양념게장 (Yang-nyeom Gae-jang) and 간장게장 (Gan-jang Gae-jang)
Red Pepper Sauce Marinated Crab and Soy Sauce Marinated Crab
This delicacy is definitely not your “average Joe” Korean food that you’ll find just anywhere. As with many dishes that are referred to as delicacies, like frogs’ legs and escargot, you may find this one a bit challenging. That’s because the crab is served still in its shell, and you have to bite the shell to get out the succulent meat. Oh, and that succulent meat is raw.
The Yangnyeom Gaejang variety is often served as a banchan (side dish) at fine Korean restaurants. It will be covered in a red pepper paste sauce, and the crab will usually be split into halves or quarters. You pick up that whole quarter using the leg as a handle and you bite down on the body to get at the meat. Give up on the leg. These aren’t king crabs, and you’d burn more calories trying to get the meat out than you would find inside.
The soy sauce marinated version, Ganjang Gaejang, is frequently served as a main dish. It will run somewhere between W15,000 – W30,000 per person and they’ll make you get at least a two-person order. Adventurous eaters, this is the fruit of your courage. Many scoff at crab butter (the delicious innards just inside the top shell), but if you enjoy a good crab bisque then you already enjoy crab butter. Mix the yellow-orange jelly in the shell with a little rice for an amazing unique taste. Of course, the main attraction is the oh-so-soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat of the crab which is perfectly seasoned thanks to days of marinating. Bon appétit!
Words by Stephen Revere
Jinmi Sikdang (진미식당) Seoul This famous tourist restaurant has only one menu item. The Ganjang Gaejang set is W28,000 per person and comes with side dishes so good that it’s led Koreans to label the restaurant a “rice thief”—the contents of your rice bowl will be gone so fast you won’t even remember it. 105-127 Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. 02-3211-4468
Hwangso Sikdang (황소식당) Yeosu, Jeollanam-do Cheap, delicious, and no charge for refills! Hwangso’s Ganjang Gaejang is part of a delicious street dedicated entirely to Gaejang. They use a special type of crab called dol-gae that can be caught only in Jeolla-do. W8,000 per person. 268-12 Bongsan-dong, Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do. 061-642-8007