Gyeongsangbuk-do Tour Reporter: Nathan Anderson
Pohang is known for several things. POSCO -- the massive steel company which dominates the entire southern half of the city. The Hands of Harmony at Homigot (호미곶) -- two massive sculptures, one on land and one at sea, just south of town which mark one of the most easternmost points in the country. Jukdo Market (죽도시장) -- the seafood market in the city center with a warren of twisting paths to explore and more flopping fish than you can shake a stick at.
Address: 13-1, Jukdosijang 13-gil, Buk-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Cost: Free to enter
Going hand in hand with Jukdo Market is one of Pohang’s most famous cuisines: gwamegi (과메기). Made by naturally drying the meat of the Pacific herring, gwamegi is a winter specialty. It is made by rinsing the fish thoroughly in seawater, lacing a cord through its eyes, and hanging it out to dry on racks by the seashore. The salted air helps preserve the meat and keep it from rotting. The fish are left out overnight to freeze, then to thaw the next day. The process is repeated three or four times until the water content of the meat drops to about 40%. The result is a tender, flavorful dish rich in healthy oils and vitamins.
Keen to get the best gwamegi experience possible? Check out the Guryongpo Gwamegi Festival, just south of Pohang. It runs for a couple days every year in late autumn, and lets gwamegi aficionados and novices alike see the whole process of how the delicacy is made. Other dishes and meats are featured as well, such as the snow crabs Yeongdeok is so famous for, but gwamegi is the prime attraction.
Pohang Gwamegi Festival
Address: Guryongpo-eup, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Cost: Free to enter
There are a number of places where you can go to eat the dish, but perhaps the most authentic experience will come from eating gwamegi in Jukdo Market itself. Look for the racks of fish drying outside, and for gwamegi (과메기) on the outside of the storefront. Of course, if you’re feeling like a cozy night in, gwamegi can be purchased from many supermarkets in the area -- often with sauces and sides included!
Gwamegi is an old dish, with records dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) that mention it being prepared during the winter months. It is traditionally served with a medley of vegetables, seaweeds, and sauces -- all of which can be combined to suit your tastes. Be creative in your combinations, and don’t leave anything unsampled! My personal favorite is placing it on a lettuce leaf with scallions, garlic, and a liberal dose of gochujang. Wrap, enjoy, repeat.
Of course, a meal of gwamegi wouldn’t be complete without some sort of alcohol. Soju is a classic, though makgeolli is also an excellent choice. My drinks of choice are hwarang (화랑) and the local Pohang makgeolli (포항 막걸리). Whichever drink you go with, be sure to cheers heartily and often. Geonbae!