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By Way of Korea

South Korea   |   New York

A Korean food blog and travelogue inspired by

an epicurious New Yorker's journey around South Korea


By Way of Korea: Jeonju-Style Mul-Galbi (Hanok Village, Jeonju)

Updated: May 15, 2019

At the Yongsan KTX Station, we boarded the next Jeonju-bound train on which I connected to its high-speed WiFi to begin my search for a place to stay for the night. The first suggestion to appear in my search for a place specifically in Jeonju’s Hanok Village was all I needed to see before booking it for a sweet total of $40. With lodging taken care of, I sank back into my seat to finish my burnt orange latte while watching the sky change palettes. Shortly after the sky had turned a deep indigo, we arrived at Jeonju Station and found our way to our hanok in the Hanok Village.

It might have been our crunchy footsteps on the pebbly courtyard that gave us away, but our gracious host appeared as soon as we entered the house to help us check into our room. He opened a set of doors to reveal a small, but simple, cozy room with windows made of hanji and a warm ondol floor to sleep on.

Ondol floors were one of the things I missed most about Korea, so I wasted no time laying a blanket over the toasty floor to sprawl out on it. Caffeine turned out to be no match for the soporific effect of the ondol heat, so I focused on my hunger to fight my heavy eyelids. My search for Jeonju 향토음식 (regional cuisine), produced an article and a few Naver blog posts naming mul-galbi (물갈비) as one of them.

When Youn visited me in Pyeongchang at the end of the summer of 2017, we found a restaurant in Hoenggye where we first encountered mul-galbi ㅡ dweji-galbi (pork ribs) cooked in 'mul' (water). Neither of us had had pork ribs served this way before, but that day it became my favorite way of eating them. However, when I moved back to Seoul, I found that only a handful of places offered it on their menus.

Learning that mul-galbi was indigenous to Jeonju, I was determined to have it while I was here. The most well-known of the mul-galbi restaurants, Namno Galbi (남노갈비), happened to be a ten-minute walk away. I've found that small-town restaurants tend to close early, so we finally tore ourselves away from the inviting floor and headed out to eat.

Everything but a couple of shops in the village seemed to have closed business for the day, but a flourescent glow coming from where Naver Map indicated Namno Galbi should be abated my growing fear of having to go to bed hungry. It was open and still taking orders, so we got seated and waited for our the mul-galbi.

A pan loaded with liberal heaps of glass noodles and soybean sprouts was placed before us. Jeonju’s soybean sprouts, reputed to be sweeter and crunchier than those cultivated in other parts of Korea, are one of the region’s agricultural treasures and staple foods. The marinated pork galbi sat at the bottom of the pan mostly submerged in the reddish-orange broth and hidden under the mass of noodles and sprouts. Once the broth came to a fast boil, a woman used her tongs to push aside the toppings to reveal the galbi. She then used scissors to cut them into bite-sized chunks. We were instructed to eat the noodles first, then to enjoy the meat in the form of ssam.

After fishing out and eating all the noodles, I began constructing my first bite of ssam. Starting with a lettuce leaf, I added a sliver of pickled radish, raw garlic, a dab of ssamjang, and a chunk of pork grabbed with some soybean sprouts from the pan. The bite of hot, spicy, and tender pork against the cool, sweet, and crunchy radish was one that I couldn’t wait to assemble and eat again. Each time we depleted our radish and lettuce supply (which happened a few times), an old man quietly came by with a smile to very generously replenish our empty plates. Ssam after ssam left us full, but with enough room left for the finale (fried rice, obviously).

After dinner, we had a lazy stroll back to our hanok. And there we fell asleep, under a giwa rooftop in the famous Jeonju Hanok Village I'd only seen in pictures.

* [Jeonju-style mul-galbi was noticeably distinguishable from the versions of the dish I'd had before. Its broth was spicy and reddish-orange unlike the sweet, dark-brown broths of those served at Geum Seong Hwe Gwan (금성회관) in Hoenggye and at Pal Baek Jeong (팔백정) in Apgujeong (not featured in this post). Jeonju's mul-galbi also boasts a hefty serving of a local star crop that gives the dish an extra dimension of taste and texture.]



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"If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel - as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them - wherever you go."

Anthony Bourdain's unmatched relish for adventure and humble approach to food, cultures, and humanity left an indelible impression on my younger self. Imparting on me the courage to veer into the unknown, he inspired me to embrace my vulnerabilities and seek adventures and growth beyond the comforts of home.


In July of 2017, I boarded a one-way flight to Seoul, South Korea. Within the first week of arrival, I signed a lease for an apartment and by the end of August, I had accepted a job offer that relocated me to Pyeongchang and Gangneung, where the Winter Olympics were soon to be held. From there, I had the rare opportunity to explore much of the greater Gangwon Province's beautiful mountainous and coastal regions and their distinctive foods. Once or twice a month, I'd return to Seoul or travel to an unfamiliar region to poke around alleyways, markets, and mountains in search of more good eats and adventures.


By Way of Korea is a storytelling project inspired by the food, places, and faces I encountered throughout Korea. By sharing my fondest memories, notes, and images of Korea, I simply hope to play a small part in piquing greater curiosity about Korean food and culture in my readers.  My content will heavily spotlight, but not be limited to Korean food and culture. 

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