We were staying at the Yellow Submarine in Seongsan-ri in order to hike the iconic Sunrise Peak at the crack of dawn the next morning. The familiar salty ocean air of Seongsan-ri inspired childhood memories of fish and chips at Neptune’s Net in Malibu, and I had trouble declaring kimchi chigae (kimchi stew) an adequate substitute (as purely delicious it is!).
Heading to Jeju? You’ll love this Hidden Beach of Jeju Island!
“Good luck!” Ben responded. Because surely, finding fish and chips on Jeju Island just wouldn’t happen. Surely, we’d end up snagging a kimbap (rice and seaweed roll with a variety of fixin’s) or hovering over a steaming hot pot of some variety of red hot spicy stew. Surely we’d resign ourselves to the food we’d been eating for a year living in South Korea, delicious, to be sure, but not the food our nostalgia currently begged for.
Minutes later, we stumbled upon Willala Fish and Chips, arguably the best fish and chips on Jeju Island. I just love proving Ben wrong.
The Heart Wants What It Wants
I adore Korean food—the savory kimchi jeon (kimchi pancake), stews bursting with spice and sour and swagger, an entire spectrum of flavors largely unmatched, and every meal treated like a feast to be served with a platter of sides and pickles. Anthony Bourdain calls the food of Korea “an emerging and important cuisine that I’d like to know more about.” And surely, we’re lucky to be living smack dab in a country which birthed a cuisine currently enthralling some of the world’s best up-and-coming chefs. And we certainly take advantage of this every day.
But memory and nostalgia are powerful, and smell is a formidable trigger. Walking around that small beach town at the foot of Seongsan Ilchulbang and inhaling that salty sea air, the heart couldn’t help but want what it wanted: fish and chips on Jeju Island (a difficult feat when it involves finding international food on the still largely un-waygooked Jeju Island). As if an answer to our prayers, Willala Fish and Chips on Jeju Island appeared to us.
Shark & Chips
One little surprise exists on the menu: Willala’s house specialty includes fillets of battered shark meat. We weren’t feeling that adventurous (shark meat wouldn’t exactly fulfill that nostalgia criteria, after all), and so we ordered a couple of good ol’ fish and chips plates at the counter and found a seat.
Best Fish and Chips on Jeju Island
A nightmare for the waistband but a godsend for your cravings, the red plates bore fish, crispy, light, and golden, crowned by a single onion ring as if to commemorate the royalty of the feast we were about to engage in, and a bed of Lauren-tested, Lauren-approved, freshly-made fries.
The supporting cast included a very small salad garnished with black olives, tomatoes, and a sweet dressing drizzle, as well as a helping of ketchup and tartar sauce topped with wasabi tobiko. Tabasco was available, but, to the dismay of the Filipina half of my palate, no vinegar.
Willala Fish and Chips on Jeju Island
Address: 성산읍 성산중앙로33, Seogwipo, Jeju-do, South Korea
Hours: Open from 12 pm to 11 pm
From Jeju-si Intercity Bus Terminal: Take the 701 or 710 bus. The 701 leaves every 15-20 minutes starting from 5:40 AM until 9 PM . The 710 bus leaves every 25-30 minutes starting from 6:15 AM until 9 PM. The 701 is the eastbound coastal route, and is a bit longer than the 710 bus because it makes many stops at coastal villages on the way. The 701 bus ride takes about one and a half hours, and the 710 ride about an hour and five minutes.
From Seogwipo: The easiest way is to catch an eastbound 701 bus heading to Seongsan. You can get the bus from Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal or Dongmun Rotary in downtown Seogwipo.
From both directions, get off at the Ilchulbong Entrance stop (일출 입구).The restaurant will be a few minutes walk south down Seongsan Jungang-ro on the west side of the street.
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What meal reminds you of your childhood?
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