Jeju horse cuisine: Leave your taboos at the door

img_20161031_122845When you think of horse meat used in culinary dishes, what’s your first thought?

An oddity?

A delicacy?

Completely taboo?

Well, if you can’t get past any initial misgivings, then this post may not be for you. But if you’re still reading, then there’s good news. In terms of taste and health benefits, horse meat dishes may be just what the doctor ordered.

Certainly this isn’t something you’d eat all that often, but perhaps on a special occasion or two throughout the year.

In our case, we went for the “set” menu during the lunch hour, which included horse prepared in various ways and served in a number of different dishes.

20161031_120858 The appetizer consisted of a few cuts of raw meat (and liver) and marinated chopped raw meat served with sliced pears and pieces of ginger. Salad, boiled pumpkin, kimchi and rice balls were also placed on the table.

Next came a fillet hotpot.

20161031_121239As there were three of us at the table, three horse meat mandu dumplings and veggie rolls with strips of boiled horse meat also hit the spot. The roll in particular was a refreshing, crunchy interlude, as the main course was just arriving ….

20161031_121416img_20161031_121744The barbeque course was fortunately modest in serving size. This was in keeping with the rhythm of the meal. I say “fortunately” as it would be a shame to let anything go to waste, all things considered.

Compared to the more common pork or beef barbeque, I found the horse to be leaner than beef (and certainly pork), and not, as many people think, “gamey” in taste or smell.

The flavor is subtle, so it’s best to combine bites with the side dishes and fried onions/mushrooms.

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Did you know?

According to one NIH study, red meat consumption in developed countries has plateaued or decreased in the last few decades. Many health-conscious consumers now avoid red meat because it contains high levels of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.

Horse meat is lean and has high levels of unsaturated fatty acids like α-linolenic and monounsaturated fatty acids. It is therefore healthier than consuming comparable amounts of beef or other red meat.

As with a lot of Korean cuisine, it’s fine to “mix and match” flavors and textures… be creative! There’s very little which is verboten here, and you’re sure to find a combination which suits you.

In the final stretch of the meal (pun intended) was a small portion of horse shabu-shabu (the thinly sliced, boiled meat and vegetables) which includes noodles that absorb the flavor of the boiled mixture.

20161031_122343img_0434

img_20161031_122853This light finish was perfect, and we left the restaurant feeling energized and ready for the rest of the work day, not ready for a nap.

Horse bone extract shots, for health.
Horse bone extract shots

 

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