1.349 Ganjang Gejang

-Cycle 1, Dinner 349-
20 December 2010

Ganjang Gejang (간장게장)

* * *

by my aunt

at their home

-Seongsu, Seoul-

To the uninitiated, this probably doesn't look so great, perhaps quite the opposite of great. It's called ganjang gejang (간장게장), raw crabs pickled in soy sauce. That brownish slime in the photo, that's basically what crab flesh looks like when it isn't all cooked and nice and white and fluffy. The orange goo, that's the eggs. Using the shell body as a bowl, much like coastal cavemen would've done, I'd imagine, steaming white rice is plopped into that slime and goo and mixed with a spoon and consumed with savage abandon. The remaining bits, like the legs, are taken with the fingers and inserted into the mouth, shells and all, and crunched down with the teeth to extract whatever slime and goo lurk within, much like coastal cavemen would've done.

In all seriousness, they're pretty good.

The passion that this dish inspires in die-hards is astounding. My wife could eat 2 whole crabs, with 2 bowls of rice, by herself in a single sitting. And then do it again the next day. And the next. And the next. She could go on, but a batch will only last for about 4 days, after which the crabs get kinda putrid--literally--they start smelling like ammonia. She could start over with a new batch, but the dish isn't easy to come by. And expensive. My aunt's culinary claim to fame are these crabs, which she'll make twice a year on the occasions when our family gets together to celebrate the ancestral rites called jesa, a topic that I discussed in a prior post (see 1.021 Jesa Spread). Tonight was one such occasion. As soon as that platter hits the table, the scramble that ensues to secure one of the shell bodies is embarrassing--that is, for grownups who aren't coastal cavemen. From their reaction, I believe this would rate very close to 6 stars on a more objective scale, but personally I'm not a huge fan.


  1. ahhh something else your wife and i have in common (other than our disblief of your illness) - our love for 간장게장. i, too, can eat that stuff every day for days on end. but really good ones are hard to come by here.

  2. didn't we go to a place, like as soon as you got off the plane on one of your trips here? years ago.

    it was in sinsa-dong, some place that's supposed to be famous. i think it was like 50,000 for 2 small crabs. i wasn't impressed.

    other than that, i've had this stuff in one other supposedly famous restaurant, and i wasn't impressed then either.

    everyone in my family tells me that my aunt's stuff is the ultimate, so if i'm not enjoying hers, then i'm simply not into it.

    maybe if you give me enough notice next time, i'll ask my aunt to make some for you.

  3. we did, and i agree - i wasn't impressed either. i had done research on this before i got there - there is some alley with a whole bunch of places specializing in this stuff, but i remember thinking it was way too pricey and not good. my recollection was that it was like 40,000 per person or something ridiculous like that. anyway, i'll try to give more notice next time though i think the crabs are really only "in season" in the fall/winter months.