Suitcase and World: Savoring a Jeju Island Delicacy. Black Pork.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Savoring a Jeju Island Delicacy. Black Pork.

For our last dinner on Jeju Island, we really had no idea what to do so we asked the hotel receptionist for advice.  He told us to go out the front, turn right and go down one block.  There would be plenty of restaurants in the vicinity.  That's exactly what we did  last night so with no other suggestions in hand, we did exactly as the receptionist instructed.

Last night, we stopped at the corner one block down from the hotel, looked around saw nothing and turned back ending up with a so-so izakaya  meal.  Tonight, we veered onto a dimly lit buy smoky side street.  Meat was being grilled and the air was carrying the tantalizing scent down to my nose.  I immediately thought of Korean BBQ - we've yet to have any on this trip.

All the signs were in Korean but there were plenty of pictures for us to look at.  Indeed the street was lined with BBQ joints and most of them were serving up a Jeju specialty - black pork.

For the uninitiated, the Jeju Black Pig is a breed of domestic pig found predominantly Jeju Island.  The pig is so named because its skin is black in color.  While you can most certainly eat black pork in other parts of Korea, I would say when you're in Jeju, you should take the opportunity to have it here. So, it immediately became apparent what we were going to have for dinner.  Picking a restaurant was no brainer either.  I just picked the first one that we passed by that looked like it was filled with happy diners. 

I voted to sit outside so we had a better that we would not be enshrouded in smoke as we ate. It was comfortable evening, temperature wise, for dining al fresco so George had no objections.

A view of the street below from our table at the restaurant.

We were seated at a round metal table that could have easily accommodated 6 people.  In the center was a ceramic pot.  I figured that's where the charcoal would be set in and atop that, a grill.  A tub fan hung over the grill area.  That would be the venting system.

We the menu came, the pork selections were all sold by the kilo.  Mind you this meat is NOT cheap.  We ordered 600 grams of a mixture of loin and belly meat for 54,000 won which translates to $46.25 for 1.3 pounds!  I can buy a USDA prime rib of beef for less than that!  660 grams sounded like way too much meat but I figured whatever we would have as leftovers would be our lunch tomorrow on our ferry ride back to Cheongsando.

The banchan were delivered to the table in lightening speed.  We munched without a clue as to who?  how?  the meat we ordered would be cooked.  I was expecting a plate of raw meat to be brought to the table and then we would have to do our own grilling.  I was perfectly prepared to do the work.

In due time, a young man approached the table, carrying a tin bucket.  Inside were small pieces of red hot charcoal.  Then a waitress came along with the meat and the grill top.  She then went about cooking our food for us.  I didn't know if this was what she would be doing for everyone or she was doing it just for us because it was clearly obvious we were tourists.  In any case, I enjoyed sitting back and watching her in action.

The meat is definitely fattier than what we can buy in the US.  In the grilled meat world, fat translates to yummy taste!

Using a pair of scissors, our waitress began to cut up the large chunks of meat into smaller pieces.

She also placed a small bowl of sauce in the middle of the grill to heat it up.  As she went about the task of grilling the meat, she moved the vent about to capture the smoke.  I have to say, the fan was powerful enough that there was virtually no smoke wafting around.

I think both George and I were mesmerized watching her in action but I was ready to eat.

As the meat cooked, it began to develop those delicious crusty edges around where the fat was.  I was trying really hard not to salivate and dying as each second went by.  When could dig in??

Finally, the waitress motioned for us to dig in.  I had heard so much about this meat, I wanted to taste what it was all about.  I took a piece and ate it sans sauce just so I could get the flavor of the meat.  Although pork is my favorite meat to eat, I am by no means a taste aficionado.  I found the meat much more delicate in texture and sweeter than what I can buy in the US.  There was also a moistness to the meat that in my mind is indication that the meat has never been frozen.  Once you freeze meat and thaw it, the juices all run out and you end up with dry meat.  Flavorwise, I was surprise to not taste much pork flavor. It's a much milder meat.  I would prefer more porkiness.  Overall, it's a very delicate meat and the grill enhances its characteristics.

Along with the  meat and the banchan, we were also provided with lettuce and several spicy looking sauces.  Looking around at the diners at the other tables, I noticed everyone was using the lettuce as a wrapper with the meat and the sauces in the middle.  For me, black pork is far too delicate a meat to be smothered with a chili sauce and hidden inside a lettuce leaf.  So, I just continued to eat the meat plain, sometimes dipping it into the sauce and other times, simply enjoying it plain.  George was pretty much doing the same.

By us devouring nothing by meat, we polished off the entire kilo.  I was stuffed beyond stuff when I look my last bite.

After George paid the bill, we left for a short walk around the block.  I needed to burn off at least one calorie before returning to the hotel.

88 Pig, the restaurant we ate at.  Our table was the corner one where the waitress, in the red shirt, is standing.

As we walked down the street, we noticed one Korean BBQ joint after another.   There is a street in Jeju that is named Black Pork Street that is supposedly filled with nothing but restaurants serving up the island's prized delicacy.  This street wasn't it but most certainly, it had plenty of black pork centric dining establishments.  I think pretty much all of them are very similar unless you are that black pork aficionado.

If you don't feel like  paying an arm and leg for dinner, there were plenty of street vendors grilling up some  pretty delicious looking bites.  We should have checked one of them out last night instead of the ho-hum izakaya place we went to. I don't even remember the name of the place, it was that so not good.

It was just one short block of food places. Once we turned the corner we were in the heart of a shopping district.  It's a weekday night so there were people out and about but not all that many.  I didn't come to Jeju to shop for stuff that I can get back home so we just strolled by all the open shops and headed back to the apartment.  Tomorrow, we are heading back to Cheongsando.  Another ferry, another adventure perhaps?

In the meantime, I need to shower and pack my suitcase.  It's been a short visit to Jeju Island and although I don't feel like I fully experienced it, I am okay with leaving.  Having the pork dinner did end things on a bit of a high note for me.

Goodnight from Jeju!