The very first thing I researched when I knew I was going to South Korea‘s southwestern city of Jeonju… was the food! After all, the city is known for their gastronomy, their home-style Korean food passed down for generations, and all their fun food festivals. It’s also the fourth city to be appointed a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2012. So where else better than Jeonju if you want to feast on all the most delicious Korean food?
The city of Jeonju (전주) is the capital and largest city of the North Jeolla province (Jeollabuk 전라북도, also know as Jeonbuk) in South Korea. Jeonju literally translates to the “Perfect Region”, and with all that delicious food — I totally agree! My partner, Fong and I visited the city in autumn, and stayed at the Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을) in the heart of the city for 4 days. We spent most of our days exploring the historical sights in the area, walking around it’s over 800 traditional hanok (한옥) buildings, and savouring all the deliciousness that is Jeonju cuisine. We were traveling with the Discover Korea Your Way – DKYW 2019 coupon booklet (with all the discounts you can get) that is available for free to Malaysians traveling to South Korea. Click here for more information.
So after my jaunt in Jeonju — here’s sharing with you my top 10 favourite food in the city. And since I was based in the Jeonju Hanok Village, the suggested restaurants are all located in the village. Try them out when you visit Jeonju!
1. Bibimbap (비빔밥)
Bibimbap (비빔밥) is one of Korea’s most popular dishes, it’s even considered the national dish of the country. And where’s the home of bibimbap? Jeonju! They even have a dedicated Bibimbap Festival in the city every October. So if you’re a fan of this ‘mixed rice’ dish, you’ll never get enough of the Jeonju Bibimbap. Bibimbap is served as a huge bowl of rice, topped with different vegetables, meat (in Jeonju they use beef) and a Korean chilli pepper paste, gochujang — and then all mixed together before eating.
We had our taste of the Jeonju bibimbap at the Hankookjib Restaurant (한국집), one of the most popular places to have authentic bibimbap in the city. Located within the Jeonju Hanok Village, the restaurant has been operating since 1952 with their own family recipe. Between the both us, we ordered the Yukhoe Bibimbap (육회비빔밥) with raw beef for KR₩13,000 (US$13) and the Jeonju Bibimbap (전주비빔밥) with cooked beef for KR₩11,000 (US$11). It was deliciousness in a bowl! Oh, and there’s also a vegetarian option. The DKYW 2019 coupon gave us a 10% discount on the total bill.
2. Kongnamul Gukbap (콩나물국밥)
I love gukbap. So I was excited to learn that Jeonju has its own version of gukbap, called the Kongnamul Gukbap (콩나물국밥). The gukbap is a typical home food meal in Korea, and is said to be a remedy for hangovers. It is made out of a flavourful broth poured over rice, with various vegetable ingredients inside; and can be eaten any time of the day. That’s why most gukbap restaurants are 24 hours. The Jeonju version uses lots and lots of beansprouts, with an egg served on the side.
There are several famous kongnamul gukbap restaurants in Jeonju, but the Heungbuga Hanok owner we were staying with suggested we try Wangi-jib (왱이집) in the Jeonju Hanok Village. So we headed over for supper. The waitress at the restaurant was very helpful — she assisted us with the order, taught us how to eat the gukbap (to put the rice into the broth bowl, and to add seaweed and soup into the egg side dish), and even offered us a cup of Jeonju’s popular local drink called Moju (모주) that the restaurant brews. Moju is a low-alcohol drink made up of oriental medicinal ingredients and the rice wine, makgeolli (막걸리). It actually tastes pretty good, and best drank with hot soup (like gukbap).
I enjoyed the kongnamul gukbap meal, but it wasn’t exactly Fong’s favorite because of the lack of meat and too much beansprouts. A bowl at Wangi-jib costs KR₩7,000 (US$7).
3. Choco-Pies (초코파이)
It’s amazing how Choco-pies (초코파이) could be associated with Jeonju, but it is. Jeonju is said to produce the best choco-pies in the nation — and you can ONLY get it in the city. Choco-pie is a delicious round chocolate cake-pie that is filled with buttercream and strawberry jam. Other than the popular chocolate ones, the local bakeries now produce different flavours like white chocolate, cheese and green tea.
