Embark on a culinary journey through Daegu, South Korea, and let your taste buds be tantalized by the southern city’s gastronomic specialties. Here are the top 10 treats you need to try.
Although yukhoe (thinly julienned beef tartare) may be the better known version of this dish throughout the country, mungtigi, which literally means “beef cut into thumb sized pieces” is unique to Daegu. Beef shank is cut into thick slices and is marinated in a mixture of sesame oil, garlic and red pepper powder. Mungtigi is only prepared with fresh meat, so trying it is a good way to experience the true flavors of Korea’s highly praised beef.
This spicy stew is made with fresh catfish bred in rice paddies and a flavorful broth, made up of kelp, radish and a generous amount of hot pepper. There are numerous variations, including one that uses wheat flakes to harmonize the flavors. Immediately following the IMF financial crisis, this soup became particularly popular, thanks to its affordability and abundance.
Although grilled tripe is popular throughout Korea, the dish has its roots in Daegu, where it has been a favorite comfort food since the 1970s. Grilled pork or beef duodenum, similar to chitterlings, is often grilled over coals and served with garlic, scallion and a tasty Daegu-style soybean sauce. High in protein and low in fat, makchang gui is as healthy as it is delicious. It also makes a great drinking food, and pairs perfectly with soju, the country’s notorious firewater.
During post war times, dumplings were an affordable way to fill one’s stomach. They remain a popular snack, and Daegu’s special napjak mandu is one of the country’s more unique varieties. They are made with a thin and chewy dough casing, and slightly less filling (made up of starch noodles, Korean leek, carrot, cabbage and green onion) than traditional Korean dumplings. Their mild flavor makes them a great pairing for tteokbokki, rice cakes in a spicy, soupy sauce.
This savory noodle soup is unique to Daegu, and one of Seomun Market’s most popular dishes. It is made by first kneading dough that is part wheat flour and part bean flour. The dough is then rolled and cut into think noodles, which are boiled in a base broth made from anchovies, kelp, onion, radish, spring onion, zucchini and cabbage. Topped with a garnish of seaweed flakes or egg, it has a clean taste, not to mention rich nutritional value.
This Daegu style gukbap (soup and rice) has been a local favorite since the early days of the Korean War, some 60 years ago. The broth is boiled with beef bone and tendon overnight to fully bring out the flavors, while scallions, turnip, garlic and chili powder add a spicy punch. To dine like the Koreans do, stir the side of rice into the soup rather than eating it separately.
Yakisoba may be Japanese, but Daegu has its own take on the famous noodle dish, and different versions of it are served throughout the year. In the summertime, it’s prepared by flash frying Korean leek, and in the winter, it is served with a variety of seafood, meat and vegetables. The noodles are also enjoyed with garlic and red pepper powder, the staple components of all Korean cooking.
What sets Dongin-dong jjimgalbi apart from traditional Korean style braised ribs is the nickel silver bowls that the dish is served in. The higher thermal conductivity of the cookware helps to bring out the best flavor and texture of the meat. Seasoned with spicy chili powder and chopped garlic, the Daegu way, the ribs are delightfully sweet and spicy at the same time. Dongin-dong jjimgalbi is so popular, that there is an entire street dedicated to the delicacy.
Foodies looking to eat adventurously must try Daegu’s famed bokeo bulgogi, or grilled pufferfish. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote, so the fish must be expertly prepared to prevent grave consequences. Fortunately, the spicy dish has long been consumed in Korea. Dine if you dare!
As Korea’s version of fish carpaccio, hwe moochim consists of multiple slivers of raw fish on a bed of shredded raw vegetables, saturated in copious amounts of hot pepper based sauce. Don’t let its bright red hue scare you away. Its spiciness is balanced with a sweetness that accentuates the texture of the fish.