A weekend in Jeonju 전주
During the Lunar New Year holidays, the boyfriend and I decided to take a short trip to a little town known as the birthplace of Bibimbap (비빔밥)- City of Jeonju (전주시). Obviously, I was convinced to visit right away as it is where THE ultimate staple food of South Korea is from. Hello?! Who doesn’t like Bibambap? Located in the West in South Korea, Jeonju is said to be the most popular destination for domestic travellers. With its historic hanok village and buzzing food scene, over the years, Jeonju has charmed many foreign travellers as well.
Jeonju definitely has the country’s largest hanok village, with hundreds of tiled rooftops, whitewashed mud walls and quaint looking courtyards- homes of the ancient Korean scholars. Situated in the middle of the city, similar to the hanok village in Seoul, except much larger in size, alleys are filled with traditional houses that are now museums, teahouses and boutique shops. Many stroll around the village in Hanbok (한복), traditional Korean dresses, to experience the surroundings more authentically, or more realistically, for that perfect Instagram picture.
Tip: There are plenty of street food vendors in this area. If you are looking to try something new, have grilled Imsil Cheese, apparently the most famous cheese in Korea, with condensed milk. I know, cheese with condensed milk doesn’t sound appetizing at all, not in the slightest, but I guarantee it’d blow your mind.
Fun Fact: Being the most popular and well known cheese in Korea, Imsil cheese dates all the way back to 1958, when a Belgian priest came to a place called Imsil in the Jeollabuk-do region as a missionary, where he raised goats and started making his own cheese. Then, he passed on his cheese making skills to the rest of the community. The people of this region are so proud of this cheese that theme park dedicated to Imsil Cheese was opened in 2004. Visitors are able to enjoy many cheese-related experiences along with tasting different foods made with Imsil cheese.
Another place worth seeing right at the start of the hanok village in Jeonju is the Jeondong Catholic Cathedral (전주 전동성당). It was built in honour of Roman Catholic martyrs of the Joseon Dynasty. Completed in 1914, this cathedral is made of grey and red bricks, with much resemblance to the famous Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. As it is not common to see presence of European influenced architecture, many agree that the Jeondong Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Korea. Hence, it would be a crime not to use this striking building as a backdrop to our OOTD pictures.
Finally, onto the most exciting part of our trip- FOOD. You might’ve already guessed. Yes, we had bibimbap. Twice to be exact, during our 3-day trip. The verdict? It did and did not disappoint. Now, what I mean by that is that upon arrival, we found out the place we originally wanted to go to is a lot further away from the central area and frankly we were already starving by the time we checked into the hotel. After a brief session of research, we ended up at a place called Seongmi dang (성미당). We ordered the Jeonju styled bibimbap, meaning it is topped with vegetables as well as yukhoe (육회), or Korean raw beef tartar, with a raw egg yolk, sesame oil and gochujang. The flavour combination is truly incredible. Mind you, most of bibimbap places we’ve been to usually would have the chilli paste on the side so you are able to adjust the amount of sauce in your rice. However, maybe it’s one of this place’s special way of doing bibimbaps, the chilli paste was already premixed into the rice and therefore it was way too spicy for our likings. (it might’ve been the spiciest thing I’ve ever had during my time of living in Korea..i’m not kidding). We were definitely a bit thrown off but luckily, the second place we went to the night after, Hanguk Gwan(한국관), surely lived up to expectations. The medley of fresh sautéed vegetables are well mixed in with the flavoured meat and other condiments. Every bite reminds you of home and the taste of grandma’s home cooked meal.
Seongmi dang 성미당: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Wansan-gu, Jungangdong 3(sam)-ga, 31-2
Hanguk Gwan 한국관: 712-3 Geumam 1(il)-dong, Deokjin-gu, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do
Since Jeonju is a city not so significant in size, best local food spots are not so easy to miss, even if you are in town for a day trip or so. A popular destination for local foods is the Nambu Traditional Market (남부시장), just outside of the Pungnam Gate (풍남문), or Southern gate of the city. Similar to any traditional markets in Seoul, it is a place where vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, furnitures, silk goods etc. are sold. What brought us to the market is supposedly the best gukbap (국밥), or hot soup with rice, the ultimate breakfast food in Korea at Hyundai Ok (현대옥). This place specializes in Bean sprout hot soup with rice (콩나물국밥). Seating is very limited at this branch so expect a line outside when you visit, but it is definitely worth the wait for that warm broth that’s so simple, yet flavourful with loads of bean sprouts, garlic, chilli and scallion. Make sure to add octopus bits into your soup because it adds that extra texture and flavour into that bowl of comforting goodness. It is also served with a poached egg and seaweed. My mouth is literally salivating from remembering the taste of each bite. The weather was gloomy and nearly freezing, so a big bowl of boiling hot soup with rice warmed us right up. The ultimate comfort food.
Tip: Make sure to have some cash ready for these kinds of food spots. Most places are Cash Only.
Hyundai Ok 현대옥: 2-242 Jeonong 3(sam)-ga, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do
Last but not least, on our last morning in Jeonju, we couldn’t resist not going to a place that makes the best Sundae, or Korean blood sausages (순대) in town. Also located in the Nambu Traditional Market (남부시장), Nammun Pisundae (조점례 남문피순대) is always crowded with local and foreign diners. This is definitely the place to be if you are looking to try something new. Blood sausages and intestine soup are the 2 best sellers of this local food joint. It can sound very intimidating if you have never eaten something similar to it before (frankly it doesn’t look all that appetizing), but the texture and flavours work so well together. It is soft and flavourful like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. As someone who enjoys eating Sundae from time to time, this place has one of the best Sundaes I’ve ever tasted in Korea, yet. Along with the boiling hot intestine soup, we were more than satisfied to end our Jeonju trip on such a high note.
Nammun Pisundae 조점례 남문피순대:2-195 Jeonong 3(sam)-ga, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do