enjoy the peace and quiet and cold weather, or you can battle through crowds of holiday-makers in the warm sun. (Hmm. tough choice. But I don’t like crowds or lying on the beach, so I was happy to just walk along the sand and breathe in the sea air and meditate to the sound of the waves. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the city.
The other thing we did while we were there was hunt for good food – something we do wherever we go! The area is famous for 메밀국수 me-mil-guk-su – cold buckwheat (soba) noodles, so as soon as we got off the bus we went in search of a noodle restaurant, with the help of Korean search engine, Naver, which led us to this restaurant.
There are 5 dishes on the 차림표 (cha-rim-pyo) menu board –
함흥비빔냉면 (7,000 won) Hamhung bi-bim neng-myeon = noodles in spicy sauce: Hamhung is the name of a place in North Korea. Bibim literally means ‘mix’ and here means that the noodles are mixed with vegetables in a spicy red sauce. Neng-myeon are cold noodles.
함흥물냉면 (6,000 won) Hamhung mul neng-myeon = noodles in a cold slightly sour soup
(사리 sa-ri means extra noodles, for 2,000 won)
We ordered the 비빔메밀국수 (7,000 won) bi-bim me-mil guk-su = The dish is similar to the Hamhung neng-myeon noodle dish except the noodles are made from 메밀국수 mi-mel-guk-su buckwheat (soba) which are less ‘chewy’. Salted plaice is mixed in the spicy sauce. What I liked about this dish is that you can either simply mix the noodles with the spicy sauce and eat the noodles like that, or you can add more broth (a kettle of cold broth is served with the noodles) and make it into a soup. Dried seaweed and sesame seeds are sprinkled on top with half a boiled egg. The noodles are very long so you are given a pair of scissors to cut the noodles up (if you want to!)
비빔메밀국수 (7,000 won) bi-bim me-mil guk-su
We also ordered the 물메미국수 mul-me-mil guk-su. Again this is similar to the hamhung neng-myeon noodle dish but made with buckwheat. The noodles come in a savoury cold soup with white radish, radish leaf kimchi and half a boiled egg on top. The soup is also flavoured with dried seaweed and sesame seeds and is slightly sour – you can add more vinegar or mustard to to the broth if you prefer a stronger flavour with a kick.
(The fifth dish on the menu is 수육 su-yuk steamed beef. It’s served with kimchi and usually washed down with an alcoholic drink like makgeoli.)
물메미국수 mul-me-mil guk-su
Then for dinner we went out for sashimi – we couldn’t go to the east coast and not eat sashimi. There are lots of sashimi restaurants to choose from in Yangyang and they were all pretty empty (since it’s off peak) so we just picked one randomly. Along the road outside, horses galloped by transporting happy tourists around in brightly lit up carts.
Side dishes served before the sashimi starting from the top right of the picture below are…
sweet rice cakes, red ginger and pickles, raw onion in vinegar,
‘pudding’ (that’s what the waitress said and that’s all I know), fried lotus, jellyfish salad,
blanched broccoli, veg salad in mayonnaise dressing, sweet adjuki beans,
tiny sweet potatoes (how cute?), sweet sticky rice with cinnamon
below left: sea pineapple (먼게) mussels, prawns, below right: jellyfish salad
(below) rice topped with flying fish roe on a sesame leaf
sashimi: plaice and sea bass. We had a bottle of soju (or two) as usual and followed by spicy fish soup. (매운탕 me-un-tang)
Dinner was followed by a little walk along the beach where a young couple were debating about whether to go into the fortune teller’s tent for a reading. (After discussing this for quite some time they DID go in. I don’t know what their fate was though...) We took some more snaps on the beach – slightly out of focus unfortunately. (must have been the soju 😉 )
On Sunday morning, we strolled around the local market. There was plenty of fresh fish for sale but I couldn’t buy any and take that back on the bus to Seoul! (I did by some dried fish and octopus though) So this trip we spent by the sea. The snow is still on the Seorak mountains, but next time we go to Yangyang we’ll definitely have to go hiking too. 😉