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A Mouthful of Baendaeng-i

Posted June. 11, 2004 21:45,   


“Come taste our large-eyed herrings in season.”

The season for the mouthwatering large-eyed herring, or “baendaeng-i” in Korean, is here. The salty-sweet baendaeng-i is at its most delicious during spawning time, in May and June, and the stretch of sea between Gyodong Island and Seokmo Island, in Incheon, Ganghwa-gun, is its main fishing grounds.

At Seonsu Port in Ganghwa and Daemyeong Port in Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do, a throng of restaurants that specialize in fresh raw fish (known as “hoetjib” in Korean) lets you try these delectable fish in prime season.

You can also get a taste of large-eyed herrings at a street of specialty food eateries near the Incheon Multiculture & Arts Center in Guweol-dong, Namdong-gu, as well as at several famous restaurants along the coastal wharf.

In particular, the wharf is surrounded by various cultural and historical landmarks, including an extensive wetlands area, that make it an ideal course for weekend getaways.

Seonsu Port, Ganghwa—

Seonsu Port is widely famed for its baendaeng-i. There are over 10 restaurants specializing exclusively in large-eyed herrings, and the price ranges from around 30,000 won for raw baendaeng-i to about 20,000 won for the grilled kind.

At the fish market toward the port interior, you can buy salted-fermented baendaeng-i (15,000 won/kg) and shrimp (10,000 won/1.5kg) at 20 percent less than regular retail prices. Nae-ri Fishing Cooperative Fish Market (032-937-0330).

Nearby, you can find the Janghwa-ri Lookout, famous for its view of the spectacular sunsets over the West Sea. The evening shades as they spread across the skies around Seokmo Island are a sight not to be missed.

If you cross the Ganghwa Choji Bridge, take a right at the three-way junction, then take another left toward Jeondeung Temple, you can get on a beeline road to Seonsu Port.

Daemyeong Port, Gimpo—

Get on the four-lane road that connects Yangchon-myeon in Gimpo-si with Choji Bridge, and you arrive at Daemyeong Port. Here, you can purchase all kinds of fish, including fresh large-eyed herrings just hauled in by fishermen, in the local fishing cooperative.

The fish market operated by the Daemyeong-ri Fishing Cooperative measures an impressive 500 pyeongs (a “pyeong” is a unit of space equal to about 3.3 square meters) in floor space. Some 42 stalls run by the boat captains themselves open for business from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Currently, you can buy large-eyed herrings at 15,000 won/kg from the fishing cooperative (031-988-6394). Silver pomfrets and blue crabs are also on sale, but prices have gone up considerably since last year.

You can enjoy the unique charm of the West Sea by taking a walk along the coastline, which was newly-opened in 2002.

Baendaeng-i Restaurants in Midtown Incheon—

At the specialty food street next to the Incheon Multiculture & Arts Center in Guweol-dong, Namdong-gu, there are over 10 restaurants that specialize in large-eyed herrings.

Also known as “Baendaeng-i Alley,” the street swarms with people looking for raw baendaeng-i mixed rice (“hoe muchim bibimbap”) during lunch hours, or for a sumptuous helping of raw baendaeng-i with a glass of soju on the side in the evenings.

The Marine Center, located at the coastal wharf, also houses 10 or more thriving restaurants that serve large-eyed herrings, including Dabok-jib and Geumsan Restaurant.

Jun-Ho Cha run-juno@donga.com