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2017-11-24 17:26
By William R. Jones

As a fixed part of the cuisine of the Korean Peninsula, acorn consumption statistics provided by Seoul National University and Korea Forest Research Institute experts indicated a net consumption of about 14,000,000 kg per year from 2003 to 2012. The domestic production declined by roughly 400,000 kg per year in the same timeframe.

Simultaneously, imports from China primarily from Quercus cornea grew to make up 94% of the consumption. Thus, domestic production consumption was about 3% as well as another 3% imported from South Africa, and fractional amounts from several other countries (“Acorn Production and Utilization in the Republic of Korea,” 2014).

Amazingly, the Republic of Korea exported whole acorns and acorn powder to several other countries, primarily Canada and the United States in which the Korean communities created demand. The hand-collected wild acorns in South Korea were and are done for the most part by older women. One person can gather around 0.5 kilograms of acorns in 3 to 6 minutes.

The women also process them for home use or sell to restaurants, friends and neighbors, or wholesale merchants who supply factories having industrial-scale equipment. The factories process the acorns into acorn-based foods that go to grocery stores and restaurants. Along the west coast near Seocheon-gun in Chungnam Province there is a “Farmer’s Food” acorn factory that processes around 1,000 tons of acorns per year.

In South Korea, forests occupy about 64% of the total land area (National Statistical Office 2015) and in the deciduous natural forests that occupy 32% of the country, the dominant native tree species is the oak. For example, in the Mt. Bonghwang forest in North Chungcheong province, the dominant tree species is the oak. Quercus acutissima sometimes called sawtooth oak and Quercus mongolica are the dominant species in South Korea. On the Geologic Time Scale they appeared around the middle (4,500-8,000 years before the present time) of the Holocene Epoch which we are in now.

Thus, there is an abundance of acorns imported or produced domestically for culinary purposes to revive recipes. Now, chefs are always experimenting, so getting the high-end foodies interested will promote a variety of acorn-based dishes onto global menus. Of course, in South Korea already there are continued specialty dishes like dried acorn pasta (dotorimuk malengi), fresh acorn pasta (dotori sujebi), and acorn pancakes (dotori jeon).

Particular localities are noted for their acorn specialties. For example, Daejeon Gujeuk Yewoolmook Village (Gwanpyeong-dong, Yuseong-gu) aka Acorn Jelly Village has restaurants where customers can also try mukmuchim. Also in the region is chaemukbap, sliced dotorimuk on top of steamed rice or in a bowl of broth. Acorn noodle soup, called dotoriguksu and dotori kalguksu (acorn knife-cut noodles) are said to be popular in Ogam-ri Village in Chungcheongnam-do. And, believe it or not, there is also dotori sul or ‘acorn liquor’ (roughly 40% alcohol) mainly manufactured in the DPRK. Also, in Extremadura, Spain there is Bellota Acorn liquor (17% alcohol). And, of course, let us not forget about acorn coffee.

Lastly, the Korea Tourism Organization recommends a visit to the Gujeuk Village Experience Center. There is actually a modern muk factory there and a muk-themed museum. Everyone can learn about acorn processing and the different kinds of acorn trees and all their characteristics.


The writer has taught conversational English for 15 years. He currently works for Virginia State University. His e-mail address is wrjones@vsu.edu.


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