Gangwon, a picturesque province located in the northeastern part of South Korea, is a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. It is renowned for its stunning landscapes, towering mountains and the vast East Sea. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, it offers hiking trails, skiing resorts, and beachfront escapes.
I had the pleasure of exploring Gangwon, thanks to an invitation from Korea Tourism Organisation Singapore. In my previous article, I covered some of the newer and/or lesser-known travel activities and interesting cultural experiences in Gangwon. This time, I will introduce some of the must-try local food specialities and some places to stay at.
If you’re thinking of experiencing a different side of South Korea—that is not Seoul, Jeju or Busan—add Gangwon to your next travel destination!
Local food specialities in Gangwon-do
Dakgalbi, a spicy stir-fried chicken dish, may have become well-known in South Korean cuisine, but it originates from Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province. It is usually cooked with sweet potatoes, cabbage, perilla leaves, scallions and rice cakes. You can enjoy the dish by itself or eat it like the Koreans by wrapping it with lettuce or perilla leaves.
The final touch, and possibly the most scrumptious part, is when rice is added to the remaining dakgalbi and fried to perfection. If you love kimchi fried rice, you will be more than satisfied with this “dakgalbi fried rice”, which tastes more savoury and less tart.
Chuncheon Sansoke Dakgalbi
Address: 562-22 Yetgyeongchun-ro, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Makguksu, or buckwheat noodles, is another local speciality of Chuncheon, Gangwon. It is served chilled and may be served in a chilled broth or seasoned with red chilli paste.
At Chuncheon Makguksu Museum, not only do you get to learn about makguksu—the plant itself and how the production technique has changed over time—you can also make your own makguksu by mixing buckwheat flour and water and savour them!
Chuncheon Makguksu Museum
Address: 264 Sinbuk-ro, Sinbuk-eup, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
3. Potato Bread
Gangwon is known for producing potatoes, also known as gamja in Korean, which is why you’ll see many potato dishes in Gangwon. But one of the most interesting is the potato bread from Gamza Batt. It is a carb-in-carb snack with a ball of thick potato paste in a bun, giving the bread a dense weight.
Gamza Batt also serves potato latte, which has bits of potato in their frothy milk coffee.
Address: 674 Sinsaembat-ro, Sinbuk-eup, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
4. King Crab
Jumunjin, which is in Gangneung city, is one of the coastal regions in Gangwon Province. At the Jumunjin Fish Market, you’ll find all the fresh ocean catches of the day, particularly the king crab that the area is known for.
Along the stretch of road near Jumunjin Fish Market, you’ll also find multiple restaurants that serve king crab, also known as daege (literally big crab) in Korean. We had a crab feast at Jumun Hal Ge, which made me feel like I consumed one year’s quota of crab. It was really a lot: crab sashimi, steamed crab, crab fried rice, crab ramyeon hotpot.
Jumunjin Fish Market
Address: 4, Market 2-gil, Jumunjin-eup, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
Jumun Hal Ge
Address: 1730 Haean-ro, Jumunjin-eup, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Sundubu, or soft tofu, is the local speciality of Gangneung. Other than enjoying sundubu in a spicy, piping hot stew, such as at Cha Hyeon-hee Soft Tofu Cheonggukjang Main Branch, you can also savour the milky texture and light flavour of sundubu either on its own or with soy sauce.
Soybean lovers should also not miss the sundubu gelato, available next door at Cha Hyeon-hee Gelato. The taste, albeit lighter, reminded me of Mr Bean’s soya ice cream.
Cha Hyeon-hee Soft Tofu Cheonggukjang Main Branch
Address: 6-7 Chodang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Cha Hyeon-hee Gelato
Address: 6-7 Chodang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
6. Wild Vegetables
Pyeongchang, a county in the Gangwon Province, is located in the Taebaek Mountains region, which has prominent peaks like Seoraksan and Odaesan. The host location for the 2018 Winter Olympics and the 2018 Winter Paralympics, Pyeongchang is also home to several Buddhist temples, including Woljeongsa.
Due to the mountainous setting, Pyeongchang is known for its wild vegetables or sanchae. If you feel like eating clean, you can get a taste of these sanchae at Dongdaesan Sikdang.
Address: 152 KR, Odaesan-ro, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea
7. Gondre Cream Latte
Gondre, a Korean thistle, is also one of the wild vegetables Pyeongchang is known for. While you can enjoy gondre over steamed rice, it can also be blended into cream and added to your caffeinated drink at Cafe Najeon Station.
With a creamy green colour, the gondre latte tastes sweet and, thankfully, does not have the raw vegetable smell. It is a delightful drink to enjoy while taking nostalgic-looking photos at Cafe Najeon Station, which is an operational old-school train station!
Cafe Najeon Station
Address: South Korea, Gangwon-do, Jeongseon-gun, Bukpyeong-myeon, Bukpyeong 8-gil, 38 KR
Sokcho, which is also one of the coastal cities in Gangwon, is known for its octopuses. Apart from enjoying octopus rice soup, such as at Sokcho Muneo Gukbap, you can also enjoy grilled stuffed octopus at Sokcho Market. There are also many street foods available at Sokcho Market, so be sure to go there with an empty stomach!
Sokcho Muneo Gukbap
Address: 473-124 Geumho-dong, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Address: 16 Jungang-ro 147beon-gil, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Accommodations in Gangwon-do
1. Korea Legoland Hotel
As a themed hotel, Korea Legoland Hotel offers four different themes for its rooms: Kingdom, Friends, Ninjago and Pirate. Catered to young families, the room has a king bed for the adults and a sleeping area with a bunk bed for the kids.
One of the most interesting aspects is the Welcome Treasure Hunt where guests can participate in the room and win Lego prizes. It will be an engaging experience for the kids that will make a sweet ending after a day of fun at Korea Legoland Resort.
2. St. John’s Hotel
Located near the East Sea in Gangneung, St. John’s Hotel offers a serene coastal retreat and amazing sea views. It also has an infinity pool but it was unfortunately closed on the day we were there due to the rainy weather.
3. Yongpyong Resort - Dragon Valley Hotel
The largest ski resort in Korea, Yongpyong Resort is the host venue for the technical alpine skiing events for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang. It is also the filming site for dramas like Winter Sonata and Guardian: The Lonely And Great God. Due to its popularity, you may want to book soon if you’re hoping to try its world-class ski slopes.
4. High1 Resort - High1 Grand Hotel
Also a ski resort, High1 Resort is one of the last few resorts for skiing during early spring as it still snows there in early April. If you want to avoid the winter crowd, consider visiting High1 Resort.
5. Chonpines Ocean Suites
Located near the East Sea in Gangneung, Chonpines Ocean Suites is better suited for longer stays. Its suites are equipped with a kitchen and a living room, which are sufficient for a small family.
I especially love the ox bone soup offered on their breakfast menu. Perhaps because it is a hangover soup, it makes a refreshing meal in the morning even though I wasn’t drunk the night before.
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Now that we’ve seen the travel activities, cultural experiences, local food specialities and accommodations of Gangwon, are you tempted yet to start exploring this unique mountainous and coastal region of South Korea?
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