If you need an excuse to head to Andong, these four delicious culinary options should do the trick.
Few cities in Korea can claim to have nurtured and preserved the local culture as well as Andong, a city nestled in the northern part of Gyeongsangbuk-do. During the Joseon Dynasty, it was home to some of Korea’s most revered Confucian scholars and was an epicenter of academia and nobility. Along with the rich history comes a distinct culinary palate celebrated in the local specialties, making a trip to Andong an essential addition to any expat’s to-do list.
Salted Mackerel Historically, Andong was one of the few inland cities where fish was available, making it a popular delicacy among the aristocracy. Salted mackerel, or gan godeungeo (간 고등어), is the region’s most famous fishy delight. Andong Gan Godeungeo (안동 간 고등어) has built a franchise out of their version of the dish, which they serve in a couple different styles.
In its grilled form, the fish is served simply: alone on a platter with the inside facing up to aid in deboning. Its presentation belies the deliciousness that awaits you. The crispy skin is a perfect combination with the salty, fluffy flesh. Alternatively, you can find the mackerel served in a stew-like dish, topped with mushrooms, spring onions, and a savory red sauce. You can’t go wrong pairing these salty treats with a fresh, cold beer.
Website for Andong Gan Godeungeo (Korean): godunga.co.kr
Funerary Food Like many of the dishes in Andong, heotjesabap (헛제삿밥) is one steeped in local history. Jesa (제사) is a Korean funerary tradition in which food is offered to deceased ancestors and incense is burned. Heotjesabap best translates to “fake jesa,” and it is called “fake” because it is eaten rather than actually sacrificed. One restaurant that has garnered fame for keeping the heotjesabap tradition alive is Kkachi Gumeong House (까치구멍집).
The meal begins with egg, pan-fried mackerel and pollock, and vegetables served on a bronze goblet – a perfect sampler to start with. The main course is composed of several dishes including Andong-style bibimbap (with sesame seeds and soy sauce as opposed to the more familiar gochujang), kimchi, vegetables, and fish. The real highlight, though, is the shark. Served in a row of bite-size rectangles with a side of onions and beef, it has a texture and flavor closer to pork than fish. I can almost guarantee these little morsels will have you begging the server for more.
Website for Kkaji Gumeong House (Korean): andongrice.com
Andong Soju Forget everything you know about soju: the green bottles, the face-puckering cringe of a “one shot,” and the crippling morning-after headaches. Andong soju is a gentleman’s drink. Dating back to the Silla dynasty, the alcohol was brewed and consumed by Confucian scholars and the nobility that settled in the region. At 80-proof, it packs a much stronger punch than its convenience store counterparts. The most noticeable difference is the gin-like flavor and the way it warms your body on the way down. Although considerably more expensive (around W16,000 for a small bottle), it’s more than worth the extra cash.
Andong Jjim-Dalk Perhaps the real prize of Andong, and easily its most famous specialty, is jjim-dalk (찜닭), a chicken and vegetable stew served with cellophane noodles. The Andong Market, located at the center of town, is home to dozens of restaurateurs cooking up their own versions of the dish, each tweaking the ingredients to their own definitions of perfection. One of the oldest restaurants in the area, Andong Jjimdalk Jongson, is located right near the entrance of the market. What you will find in the jjim-dalk here that you won’t outside of Andong is the perfect balance of ingredients. The ratio of chicken and vegetables is perfectly tuned so that neither is emphasized at the expense of the other. The sauce blends together a perfect mix of savory and spicy that will have you eating your way into a food coma.