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Busan Food Journal – Part Six

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Korean Cookbooks

Every region in Korea has different dishes, and we didn’t realize how much we were missing out on until visiting Gyeongju, which was our first time outside of Busan. There, we tried out two famous specialties and loved them both. Taking a culinary tour of South Korea would be a blast.

Food Journal: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Gyeongju Ssambap

We had spent the evening at Anapji Pond, and it was past nine by the time we sat down at Gyodong (a recommendation from our barista earlier in the day – location). The restaurant was closing at 9:30, which gave us about twenty minutes to plow through the 28-dish feast known as Ssambap. This is the main specialty of Gyeongju; you take a cabbage or lettuce leaf, pad it with rice, add pork and whatever other condiments you choose, wrap it up in a little ball, and throw it into your mouth. And, yes, we finished everything. [More Pics]


These little round pastries, filled with sweet red-bean paste, are found everywhere in Gyeongju. I have no idea how many the average person must eat to justify the sheer number of bakeries entirely dedicated to hwangnam-ppangs, but it must be an unhealthy number. They’re alright, but way too sweet for my palate — I couldn’t eat more than one at a time.

Shaved Ice

One of the most popular treats in Busan seems to be flavored, shaved ice. I know: weird. But people here love it, so we decided to try a bowl at A Twosome Place (a coffee chain which we mistakenly refer to as “An Awesome Place”, every time). I had been expecting something like the colorful snow-cones of my youth, where you get through the syrup in ten seconds, and are left with a bunch of flavorless ice. But here, the shavings themselves are flavored (we chose “tea”), and topped with any number of extras, from whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate and fruits to waffles and cookies. Delicious, and our bowl was more than enough for two.

Todai – Sushi Buffet

Located on the fifth floor of the Emperor Building (location), the same place I had my eyes LASIK-ed, is Todai which serves up an amazing lunchtime sushi buffet. The price of ₩20,000 ($18) per head is expensive at first blush, but considering the spread and everything that’s included, well worth it. Freshly-prepared sushi, grilled steaks, noodles, salads, desserts… the choice was never-ending. Soft drinks and coffee were included in the bill. [More Pics]

Cave Restaurant Yong Ggum

This recommendation after we had asked for something different in Busan. Yong Ggum (용꿈) translates as “Dragon Dream”, and is housed in a musty old WWII bunker (location). It’s probably better to visit when it hasn’t been raining. This is strictly a seafood restaurant and, when we went, water was dripping from the ceiling and the damp smell of fish was nauseating. The food was good, but we were happy to get back outside into the fresh air. [More Pics]

Shabu Shabu

We make at least one waeguk faux pas per meal, but were hitting well above average while eating Shabu Shabu at Chaeseondang (채선당 – location). This is Japanese Hot Pot, and looked easy enough; just swish the meat around the hot broth (the word “shabu” means “swish” in Japanese) and pop it in your mouth. But the waitress ran over to our table at least three times to scold us. Turns out that the raw egg is supposed to go into the pot at the end of the meal, and we weren’t supposed to be eating the rice out of its bowl. We forgot to cut the mushrooms, and generally made a mess of the whole meal. I had even slobbered all over myself.

While she was shaking her head and tut-tutting, I wanted to defend myself. “We don’t exactly take shabu-shabu courses in Ohio, lady!” But I don’t know how to say that in Korean, so I just sat there dolefully and took my admonishment. It was still a fun meal, and one we’ve vowed to try again. [More Pics]

Makgeolli Place in KSU

We first walked through the Culture Alley of the KSU neighborhood during the day, when it was completely quiet. At night, though, the alley comes alive with people and a surprising number of bars and restaurants. We sat down in a makgeolli bar (location) with a couple friends and enjoyed a meal of paejeon (pancake-like dishes of veggies, egg and seafood) and a bucket of the sweet-tasting drink. The rice and wheat based makgeolli looks milky, and is served by the ladle. [More Pics]

Our Travel Books

More Pics from the Gyeongju Ssambap
Munch Fest
We’ll never eat it all!
Belly Stuffer
Or… yes we will.
More Pics from the Todai Sushi Buffet
Korean Treats
More Pics from the Cave Restaurant
Soju Cave
Drip Cave
Cave Bar Busan
Dragon Dream
More Pics of Shabu Shabu
Shabu Meat
Shabu Mushrooms
Shabu Rice
Another Picture from the Makgeolli House
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July 15, 2012 at 9:33 am Comment (1)

Millak Raw Fish Market

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Sashimi Grade Fish Fillets

Do you remember that one scene in Oldboy? The scene which, after you watched it, you never forgot and needed therapy to recover from? You know, that scene, the one where Oh Dae-Su eats a living octopus? Well, our lunch at the Millak Raw Fish Market brought me as close to the experience of being Oldboy as I ever need to get.