The most famous choco-pie bakery in Jeonju is PNB, and can be found on practically every street in the city — but it’s strictly only a Jeonju franchise. Their most famous branch is located right smack in the Jeonju Hanok Village, and lines can get pretty long. However, I got my choco-pie souvenirs at the Poongnyeon Bakery (풍년제과), along the street just outside the village. That’s because the DKYW 2019 coupon gives a 20% discount here! Established in 1963, this bakery produces really good choco-pies (and other baked goods) as well. After trying out both PNB and Poongnyeon, I would say their choco-pies taste pretty much the same — delicious in every way! The price of a choco-pie ranges from KR₩1,900-2,300 (US$19-23) depending on flavours.
4. Jeonju Home-Style Meal or Table d’hote (한정식) with Makgeolli (막걸리)
As mentioned earlier, Jeonju is known for their home-style Korean food passed down for generations. While in Jeonju, you can actually have a taste of these home-style dishes — either ordered with a huge kettle of Makgeolli (막걸리), or as an expensive spread of Table d‘hote (한정식). We didn’t want to spend on a Table d’hote, which can cost about KR₩200,000 (US$200) per person; so we asked our hanok owner to suggest a good and affordable place in the Jeonju Hanok Village where we could have a home-style Korean meal and makgeolli. He suggested the Chunyun-Nuri-Bom Restaurant (천년능리봄).
This is the oldest makgeolli tavern in the village. Located in an old hanok building, the restaurant is run by the local elders, and provides employment to those over 60 years old. So dining here is like being treated to a delicious meal at grandma’s! Just like most makgeolli taverns in Jeonju — we order a brass kettle of makgeolli (as the main), and then a whole array of random side dishes will be brought to the table. It was exciting drinking our rice wine (the Jeonju makgeolli is just excellent) while waiting for dish after dish of deliciousness to be brought to our table. It felt like our food never stopped coming! One kettle of makgeolli and the basic side dishes cost us KR₩25,000 (US$25) per set, and it was more than enough for two.
5. Daurang’s Dumplings (다우랑만두)
Daurang (다우랑, sometimes spelt Daulang or Dawoorang) dumplings are one of the most sought after snacks at the Jeonju Hanok Village. Dumplings are called mandu (만두) in Korean — and they come in all shapes and sizes; and you can have them steamed, boiled or fried.
I heard that the queues to Daurang can get really long, but there were not many people around during my visit mid-afternoon. It probably gets packed because the restaurant is pretty small, with only a few tables and a window-facing bar-top — but most people just have the dumplings to-go. There are many varieties of dumplings at Daurang, so we just randomly chose a few (including of course, their signature huge shrimp dumpling). The dumplings cost about KR₩1,500-2,500 (US$1.5-2.5) per piece. After paying, we heated them in the microwave ourselves (they get cold from being displayed), and ate it at the restaurant. The dumplings were pretty good — but not unlike any other dumplings I’ve tasted before. Still, definitely worth a try!
6. Gilgeoriya’s Pork Baguette (길거리야)
Nothing about Gilgeoriya‘s (길거리야) pork baguette is Korean at all, but it is one of Jeonju Hanok Village‘s most popular snack. In Korean, it translates to Baguette Burger (바게트 버거) and is a huge baguette stuffed (from the top, not through the sides) with pork pieces, cheese, onions, cabbages and a special sauce.
The restaurant only serves one food item on the menu, and it’s amazing how it can get really crowded in the day. I was staying in the hanok village, and decided to come for a late dinner when there were less people. You can either order the baguette alone for KR₩4,000, or pair it with a drink as a set meal (the restaurant serves a selection of fruit juices too). And I think its pre-prepared as we got our meal really fast! The baguette is crunchy, the filling is delicious, and it was more than enough as a full meal. It kinda reminded me of a Vietnamese banh mi.
