A little over a month into being in Korea, my friends and I decided to climb a mountain (and by climb, we mean climb to the cable car, ride it up, then hike the rest of the way to the top). The landscape was beautiful, the air felt fresh, and the view of the city from the observation deck was breathtaking.
Back in America, I had a certain view of foods you would eat while hiking. It was a lot of water, granola bars, and protein-filled snacks like beef jerky and nuts. But things are different depending on where you go. I learned quickly that people might bring kimbap, soda, and fruit with them on this type of trip. But at the top, we noticed something even more different.
At the top of the mountain, we found a restaurant that looked out over the city. It looked like a pretty precarious location. Inside, there were rows of tables and at least four refrigerators filled with different brands of makkeoli, Korean rice wine. It seemed so odd to me that people would climb a mountain and then drink wine, but I looked around and saw that there was at least one bottle on every table. It was just part of the hiking culture.
Sticking with tradition, my friend asked one of the workers what was his favorite brand. He grabbed one out for us (costing less than $4 USD) and we ordered a seafood potato pancake (haemul gamchajeon) to go along with it. We sat at the windows, looking out over the side of the mountain while we ate. It turns out that rice wine and greasy potato pancakes are a perfect accompaniment to a trip up a mountain.
Those brass bowls are the traditional way of drinking makkeoli. They are given to you chilled, keeping your drink cold (warm makkeoli isn’t the worst, but it isn’t that good either).
I was so surprised at how perfect this meal was after a long walk on a hot day. It was still refreshing and filling, with just a bit of “not-too-healthy” that made me forget how many miles I had just hiked. Needless to say, I think I can get on board with this different hiking tradition.
Goodbye and happy eating!