Goat Soup 흑염소탕
Ponam-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
My wife was suddenly taken ill with appendicitis and underwent an emergency operation at the Dong-in Hospital in Gangneung last week, and I spent a good part of last weekend with her there as she was recovering.
Just down the road that leads to the hospital is an attractive two-story log restaurant with a dish I had never tried before—black goat soup (Heuk yeom so tang). My brother was involved in goat farming for a few years, but in all that time I never had a chance to taste it, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The interior is warm and attractive, decorated with Buddhist-themed paintings, prints, and wood carvings. Smaller groups dine on the first floor, while larger groups eat upstairs. The restaurant was nearly full when I went in for supper, mostly with well-dressed businessmen. Goat meat belongs, along with dog and other exotic animals, to the category of Korean health foods believed to give “stamina” to men in particular.
The menu features two main goat dishes, 흑염소들전골, a “casserole” or stew that simmers in the middle of the table, and 염소탕, a soup that comes bubbling in individual clay bowls.
The soup was not spicy at all but was pungent, heavily seasoned with wild sesame (my wife says it is to mask the goat taste) and tasted very similar to the duck soup at our favorite roasted duck restaurant in Sokcho. Next to the soup was a bowl of red pepper sauce and ground roasted wild sesame seeds for dipping. The dish came with an impressive array of delicious side dishes (kimchi, kakduggi, pickled garlic, etc.) and rice, all for 8,000 won.
I expected a flavour something like lamb, but the goat meat was actually quite different, a little chewy, a little greasy and a little gamey. It was good, but I wouldn’t categorize it as “comfort food” (as I would kalbi tang or seollang-tang). It’s something worth trying at least once, and perhaps more often if you find yourself lacking “stamina.”