Loach Soup—Special Dish of Kaesong

Loach soup is one of the special dishes of Kaesong, together with Samgyethang.

Loach, which can be easily found in paddy fields or pools, contains much protein, minerals, vitamins and other nutritive substances along with medicinal elements. As it is good for protecting the internal organs, promoting blood circulation and treating diseases, the Korean people have used it in their diet since long ago.

The loach soup in Kaesong is the most famous in Korea, because the locals relished it from the period of Koryo (918-1392).

The loach soup is prepared as follows: Put living loaches in uncurdled bean curd water and begin to boil it to make the loaches die in the bean curd. Make the bean curd into several blocks by wrapping it in a cloth and chop them into pieces with a fixed size. Finally, put the pieces into the soup flavoured with soy sauce and add various kinds of seasonings to it.

History book Haedongjukji introduces a recipe for loach soup, which says: Put loaches into bean curds, which are made at a time when frost falls, before they are congealed. Chop the bean curds and boil them with ginger and powdered fruits of prickly ash to make the delicious dish. Another book says: Put loaches in water and replace the water 3 times a day to make them vomit mud after 5 to 6 days. Put some blocks of bean curds, water and 50 to 60 loaches into the cooking pot and begin to boil them. The loaches wedge themselves into the bean curds before dying. Chop the bean curds and fry them in sesame oil to make the soup. To add delicate taste, flavour the soup with powdered fruits of prickly ash or Agastache rugosa.

The Kaesong loach soup is characterized by boiling it together with hot-tasting flavourings of the peculiar Kaesong red pepper paste. For its mouthwatering and peculiar taste, the soup enjoys popularity among diners.

At the foot of Mt Janam in Kaesong City stands a loach soup house, a favourite place frequented not only by the locals but visitors to the city.

The loach soup is served in different parts of Korea with different recipes.

The loach soup with high nutritive and medicinal value is efficacious for improving health and curing diseases. It has been inscribed on the national intangible cultural heritage list.