Wild Vegetable Bibimbap (Photos by Chihon Kim)
Wild Vegetable Bibimbap (Photos by Chihon Kim)

Chogajeongdam: Re-energize with region’s wild vegetable bibimbap, deep-fried ginseng

by Chihon Kim
Stripes Korea

After the hike to Tapsa Temple, I strolled the restaurant alley on the way down to the parking lot to appease my hunger for the local specialty. Many traditional Korean restaurants specializing in vegetable and wild herb dishes were lined up along the path leading to the temple entrance. I thought I should try my luck by just walking into the first restaurant that caught my eye.

As I made my way into Chogajeongdam, I noticed the impressive ink-and-wash paintings of Mt. Maisan hanging on the walls. The dining room was clean and spacious, but I chose a spot on the terrace to cool off in the mountain breeze.

Chogajeongdam serves mainly wild vegetable bibimbap and various Korean traditional dishes. I chose the basic wild herb bibimbap accompanied by a refreshing soybean paste soup sprinkled with dried shrimp.

Unlike standard bibimbap, white rice topped with vegetables and gochujang (chili pepper paste, soy sauce), the bibimbap here came with all the ingredients in a separate dish. Another difference was the lack of colorful ingredients. Instead, eight different ingredients  - groundsel, mulberry leaves, acanthopanax, thistle, bracken, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and black mushrooms - and a variety of textures provided a combination of savory and delicate flavors, making it the best delicacy in the mountains.

Each bite provided a mouthful of bursting flavors and the seasoning was perfect. It was not salty at all, nor was it too spicy. Even the Kimchi that comes with the bibimbap was not too salty, making it easy to enjoy the flavors.

Root of the matter

Ginseng, a root of plants in the genus Panax, is a specialty of this area. Try the deep-fried ginseng (2500KRW, or $2.16 each) at a small eatery near the Chogajeongdam. Although the eatery has no name, you can easily find it, just keep an eye out for the signboard with a ginseng root illustration. The lovely golden colored fried-roots are displayed outside of the restaurant as well.

Basically, ginseng has a bitter taste, but the fried ginseng I bit into had a different flavor than I ever had before! The restaurant owner said when the ginseng is fried with vegetables like onions and carrots, it becomes a delicacy. It was really a good way to recover my strength after a hike.

Things to know

Chogajeongdam
Address: 60-1, Dongchon-ri, Maryeong-myeon, Jinan-gun, Jeollabuk-do
Contact: 063-432-2469
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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