Healthy twist: How to eat beef intestines in Seoul
Eating beef intestines (gopchang) is part of Korea’s culture and history.
Every evening Norumok, located in Hongdae, is packed with customers. Owner Ma Jeong Ran says that when she first opened in 1996, her clientele was middle-aged, but nowadays many young people, especially women, come to her restaurant.
Beefing up health
Eating beef intestines is healthy as well as tasty.
“It’s good for your complexion and digestion because it contains collagen,” says Ma.
According to the book "Dong Eui Bogam," written by Joseon Dynasty doctor Hojun in 1610, beef intestine has more iron and vitamins than other meat and it tastes unique.
Weak or sick people can eat it to give themselves strength. In addition, Hojun wrote that consuming beef intestines enhances stamina, helps prevent diabetes and is good for the skin.
But beef intestines also contain a large amount of protein and enzymes which create a bad smell. To remove the smell, Hojun recommended soaking intestines in water. This also removes the blood.
After being soaked, the intestines are often marinated in garlic and ginger.
“Ancient reports made people believe that ox intestines warm your body and skin, but people did not eat lots of intestines before the time of Japan’s colonization," explains Lee Sang Bae, whose family has owned and operated Busan Yang Gobchang for 40 years.
"The Japanese took every good part of ox except the intestines," says Lee. "Koreans remembered to eat it, which caught the Japanese by surprise. At first they thought Koreans were savage, but they actually liked it after they tried it. Since then, it has become common both in Korea and Japan, but Japanese eat more ox tripe than intestines.”
The tradition of eating beef intestines has definitely not died in Korea, and customers enjoy drinking soju or beer along with their meal at places such as Norumok.
Customers Kang Eun joo and Jang Hoh Jin say they started eating beef intestines when they were old enough to drink.
“It’s delicious, it has many nutrients, it’s just awesome," says Kang. "I can’t stop eating it, I don’t know why. Oh, and it’s great with soju.”
The most popular dishes served at Norumok are large and small intestines, Ma says.
Side dishes are complimentary along with your order and include peppers marinated in soya sauce, kimchi, fish paste and pickles. The intestines are pre-fried with onions by the chefs and are then placed in front of customers on a portable gas stove.
The intestines are cut into bite-sized pieces, which makes it easy for dipping into a sesame and garlic sauce.
For extra flavor take a piece of intestine and grab some chives which have been tossed in sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. To complete the meal customers can opt for a spicy intestine stew (₩25,000) or fried rice (₩2,000 per portion). The rice is fried with kimchi, seaweed and fish eggs.
Intestines are sold on a portion basis. One portion consists of 200 grams.
Small and large intestines cost ₩16,000 per portion.
Where's the eat
Norumok, Seoul Mapo-gu, Seogyo-dong 305-8; +82 2 334 7891; Daily, 5 p.m.-5 a.m.
In Busan, check out:
Busan Yang Gobchang, 2860-3 Buwondong Kimhae, Kyoungnam; +82 55 322 3678; Daily, noon–11 p.m.
Her work has been featured in several Seoul publications including Eloquence and Groove magazines. Her love of Asian culture and history has kept her in Korea for the past three years. Where will the wind take her next?
Visit her blog at eyeonkorea.wordpress.com.
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