Jeju Pt 1: Land of Oranges, Pigs and Lovers
MAY: Jeju Island, the perfect getaway to spend time with the girls. Though, technically, it’s a “Honeymooner’s Paradise”. The three chicas and I thought, “hey, what the heck? May as well enjoy its beauty”. We all had a must-see added to the list of things to do, but what made it easier and complete was renting a car. Can’t have a girl’s weekend without making it a road trip right?
Jeju Island is the only autonomous province in Korea. It lies south of the mainland, and is a short 2 hour flight from Daegu. Jeju is a bit different than the mainland. According to most, mainland Koreans sometimes have a hard time understanding them because of the dialect. A volcanic island, Jeju is famous for it’s unique flora and lifestyle. It’s like traveling back in time to an isolated island. To learn more here are some useful sites: here and here. Jeju can be summed up in 3 words: oranges, pigs and lovers. This is an over simplified version of what Jeju is, but for the four of us, this was our vacation summed up to it’s core.
About those pigs…. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살). Pork belly, as it is called in English, is what Jodi and I usually eat at the traditional BBQ place. But here in Jeju, it’s different. Why? Their pigs are black. I wouldn’t think that made a difference but suddenly it does and it is a must have from what I have been told.
What can I say? I was a bit traumatized, and for various reasons. First, we noticed that our pork belly still had hair engrained in it’s layer of fat. Seriously, I can see hair follicles. Now, I know I am “Chica Vs. Food”, but I think it is a fundamental feeling everyone has that they just don’t appreciate hair in their food. Secondly, the price. Regular pork belly is so cheap you could have it for a week without making a dent in your wallet. Here, we paid around $80 for it. What?! That is unheard of here in Korea. On top of that, I personally am not a fan of pork and for me this Jeju pork must have been overfed because its layers of fat were a lot thicker that the inland pigs of Korea. I left feeling queasy for various reasons.
Now to further make this article complete, I did some research. Probably should have done that BEFORE I went. Needless to say, I found out that this samgyeopsal we ate, is actually called Ddong Daeji (똥돼지). Literal translation? Poop pigs.
No joke, further research led me to the traditional Jeju ways of raising their black pigs. They literally ate whatever came out of the home or communities’ outhouses … and you know exactly what that means. “The population began to diminish when farmers were not eager to breed them and the Saemaeul Movement replaced traditional toilets with modern ones. The Jeju Husbandry Promotion Center is breeding some 200 indigenous poop pigs to preserve their pure blood. So the Jeju black pork you currently get is actually from a mixed breed” (Joogangdaily).
Don’t judge, it’s not like you’re eating actual poop. And anyways, nowadays that isn’t how they are raised. A little historical tidbit my Korean friends failed to tell me. No worries, I judged it after I ate it. Though apparently most people love it, so maybe I ate at the wrong place. Read this guy’s perspective. Ha maybe this should have been a “Chica vs. Food” episode. Lesson learned…research next time and THEN eat it.