On entering the world’s largest sashimi hall, I was strangely giddy, but also nervous. Jürgen and I had eaten sushi, but never full plates of sashimi, which is just sliced-up raw fish. Luckily, we had a trump card up our sleeves: our friend Young-mi was visiting from Germany. She runs Kimchi Princess, the most popular Korean restaurant in Berlin, and with her at our side, we could eat anything! (Not only would she reassure us with her knowledge, but shame us with her mockery. Like all good friends, Young-mi has no problem letting us know when we’re being wimps).

The bottom floor of the building is a live fish market, with twenty stands run by scheming, curly-haired ladies, who are honed and merciless hawkers. As soon as we entered, the three nearest the door sunk their claws into us, yelling and selling, refusing to recognize negative responses. There seemed to be no difference between the various vendors — the prices were about the same, as was the selection. We resisted the first two fiery fishmongers, but succumbed to the third, who laughed victoriously at her enemies while completing the sale.

Our Raw Fish Meal

We chose a flounder (do-da-li) and a mullet (sung-eo), with an octopus, and a bunch of sea pineapples (meong-ge) thrown in for free. This all cost ₩30,000 ($27) — which, for that much fish, is unbelievable. She laid the mullet on her table and hacked into his head with a huge knife, then told us to go up to the second floor to await our meal. The building has ten stories and, from the upper levels, the view of Gwangalli Beach is unbeatable. But what floor you’re sent to depends entirely upon the vendor from whom you buy your fish — we didn’t know that until after completing our purchase.

Once upstairs, we didn’t have to wait long for our meal. Which makes sense, considering that nothing is being cooked. The flounder and mullet were cut into thin slices and piled onto plates. The sea pineapple was chopped up and served in a bowl of its own juice. It looked horrendous — just alien and awful. The octopus had been hacked into pieces, and set into a dish full of sauce. Its nerves were still firing like crazy and, despite being completely dismembered, the tentacles were crawling around on top of each other, searching for escape.


I downed a shot of soju, grabbed onto a thrashing tentacle with my chopsticks and threw it into my mouth, viciously chomping and chewing so that it couldn’t suction onto the side of my throat as I swallowed. And then another shot of soju. And now, I could think about what had just happened. It was frightening, but once you get past the creature’s frantic motion, its slippery texture and its being raw, the octopus actually tasted rather good.

The whole meal was like that. As had been the case with the octopus, my first bites of flounder and mullet were terrifying and quickly accomplished, without allowing time to think or second-guess. The following mouthfuls were more considered. I had to concede that, against all odds, sashimi is delicious. The taste and smell of the thin slices weren’t fishy in the slightest. They tasted good. Strange. Like nothing, but then again like something cold and healthy and alive. We wrapped the sashimi up in leaves, or just dunked it into soy sauce with wasabi and ate it straight.


Sigh, yes, I see you over there Mr. Sea Pineapple, waving your ugly little red nubs, impatiently awaiting your turn for my approval. Well, you won’t get it. You, my friend, are an abomination. Just the thought of you, your texture and flavor, is making me sick. Ammonia mixed with horse puke. That’s what you taste like. Go to hell where you belong.

In all, it was an exciting meal, and not entirely as scary as I had been anticipating. The hardest part was bargaining with the fish ladies on the bottom floor, and getting over the waves of disgust when that slithering octopus tentacle first touches your tongue. But we were in Busan. Eating sashimi is one of the quintessential experiences in this city. If you have the chance, it’s not to be missed.

Location on our Busan Map
Our Busan Food Journals

Raw Octopus
Live Squid
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May 28, 2012 at 9:38 am Comments (4)

Busan Food Journal, Part Three

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Korean Ramen

Dumplings, soju, grilled ribs, stews, chicken and lots of kimchi were on the table this week. It took us a few weeks to start to get the hang of Korean food, discover what we love, and what we don’t. For Part Three of our food journal, we mostly concentrated on restaurants around our neighborhood, Suyeong and Gwangalli Beach, but these dishes can be found on just about every corner of Busan.

