Taste of Korea: A Rainy Day Delight

makkeolli
makkeolli

Around the world, I think that weather often dictates what we eat. Like a nice hot stew or bowl of hot soup on a cold day. Or icecream on a blazing summer day.

Well, in Korean culture there is a tradition of having a particular dish when it is raining (as in the monsoon season). This is a combination of Pajeon and Makkeolli.

Making pancakes outside the Temple
Making pancakes outside the Temple

Pa” is spring onion, “jeon” is savory pancake—so, spring onion pancake—and makkeolli is a thick, white rice “wine”. Savory pancakes are made with a flour-egg mixture, on which the vegetables are laid, with seafood often added. Traditionally the pancake was cooked on the lid of a Gamasot, a big cast-iron pot used to steam rice. Nowadays any pan is fine. Once cooked you tear the pancake with your chopsticks and dip the pieces into a light soy sauce mixture. Of course, as is traditional in Korea, the pancake is also served with some side dishes.

Beautiful Naesosa Temple
Beautiful Naesosa Temple

Makkeolli is a drink with humble beginnings, created by poor farmers who were servants to Korean nobility, called “yangban” The yangban drank clear filtered rice wine (similar to Japanese sake), but the farmers drank the raw (unrefined) rice wine.

The custom of enjoying pajeon and makkeolli together in the rain came from Korea’s agricultural history. On rainy days farmers couldn’t work in the fields, so wondered how to spend their time. An inexpensive snack with a homemade drink and each other’s company seemed like a perfect solution.

Part of the thinking was, that on rainy days people may tend to be a little more “blue” than usual. The carbs from the pajeon and a little alcohol can be a good pick-me-up. Another Korean tradition says that the raindrops sound similar to the sound of pajeon grilling in the pan.

Our buckwheat pancake lunch spot
Our buckwheat pancake lunch spot
Delicious buckwheat green onion pancake
Delicious buckwheat green onion pancake

People still love pajeon, and makkeolli is becoming more popular again with young people. We had these pancakes a couple of times (even though it wasn’t raining) and they are delicious. I think the best ones on our last trip were, first at a small café/restaurant just outside the Naesosa Temple in Southwest Korea—cooked on a large open griddle and eaten a long communal tables. And the other was at a wonderful local (non-tourist) hanok restaurant on the outskirts of Buyeo, where we sat on the floor at low tables and enjoyed a buckwheat pajeon one lunch time.

Thanks to Change for finding these wonderful places for us to experience!

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