Kat: One of the greatest Korean inventions is the DIY table top BBQ. Imagine piles upon piles of beef delivered to your table with copious side servings of salad, garlic and chili sauce. That’s bulgogi. It’s my favourite Korean food, simple as it is. Mmmm… bulgogi, as Homer Simpson would say.
Justin: I love slabs of meat, preferably cooked of course. Koreans depict most animals in cartoonish delight and their pictures wink at you and give a mighty thumbs up, little knowing its destiny in the slaughterhouse. Speaking of which, this whole process is well hidden in Korea, as there is scant evidence of any cows actually existing here. I’ve seen none of them and upon asking some of our friends I’ve discovered neither had they.
Kat: Our town Eonyang is famous for bulgogi, although I’m not sure why given I’ve never seen a single cow in Eonyang, let alone Korea. They must be hiding them somewhere. With our friends in tow, we drove over to the river to experience the Eonyang Bulgogi Festival. Held once a year, it’s a giant meat fest accompanied by dancing ajumas. It takes place in a giant tent, filled with the smells of cooking beef. Heaven.
Justin: Upon arrival we strolled by massive hanging carcasses. Always kinda freaks me out and makes me think of nasty serial killers! There was also a stage with performing singers and dancers. As per Korean custom it consisted of lots of singing ajumas. I’ve said it plenty of times before on this blog but I love how the elderly are so gung-ho in Korea. They love being active and asserting their presence here. I seriously think many ageing populations around the world need to take a look at countries at Korea and see how to age well in mind and spirit.
Kat: It took us a while to figure out how the system worked; you needed to pre-purchase your meat from a cashier, then the staff would do the rest for you. We took a quick walk around the tent to check out the preparation of all the different foods, from the giant racks of beef to the piles of garlic bowls. Amazingly, there was no kimchi!
We ordered 1kg of unknown meat, which turned out to be shaved beef, much like a late-night kebab. But more delicious and with less chance of contracting salmonella.
Justin: This meat was good and the gang scoffed it down quickly. Being the insatiable carnivore that I am, I immediately thought of how I needed more food and I needed it NOW! I can’t stop eating especially as I’ve kicked up my pre-Everest training program and am exercising most days here.
Kat: After finishing our pile of meat, we wandered through the local displays, much of which we couldn’t understand with our limited hangul. It seems at any festival there are always ajumas on hand to do some type of dancing, whether it be in bright red bows or flouro green t-shirts, traditional music or a mash-up of Who Let the Dogs Out?
Of course, Justin was still hungry. As always. So we sampled a selection of Kazakhstanian lamb and twirly potatoes on a stick.
Justin: It’s not a proper day out without my childlike naiveté coming to the fore at some point. I was kinda in the mood for a massage and walked over to tent that had what seemed three beds laid out with a Korean man and woman at the front talking on a chair. So I go up to the guy speaking awful Konglish (Kat says I speak Konglish in an Indian accent) and start to rub my shoulders and go, “you know how much?” He just looked back and smiled. But I really wanted to know so I pointed at the bed and repeated my line. “Come on, massage how much?” His look of mild amusement turned a little confused and he checked in with this workmate. “Come on, tell me massage?” I went over to one of the ‘beds’ and soon realised they were tables with prices on it, the prices reflecting the fine calligraphy that was hanging on all of the walls. This was an up-maket store selling calligraphy prints not a makeshift massage parlour. D’oh! I just walked away slowly. Silly Wagook.
How to get to the Eonyang Bulgogi Festival
The Eonyang Bulgogi Festival is held every year in October. It is relatively close to the Ulsan KTX station and Eonyang bus terminal, simply hop in a cab. The festival is held next to the river on the way to the Eonyang Amethyst Caves.