BUSAN, South Korea — After hearing tales of such things, earlier this recent winter, I wanted to eat some black goat. I expressed this fascination to a friend and fellow motorist, and discovered that there was a place to do just that not far from my home in PNU, just up a winding mountain road behind the campus, in Sanseong Village.
A few weeks later, I recruited four like-minded friends to jump on our motorcycles and putter up the mountain for a culinary adventure. Sanseong Village restaurants specialize in yeomso gogi (grilled goat meat) or heuk yeomso (black goat), which is usually eaten along with the local rice wine, Sanseong Makgeolli, which is made from fresh spring water tapped in the area. ‘Sanseong’, literally translated, means ‘mountain fortress.’ It is in this same area where Geumjeong Mountain Fortress was built (and still stands) in 1702 as a defense against invasion forces from Japan and from marauding Manchu armies.
Driving through the tall, cartoonish gate announcing our entrance to the village, we didn't see any goats roaming the streets waiting to be eaten.We got a little lost, taking a wrong turn into the nearby Oh My Land, where we found nothing but abandoned buildings and an empty field. After scanning the horizon for goats, we came up with nothing more than some old furniture and appliances, so we headed back the way we came, into the the cluster of low-slung buildings surrounding the entrance to the black goat village. Suddenly, ajjumas materialized all around us, grinning and beckoning us into restaurants — this was the place.
But where to go? Each friendly restaurateur was urging us with equal enthusiasm to come into her place of business. Would it be the kindly old woman with lipstick on her teeth? The one with the nearest restaurant? Shouldn’t the ajjuma who saw us first get to call dibs?
Somehow, we settled on a radiant woman who’d trotted around a corner late in the game. We revved up the motorcycles and followed her slowly and she and her friend jogged down the street to their place, waving and smiling all the way. Tucked into an alley, we found a comfortable room decorated with a mobile of used CDs, where the five of us sat on a wood floor and awaited the local specialty. The goat was served in the typical galbi fashion, and though delicious, didn't taste like anything I hadn't had before. The real treat was the two fluffy pumpkin pajeons; complimentary, and delicious beyond anything I’ve had in Korea before or since.
After our black goat success, a few of us still wanted a hunk of meat to take back home.We got back on the bikes and rode in search of some bulk goat meat to take home and experiment with.One end of the village to the other, up and down some steep temple paths, and not once did we see a single living, breathing goat. It was toe-numbingly cold and the sun was going down, so we made a hasty, empty-handed retreat back to PNU. We didn't find everything we went looking for, but an afternoon spent discovering new roads with old friends can hardly be called wasted.
Getting there: Take subway line 1 to Oncheonjeong, then from there take bus 203 to Sanseong Village.