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Chung`s Boltaegi in Songnam, Kyonggi Province

Posted February. 28, 2001 17:55,   


Generally found hundreds of meters beneath the surface of the warm southern sea, codfish are called ``daegu`` in Korean because the species has a large head and mouth. In Chinese, ``dae`` means large and ``gu`` means ``mouth.`` Codfish is used in ``maeun-tang`` or pepper-pot soup because it has little fat and does not have a strong taste. In the Yongnam region (South and North Kyongsang Provinces), it is used to make popular dishes like ``ppolchim`` (steamed cod head) and ``ppolkuk`` (cod head soup).

Mr. Chung`s Boltaegi (031-706-0038), located in front of the Pundang Ward Office in Songnam City, Kyonggi Province, is a popular restaurant that specializes in codfish dishes. Its menu is limited to ``haejangguk,`` regarded as a hangover cure, which is priced at 5,000 won, and steamed cod head and soup (20,000 won to 30,000 won). The restaurant was adapted from the word ``bol,`` the Yongnam region dialect for the fleshy part of the cod head.

In making its haejangguk, Mr. Chung`s Boltaegi boils cod head together with radish, green onions and peppers, which produces an atypically clear soup. The steamed cod head, seasoned with red ``kochujang`` (hot pepper paste) and thick bean sprouts, is not too spicy, so many customers choose to add pepper powder. You will have no way to stop your chopsticks once you taste it for the first time. The cook does not use store-bought condiments, but makes his own seasonings with about 20 different kinds of natural raw materials like brown seaweed or ``sea tangles.``

The bean sprouts served at Mr. Chung`s Boltaegi are larger than usual because they are cultivated in water laced with yellow soil, charcoal and ``yongji`` mushrooms. The shop owner even applied for a patent for this special cultivation method. The Kyonggi-do Institute of Health and Environment judged the restaurant`s bean sprouts as being totally free of agricultural chemicals.

The soup is boiled with cod head and about 10 different kinds of vegetables like radishes, green onions and dropwort. Mr. Chung`s Boltaegi secures its codfish from those caught by ocean-going fishing vessels off New Zealand and rapidly freezes them at temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius.

Its main restaurant in Pundang has 250 seats and a five-pyong (16.5 square meters) space for children to play. Parking is available for about 100 cars. No reservation generally means a long wait. Mr. Chung`s Boltaegi is open 365 days a year.

Park Hee-Je min07@donga.com