Pureun Kongjang (Jeju Island Fermented Soybean Paste)
Pureun Kongjang is a soybean paste made from pureunkong, an indigenous soybean from Jeju Island, off of South Korea's southwest coast, and particularly in the island's Seogwipo region. The soybean is planted in late June, and the relatively tall plant is harvested between late October and early November. The leaves, which taste slightly sweet, are also used for wraps and pickling. Farmers say this variety is not adaptable to the mainland.
The Jeju pureun kong soybean paste and soy sauce are significantly different from those from the mainland thanks to the soybean and a unique process. The size of the pureunkong seed is smaller than the size of the common soybean. When boiled, it is sweeter and stickier than other beans. The fermentation of boiled beans only uses nuruk, a fermented grain made from barley or wheat, and the boiled soybeans, malt powder and salt are used to make the paste. This recipe is mainly used on Jeju and originates from a recipe in an old culinary manuscript. The pureun kong soybean paste aroma is alcoholic rather than dusty, and has a sweet taste. The pureun kong soy sauce also has a different aroma and sweetness. The fermented soybeans can be served roughly one year after being processed. They are separated with the solid part becoming soybean paste and the liquid part used to make soy sauce.
Thanks to the isolated geographical environment, the Jeju pureun kongjang recipe has been preserved through today, but is at risk of disappearing in the near future. Demand for the soybean paste is low, and its cultivation has been rapidly decreasing. Natural disasters, such as abnormal temperatures and typhoons, also make for poor harvests and difficulty in preserving the soybean seeds. Most farming families grow the soybeans for their own consumption, but when there is excess they sell them on the market. Pureun kongjang is only sold in certain stores and in small quantities at traditional markets called o-il jang (five-day market).