Food Journal: Part One | Part Two | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Kimchi Dumplings (김치 만두)
Kimchi Dumplings

Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, and people here eat it constantly. Generally, the spicy fermented cabbage is consumed straight out of bowls, but it can be prepared in a variety of ways. For a quick dinner one night, we stopped at a tiny restaurant along the Gwangalli Beach and ordered ten kimchi dumplings. After devouring them in ten bites, we almost convinced ourselves to go for another round. [More Pics]

Galbi (갈비)

For an early Saturday dinner in Nampo-Dong, we sat down at a restaurant called Busan Sutbul Galbi (부산숮불갈비) after having seen the commotion inside. The specialty here, and the most expensive thing on the menu at $22 per person, was So-Galbi: beef short ribs marinated in soy sauce and grilled at the table, and served with approximately six thousand side dishes. We’re starting to get comfortable enough with grilling that we don’t require assistance from the waitress — tonight, I only dropped a couple pieces of the meat onto the coals, which constitutes a success, in my book. [More Pics]

Approx. location on our Busan Map

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개)

Budae Jjigae, also known as “Army Base Stew”, is an inadvertent relic of the Korean War. During the fighting, when Koreans were able to grow very little food of their own, resourceful chefs used the surplus found around US Army bases to create a rich stew filled with American staples like hot dogs and spam. Budae Jjigae has remained a popular meal ever since, and is now served in a variety of ways. Ours came with ramen noodles, rice balls and a ton of veggies. Delicious. [More Pics]

Dancing Bonito Flakes

“Service” is rapidly gaining ground on my list of favorite words. In Korean restaurants, it refers to the freebies which are occasionally set down at your table, and often include some great dishes you might not ordinarily try. At the popular Japanese restaurant Takedaya (다케다야 – location) the cook came out to say hi and offered us a couple free plates, one of which was flakes of dried bonito, curling and dancing around on top of a hunk of fried tofu. They looked alive, but were actually just cut so thin that the steam made them move. Our main dishes of Kake-udon and Bugake-udon were fantastic as well. [More Pics]

Location on our Busan Map

Duck Bulgogi in Rice Paper
Rice Paper Roll

We sat down on the floor at Tagguba (다꾸바) and, while working on a bottle of soju, watched our waitress set up the grill, carry three full plates of food (duck, veggies, mushrooms) to our table and then cooked them to perfection, taking care to continuously drain the fat. The hard part done, all that was left for us to do was dunk rice paper in water and create delicious mini grilled-duck rolls with the sauces and condiments spread across our table. Did we love it? So much so, that we went back with friends the very next week. [More Pics]

Chicken BBQ
BBQ Chicken

This meal at chain restaurant Mubwatna (무봤나 – location) had the benefit of being familiar to our western palates. BBQ garlic chicken, served with rice and chicken? That’s nothing to fear, in comparison to say, spicy octopus bibimbap. Which is perhaps why we chowed it down in about fifteen seconds flat. Mubwatna concentrates exclusively on chicken and the franchise near Gwangalli beach is almost always crowded. I occasionally enjoy challenging my culinary comfort level — but let’s not forget the importance of that word occasionally.

Cheap Hostels in Busan

More Kimchi Dumpling Pics
Dumpling Man
Steam Pots Korea
Late Night Snack
More Pics from the Galbi Grill
Galbi Busan
Korea Grill
Galbi Restaurant
Korean Galbi
More Pics of Buddae Jjigae
More Pics from the Japanese Ramen Place
Japanese Ramens
Japanese Noodles
More Pics of Duck Bulgogi
Korean Cook
Korean Mushrooms
Making a Roll
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May 27, 2012 at 10:45 am Comments (8)

Grab a Seat in Eatery Alley

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How To Make Kimchi

There’s a small street in the shopping nexus of Nampo-Dong filled with stands offering a cheap outdoor lunch. Hot noodles, kimchi, rice bowls, tteokbokki (a spicy rice cake dish), all served up by a colorful collection of Korean lunch ladies. The map refers to this as “Eatery Alley”, which is about as accurate a name as possible.

Eat Your Kimchi

Each lunch lady is hocked on the ground in front of her “kitchen”, which consists of a big, solitary pot. They’re always at work, slopping more noodles into bowls, speedily preparing more gimbap, or counting their earnings. Each has her own specialty, and we opted for a plump, smiling lady serving a spicy-looking bowl of glass noodles. We chose her stand because… the noodles looked so good! Because… it seemed popular with the locals! Okay, okay, fine. We chose it because, after hesitating for a second in front of her, she yelled at us to sit down. And down we sat, onto tiny stools fit for a Barbie doll picnic.

We each got a bowl of the noodles and split a plate full of snacks, such as rice rolls, kimchi and seaweed. It was all delicious, and cost ₩7000 ($6.30) in total. At least, that’s what it cost the Korean couple sitting next to us. But the crafty old broad charged us 10000, even though she knew that we had been closely monitoring the other, just-completed transaction. She must have reasoned that we wouldn’t be able to argue… and she was right. I held up my fingers, trying to sign “7?”, but she just smiled and waved goodbye.

