Nangpoonbabsang serves century-old authentic Jeju cuisine

Yang Yong-jin, owner chef of Nangpoonbabsang that doubles as the Institute for Preservation of Jeju’s Traditional Local Food, speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at his restaurant in Jeju City, May 15. Korea Times photo by Park Jin-hai

JEJU — Yang Yong-jin, 59, is known as the “custodian of Jeju Island’s gastronomic legacy.” Inspired by his mother Kim Ji-soon, who was designated by the government as a Grand Master of traditional food in 2010, Yang’s dedication to preserving the island’s authentic cuisine is a continuation of his family’s legacy.His mother, who taught students at culinary schools and universities in Jeju, started visiting local villages in the 1970s and writing down old island recipes that previously had never been properly documented.”I was really fascinated by the vast amount of my mother’s old documents of recipes, which show unappreciated and undocumented local cuisines. I thought someone had to carry on her work after she passed away, so I decided to give it a try. And that’s how 30 years have passed,” Yang said during an interview with The Korea Times last week at his restaurant Nangpoonbabsang in Jeju City, which also doubles the as Institute for Preservation of Jeju’s Traditional Local Food. Unlike the mainland, Jeju Island, as a place for exile during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), didn’t have the courtly influence that shaped cuisine elsewhere in Korea, thus there were not many records on traditional food, according to Yang. Therefore, his mother diligently visited elderly locals who were over 70 or 80 years old at the time to develop a precious culinary archive. In recognition of her contributions, she was designated as Jeju’s first Grand Master of traditional food.

Starting in the mid-1990s, then in his 30s, Yang joined his mother to assist with enriching the archive. Along with his mother’s recipes, Yang added his explanation based on the research of why those specific ingredients are used in those traditional dishes in the context of the island’s history, terrain and weather.”Considering the age of the elders we met when we first started searching for traditional foods and documenting them, those recipes are from over 100 years ago based on today’s standards. However, the foods of 100 years ago had not changed much from the foods that had been passed down for hundreds of years before, so we were able to find Jeju Island’s traditional foods intact,” he said.Yang and his mother’s first joint effort to revive Jeju’s local foods came to fruition in 2011 as they published a book showcasing the reconstruction of over 350 traditional dishes. Along with the non-commercial publication, available on the Jeju Provincial Government website, Yang published many other books detailing Jeju’s culinary heritage and is a founding member and director of the Jeju Food & Wine Festival, the island’s biggest gastronomic event to showcase local ingredients to 슬롯게이밍 the world.

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