As a Korean myself, I don't get to visit Korea much often but when my family does decide to take a vacation to Korea once in a while, we make sure to stop by Jeju Island, an island just off the coast of South Korea. Besides its beautiful scenery, magnificent lava tubes, and relaxing resorts, there is another reason why tourists continue to come back to the island-the food. Because Jeju Island is surrounded by a body of water and is isolated from the rest of Korea, many of their food are made from fresh ingredients and cannot be found in mainland peninsular Korea. In this article, I've come up with a list of Top 3 Must-Have Food in Jeju if you ever choose to visit the Island.

1. Abalones

Abalones are considered as gourmet delicacy, as they are one of the most expensive seafood in the world. In Jeju Island, numerous women divers called haeneyo dive into the deep parts of the water every morning to catch various sea creatures such as abalone, octopus, and sea squirt.

Once caught, the local restaurant owners hurry in the morning to buy the most fresh abalones from these women divers in order to run their businesses for the day. Abalones can be cooked and eaten in numerous ways; they can be steamed, grilled, or even eaten raw as sashimi.

Koreans usually like to eat them grilled with butter, dip them in gochujang (red pepper paste), or make porridge out of them, which they call jeon bok jook ("jeon bok" meaning "abalone" and "jook" meaning "congee"). Jeon bok jook is considered one of the most expensive, well-being dishes in Korea as abalones are known to have many nutritional benefits and improve digestion.

Recommended Place: Myungjin Jeonbok    

This was one of the best places that I've been to for abalones! A dozen abalones cost only 30,000 won, which is equivalent to about 27 dollars. You can get a variety of abalone dishes here, including abalone sashimi, abalone porridge, and even abalone stone pot rice!

2. Jeju Black Pork    

The Jeju black pork is relatively expensive compared to other types of porks (approximately twice the cost of the standard pork). At one point, I hesitated on getting the black pork and considered just eating the regular pork but once I chewed on the first piece of the meat, I immediately knew why it cost so much. First of all, the black pork is not only twice the cost of standard pork but it's also twice the thickness. It's therefore, much more juicy and chewy. It's even better when the meat cooks further and gets a crispy coating (crispy on the outside, chewy in the inside). Koreans like to have their meat in a ssam, which means "wrap" and they usually add other ingredients to their ssam, such as kimchi or bean sprouts.

Recommended Place: Giunne Heukdweji (meaning "Cheer Up, Black Pig)

Let me just say that before I even tasted the meat, I was already mesmerized by the quality of the banchans that they served. Banchans are a variety of side dishes that are served before the actual meal comes out. What I really appreciate about Korean restaurants is that these banchans are completely free and you can ask to get a refill every time you want more! Just like how the quality of bread would determine the impression of the overall restaurant in Italian restaurants, the quality of the banchans is very important for Korean restaurants because the customers often judge whether their food is good or not by eating the banchans. The place served everything from spicy bean sprouts, corn salad, kimchi, steamed egg custard, etc. 

Of course, the quality of the meat was phenomenal too! It's funny because what made me go into this restaurant out of all the others is that on their business sign, it says, "Just chew it once and you'll taste how savory it is!" And yes, I definitely was able to taste that. 

3. Omegi Ddeok (Millet Rice Cake)

Of course, we can't forget to add dessert to our list of must-have food items at Jeju! Though they are quite filling, Koreans consider rice cakes as desserts because of their sweet taste and they're often enjoyed after the main meal with hot teas or iced beverages such as Sikhye (a traditional Korean rice beverage-Koreans seriously love rice!). 

Omegi means "millet rice" and ddeok means "rice cake" so omegi ddeok means "millet rice cake". Omegi ddeok is a Jeju delicacy; just even a decade ago, people couldn't eat them unless they flew to Jeju Island. Now, they are exported into the mainland Korea so people who can't afford a flight to Jeju also get to purchase them from their local supermarkets or order them online. 

There are two types of omegi ddeoks-one that is covered with red bean crumbs and the other one that is covered with mixed nuts. I personally like the nut covered one more because of its crunchiness but regardless, the red bean crumb covered one is also really good. The rice in omegi ddeoks are blended with mugwort plants, which is the reason why omegi ddeoks are green and not white inside. Mugwort plants are known to improve digestion, promote blood circulation, and enhance liver function. I love how Koreans don't only think about the taste of the food that they make but also about the health benefits of the food! 

Recommended Place: Jin Ah Ddeok Jip (Jin Ah Rice Cake House)

This place sells one of the best rice cakes that I've ever tasted in my life! The ddeoks are very chewy and they maintain their soft texture even after hours without hardening. They only use natural ingredients so the ddeoks taste very healthy (this does not mean they're not delicious!). The taste of the mugwort is not too strong so people who can't stand the herbal taste should also be able to enjoy them with no problem.

If not this summer, then make sure to add South Korea as one of your options for next year summer's travel plan! And if you do decide to go, then don't forget to include Jeju Island in your itinerary to try out these delicacies!