Still, it was a good deal, and we left full and satisfied. We promised to return, armed with Korean phrases like, “Please, my dear, I do believe you’ve miscalculated”. Or, “Could I have the local price?” Or, “If you don’t stop ripping me off, I’ll kick your damned table over”.

Location on our Busan Map
Hostels in Busan

Chop Stick
Green Bowls
Street Food Blog
Food Alley Busan
Kimci Mama
Korean Food Blog
Small Gim Bap
Hungry Korean Girl
Ice Rice Drink
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May 14, 2012 at 9:33 am Comments (6)

Busan Food Journal, Part One

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Korean Cookbooks

We ate a lot of interesting new foods during our time in Busan. The city’s supermarkets are rather expensive, and eating out was almost as cheap as cooking at home, particularly when you stick to the kinds of local joints which we prefer. This is the first of our recaps on what we ate, and what it’s called

Most of Busan’s restaurants don’t have menus with pictures or English descriptions, so a lot of our meal choices will be the result of a random guess-and-point, until we learn the basics. To help ourselves, and other newbies to the food culture of Korea, we’ve decided to keep a little journal of the things we’ve consumed. Bon appetit!

Food Journal: Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Mulmil-myeon (월밀면)

Not sure if I’m transliterating that correctly, but mulmil-myeon is cold noodle soup. Thick noodles served in spicy cold broth, and perfect for a hot summer day… except, we had it on an unseasonably cool spring day. Brrrr. Juergen got the dry mixed noodles (???), which were also cold, and we split dumplings. It was all good; the restaurant was called Bonga Milmyeon in the Suyeong District(location). [More Pics]

Dongnae Pajeon (동래 파전)

“Jeon” means something like “pancake”, and this popular Korean dish can be made with a variety of main ingredients. When made with green onions, the name of the dish becomes “pa”-jeon. Pajeon is a specialty of Dongnae, the neighborhood we were in after having hiked around the Geumjeongsanseong Fortress, and we ordered some at a street vendor (approx. location). Our pancakes made with eggs, flour, chunks of pork and bunch of green onions. Yum (I’ve been practicing, and can now write “yum” in Korean: ?) [More Pics]

Pho Bo (포보)
Pho Bo

We tried this Vietnamese dish at a cute restaurant called Saigon, near our home at the Gwangalli Beach (location). I’m not sure what makes this a Vietnamese dish… maybe the type of noodles? But it was good. We also had spring rolls here. [More Pics]

Dolsot Bibimbap (돌조 비빔밥)

Bibimbap is both the cutest word you’re going to see today, and a delicious meal which literally means “mixed rice”. It’s one of Korea’s signature dishes, and can be served up in an infinite number of variations. At the rather pricey Well-Being Rice Cafe in Seumyong (location), I ordered Spicy Octopus Dolsot Bibimbap, while Jürgen went for Mushroom & Bulgogi. Dolsot bibimbaps are served in a piping hot stone bowl coated with oil. Once served, you have to immediately stir the rice around, so that it doesn’t burn to the bowl. [More Pics]

Kalguksu (칼구주)

We had this soup full of thick, wheat noodles at a small restaurant in Dongnae (approx. location). The name Kalguksu literally translates to “knife noodles”, referring to the fact that the noodles are hand-cut into shape. This hot and filling soup is, strangely, a summer dish in Korea. The waitress also gave us black bean noodles for free (“service”, as they say here). We weren’t about to protest! [More Pics]

Tonkatsu (돈카츠)

On the 9th floor of Shinsegae Centum City (location), there are a number of restaurants which look uniformly excellent. Before watching The Avengers in the world’s biggest 4D screen, we got dinner at Mita’s Kitchen. These delicious pork cutlets were soaked in sweet and sour sauce, and served with the usual line-up of delicious side items. [More Pics]

More Pics from Bonga Milmyeon
Busy Noodle Place
Mixed Noodles
Noodle Menue
More Pics of Pajeon
Bacon Pancakes
More Pics from Saigon
Saigon Menu
Saigon Rolls
Another Pic from Well-Being Rice Cafe
More Pics of Kalguksu
We also ate Jajangmyeon, a black-bean noodle dish
Another Pic from Mita’s Cafe
Pork Korea
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May 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm Comments (9)
Busan Food Journal - Part Six Every region in Korea has different dishes, and we didn't realize how much we were missing out on until visiting Gyeongju, which was our first time outside of Busan. There, we tried out two famous specialties and loved them both. Taking a culinary tour of South Korea would be a blast.
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