7. Veteran’s Kalguksu (베테랑칼국수)
I came across Veteran Restaurant (베테랑) when I was looking for noodles in the Jeonju Hanok Village. They serve a very specific kind of noodles called the kalguksu (칼국수), which is a large bowl of broth served with handmade, knife-cut wheat floor noodles. The noodle ingredients can differ in different places; and the Veteran kalguksu gets its texture from eggs, topped with red chilli powder, seaweed and perilla seeds. The restaurant also serves two other dishes — jjolmyeon (쫄면), a spicy cold dish with dry noodles and vegetables to be mixed together; and dumplings (만두).
We arrived in Veteran during lunch time, and the restaurant was buzzing with locals (which is always a good sign). We managed to find a place, and ordered us a kalguksu each (I wanted to try the jjolmyeon but was afraid it’d be too spicy). It was my first time having kalguksu — the noodles were chewy and smooth, and the broth was really good. This dish is suitable for vegetarians. A bowl of kalguksu costs KR₩7,000 (US$7).
8. Galbi Hankki’s Pork Ribs (갈비한끼)
We noticed the Galbi Hankki Restaurant (갈비한끼) by chance — and I’m so thankful we did! We were walking pass the entrance to the Jeonju Hanok Village (where the Pungnam Gate and Jeongdong Cathedral is located), and happened to notice its menu of pork ribs on the exterior of the small restaurant. It caught our attention, and we made it a point to visit on our next meal. I tired searching for it online for reviews before we went — but because of its Korean name, I couldn’t find any in English. So I’m writing one for it!
The restaurant wasn’t packed, but there were three tables occupied by some local elderly (a good sign already). The restaurant only serves four dishes on their menu — pork ribs (갈비) either served original (오리지날) or spicy (매운), beef ribs soup (갈비탕) and cold naengmyeon noodles (냉면). To have a taste of more dishes, we ordered the original pork ribs set that came with a side of rice and a small bowl of naengmyeon for KR₩10,000 (US$10); and the beef ribs soup with rice for KR₩12,000 (US$12). And they were so so so good. The meat was tender and flavourful (especially the pork), and I will emphasize again that it was so good. Such a find!
9. Jeonju Street Food (길거리 음식)
I think I most enjoyed eating at all the random food stalls that line the streets of the Jeonju Hanok Village. There’s just too many things to choose from — and these little street snacks are great for all times of the day. The main street of the village lies just a few meters down from the Heungbuga Hanok where we stayed — so we had ‘anytime’ access to these yummy delights!
My favourite snack of all was the grilled cheese skewer (치즈구이), made from the most famous cheese in South Korea — Imsil cheese (임실치즈). I had it every day of my stay in Jeonju, and they cost KR₩3,000 (US$3) a piece. This cheese is also used to coat the giant octopus (문꼬치) and chicken (닭꼬치) skewers that are really popular too, costing about KR₩4,500 (US$4.5) a stick. Another street food we tried was the cream cheese hotteok (치즈호떡) at KR₩3,000 (US$3). I really think the street food in Jeonju are a little pricey — but I just couldn’t help going back for more!
10. Nambu Traditional Market’s Night Market (남부시장 야시장)
And finally, the best place in Jeonju to get authentic South Korean street food is the Night Market (야시장) at the Nambu Traditional Market (남부시장). The Night Market only runs two times a week during the weekends on Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm to midnight during summer, and 6pm to 11pm during winter.
Unfortunately for us, our visit to Jeonju was entirely during the weekdays — so we missed this street food market. I read and heard that it’s always bustling with people. Our visit to the Nambu Traditional Market during the day was a much more quieter one. Maybe a reason to return?
*She Walks the World went to South Korea under the banner of the Korea Tourism Organization of Malaysia, to promote the DKYW 2019 coupon booklet and encourage free and easy travel in South Korea to Malaysian travelers. As always, all opinions stated here are my own.
* For more information, visit www.visitkorea.com.my.