Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Garlic: Health Food in Danyang

Asians love their garlic. Koreans not excepted. Garlic can be found in most Korean dishes. Even their most beloved import, kimchi is made with plenty of minced garlic. In some less luxurious versions of samgyetang 삼계탕 (ginseng chicken soup), a lot more garlic than usual is added to supplement the flavour lacking from the relatively smaller quantities of the expensive ginseng.

So why do we love garlic? Well, first and foremost, garlic is delicious! A quick midweek stir-fry of bokchoy with a dash of soy sauce can be elevated with a few cloves of minced garlic. The addition of the humble Allium sativum can make a relatively mundane side dish more savoury.

Secondly, there’s this belief that garlic is health food. It is purported to lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol, it’s an antioxidant and even an antibiotic! I don’t necessarily believe if these claims are true, my view of garlic is more practical, a staple and an essential ingredient in Asian cooking. But some people clearly do believe, as was the case of this garlic restaurant we went to in Danyang 충청북도.

When we arrived at the restaurant for dinner, the table were already set with more than 15 banchan 반찬 (side dishes). Our korean tour leader, Lara, told me our dinner tonight was called dolsot maneul jeongsik 돌솥 마늘 정식. Hungry from the extended spa session at the nearby resort, we did not need any urging to pick up the chopsticks. And as we ate, more and more dishes arrived at the table. It’s almost as if they’re trying to stuff us to a delicious death.

Garlic was the main ingredient in the majority of the dishes. Some dishes were better than others. I liked the banchan of garlic cloves in this green mayo dressing that is both sweet and tart. Not so much of the garlic in gochujang marinade.

The protein of the meal was bossam 보쌈, the fatty pork slices were eaten with refreshing buchu kimchi 부추 김치, spicy pickled garlic chives. And as always, I’m a big fan of the grilled salted mackerel (godeungeo gui 고등어 구이). We also had doenjang based soup that was warming and helped everything to go down very well.

To fill us up, multigrain rice was cooked using the traditional way in a dolsot 돌솥, rendering the bottom crispy. At the end of the meal, this crispy bit (nureun 눌은) was soaked in boiling tea, to be had as a sort of scorched rice tea called nurungji 누룽지. But by this stage we were too darn full to even manage a few spoonful.

Did we feel like we were healthier from eating the garlic? Maybe not. But we certainly felt more energised, ready to brave the winter chill again.

28-1 Byeolgok-ri
Danyang-eup, Danyang-gun, CHUNGCHEONGBUK-DO
충청북도 단양군 단양읍 별곡리 28-1
location on google maps

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