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Ulleung-do island, Chusan Ilga Inn and Restaurant, Korea

485-5 Nari, Buk-myeon, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
| +82 54-791-6176
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Taste a volcanic island's roots, literally... Ulleung Gun  South Korea

Taste a volcanic island's roots, literally...

A root vegetable that becomes 'meaty' when grilled? And it's also medicinal?

Meet "deodeok," sometimes spelled "toduk." It's a variety of bonnet bellflower, (scientific name: codonopsis lanceolata) and in Korea the roots are considered to have ginseng-like properties; it's also prized as a culinary treat, especially when gathered from the wild. "Good food is good medicine," as they say.

My wife and I were staying on the north shore of volcanic Ulleung-do island, and we saw two ladies at our inn bent over a giant tub filled with these roots soaking in water. One of them explained to us how it was a laborious process--gather them from the mountain, soak them, painstakingly peel them, then pound them before cooking.

Even though deodeok wasn't officially on the menu, she offered to prepare some for us, and so the following evening, we arrived in the timbered cliff-top dining room to a table spread with a dozen dishes and a grill. Since it was a rainy mid-week during the off-season, we had the entire place to ourselves, with the pounding surf below as a soundtrack to the aromatic sizzling right next to us. The roots were seasoned with sesame and chili paste, grilled alongside some squares of pork belly. We wrapped it all up with garlic and rice in perilla leaves and lettuce.