Sokcho in a day

by Kris Johnson
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com)

Nestled along the shores of the East Sea a three-hour drive from Seoul, Sokcho is a popular coastal city in Gangwon Province. Koreans often visit this place to sample its unique cuisine. In a country where food-themed travel is commonplace, Sokcho seemed like the perfect place for us to try out some local dishes.

This day trip was specifically dedicated to food and featured a variety of specialties, including cold raw fish soup, squid sundae, fried chicken and potato dumpling soup. With all the food stops, our group only managed to squeeze in a small amount of sightseeing between meals.

Fresh seafood

The first stop on our food tour consisted of a refreshing cold soup-filled with raw seafood, rice and red pepper sauce (), as well as squid sundae. This sundae puts a unique spin on traditional versions; a roll of fresh and tender squid rings filled with ground beef, vegetables and glass noodles.

Market life and fried chicken

Our second stop was Sokcho’s traditional seafood market. There were dozens of fish, crab and exotic-looking sea creatures lining the stalls. In one row, we watched as an elderly woman hammered her product, guts and all, into large, round fish cakes.

Strangely, though, this market is more famous for its fried chicken, with an entire row of vendors dedicated it. The dalkgangjung, or fried chicken, is made to order. The secret to this treat is the sweet and nutty sauce — the chicken is really just a bonus. And while I prodded the chef to reveal the sauce’s ingredients, she refused to divulge her method. 

After getting our fill of dalkgangjung, we picked up some , a brown sugar-infused pancake, and some fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste for dessert.

The potato specialty

We headed toward the beckoning water and gazed up at our final food destination — a gazebo perched above us and only accessible by a towering set of stairs. The location provided a stunning view of the coastline and a refreshing breeze to challenge the blazing sun.

The climb burned just enough calories to make room for our final stop — a restaurant that cooks all six of its dishes with potatoes. Even their alcohol, a makgeolli variation, is derived from the root vegetable. We ate a potato version of the popular kalguksu, a flavorful dumpling soup.

Mount Seorak

Stuffed, we headed to Mount Seorak. After a five-minute cable car ride and a short hike we stood atop its 1,708-meter summit. After posing on the rocky peak for some quick photos, we vowed to make it back in the fall to see the leaves of the beautiful maple trees give way to vibrant colors.

A stroll through the national park that surrounds the mountain brought our day to a close. Our Sokcho culinary experience had ended, and our stomachs were at peace as we enjoyed some meditation, prayer and incense beside an enormous Buddha statue.

READERS' SPEAK

— Marybeth Anderson, U.S.

We packed a lot into our day; it was quite an adventure. The ride up to the top of Mount Seorak was admittedly scary, but the Swiss construction at the peak kept us safe and afforded phenomenal views near the summit of the mountain.

And although I’m mostly a pescatarian/vegetarian, the food on the trip was wonderful. The culinary highlight for me was the famous potato restaurant, but I also enjoyed the fresh fish and side dishes.

At the end of the night, I was incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity to see Korea’s east coast, meet new people and get out of my comfort zone a little.

— Cynthis Lundbeck, U.S.

During my two years in South Korea, I never managed to find the right time to visit a mountain — that is, until this trip. Seoraksan National Park was the perfect ending to our Sokcho tour. Walking towards the peak, I felt the wind pick up, but we couldn’t have asked for better weather. There were spectacular views of city and surrounding areas.

Everything was breathtaking. The world felt so different atop the mountain.

Groove Korea website

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