DONGHAE, South Korea, Feb 8 (Reuters) - South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, has more to offer than a sporting spectacle for tourists hungering to see their athletes compete on a global stage.
The country has a unique food culture that ranges from kimchi - a side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables - to Korean barbecue, spicy soups and soju, the beloved national alcohol.
At a sprawling fishing market near the South Korean port of Mukho, merchants barter over the price of live fish piled into dozens of buckets. Customers make their choice and then watch as the seafood is sliced and diced before their eyes.
Most then carry their purchases to restaurants near the market where the fish is served raw, with a variety of side dishes, or cooked to their taste.
Ellen Kim, a businesswoman who was eating raw fish at one restaurant, said she hoped the games in the alpine town of Pyeongchang and the coastal city of Gangneung would expose tourists to Korean cuisine from that region.
“Foreigners are not accustomed to eating raw fish, but all my friends from abroad come to South Korea and they are delighted by this raw fish dish,” Kim said.
For those pressed for time, street food is an easy option. Skewers of tangy grilled chicken, pancakes stuffed with seafood or sliced and served on top of ice cream and chocolate sauce can make for a quick meal.
Hot bubbling savoury soups are another specialty that South Koreans say can help cure a hangover.
The broths, made from pork or beef, are boiled in a giant pot for several hours before the ingredients are chopped and served with rice and side dishes such as the popular kimchi.
Restaurants that serve this dish are often open at odd hours, ready to greet customers suffering the effects of a night out.
“The morning after a heavy night of drinking I get a bellyache and this one bowl of pork soup makes me sweat a lot,” said literature teacher Leechoong Ik.
“I feel refreshed and it re-energises me when I feel my energy levels sagging,” he said. (Additional reporting by Hyun Oh, Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez)