Korean cuisine has many famous “combinations” of food and drinks that just go together – fried chicken and beer, soju (소주) and samgyunsal(삼겹살) or gamjatang(감자탕). One of the best is pajeon (파전) and makgeolli (막걸리). Here’s everything you need to know about it.
When to eat it
Any time is perfect for pajeon and makgeolli, though it’s always popular during rainy days. Whenever it rains, someone is bound to say that they feel like eating pajeon and drinking makgeolli. The story goes that the sound made by frying the pajeon sounds like rainfall, and so that’s how it has become popular to eat on rainy days. Whether or not that’s true, it’s still delicious!
Pajeon is also common as anju (안주, food designed for eating while drinking) for all sorts of alcohol, including soju and beer, and for being eaten as a side dish at lunch or dinner.
Makgeolli can also be enjoyed any time. These days it’s popular to drink when hiking, and you’ll often see people drinking it on the summit of mountains when they reach the top. It may sound funny to drink it after a lot of exercise because it is quite sweet, but it’s common to see people drinking it out of little paper Dixie cups to celebrate finishing the hike. However, the news recently said it can be dangerous to drink while hiking, so be careful!
What is it?
Pajeon is a savoury pancake made with scallions (called pa, 파 in Korean) added to a rice flour batter and then fried in a pan. It can be eaten with just vegetables as the main ingredient, but popular varieties include kimchi jeon (김치전, with kimchi added to make it a little spicy) and haemulpajeon (해물파전, with assorted seafood, like squid).
Makgeolli is a rice alcohol, often called rice wine (even though it looks very different from Western style wine). It’s thick and white in colour, often with some material from the rice left over. It is much sweeter than wine or other alcohol like beer, and . While makgeolli has a long history in Korea, these days is it available in many different flavours, including classic local ones like chestnut or yuja, and newer, more unique ones like cheese or peach.
How to eat/drink it?
Pajeon is usually served in a round pancake-like shape on a big platter. You can use your chopsticks to pull it into individual pieces. A soy-sauced based spicy dipping will either be brought separately or served on top.
Makgeolli will be brought to the table in a bottle, or more traditionally a brass teapot. Instead of traditional cups, shallow brass bowls are used to drink it. Don’t be afraid to pick up the bowl with your hands and have a sip! Also make sure to stir it a little so that the white sediment at the bottom is mixed in. This will make sure you taste the full flavour!
These days, there’s been a movement to make makgeolli a little but more classy, and expensive restaurants are popping up, featuring their own blends. The expensive brands are also delicious, but if it’s your first time drinking it, I’d recommend the original flavour. You’ll see it everywhere in big green bottles, including at convenience stores.
Makgeolli and pajeon are a delicious and fun combination to try. As they recommend, hang out, relax, and enjoy it on a rainy day!