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Busan Food Journal, Part Five

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Korean Cookbooks

We’re more than halfway through out time in Busan, and still haven’t gotten sick of the food. There’s a lot more variety to the cuisine than we had expected, especially once you add in the Japanese and Chinese (and Thai and American and Vietnamese and so on) influences. This week, we tried a couple of non-Korean places out, gave in to our pizza addiction, and went against better judgment to sample ginseng wine.

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

Sundubu Baekban (순두부백반)

We were tipped off to Nampo’s extremely popular restaurant Dolgorae (돌고래) by one of our readers, who provided exact instructions as to the location. Thank god, because we’d have never found it ourselves! The specialty in this second-floor eatery, tucked away on one of Nampo’s million alleys, is Sundubu Baekban, which is a hearty and delicious tofu soup. I had the Doenjang Jjigae, which was similar but with seafood mixed in. Dolgorae is a real find… anyone else who has great tips like this: let us know! [More Pics]

Mr. Pizza

Mr. Pizza (미스터피자 in Korean, which transliterates as Mi-seu-teo Pi-ja) is probably the most popular pizza franchise in Busan, with branches found all over the place. We treated ourselves to a trip here on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and enjoyed every bite of our greasy “New York Style” pizza. But we regretted it immediately afterward, just like we always do after eating this kind of food. [More Pics]

Insamju (인삼주)

In Korea, ginseng is big business. Entire stores dedicate themselves to the ugly root, selling giant glass jars holding monstrous specimens. There are a lot of ginseng health drinks, but I was surprised to find this ginseng wine at the grocery store, and decided to give it a shot. It’s awful. It tastes like… well, like wine made from ginseng. It’s supposedly good against sexual dysfunction. Too bad you’ll be too busy vomiting to have much fun in the sack.

Sweet & Sour Cocktail Shop (짬뽕 탕수육 전문점)

After Japanese, Chinese is probably the second-most popular type of foreign food in Busan. You can usually identify a Chinese restaurant by red lanterns hanging outside the doorway, or pictures of the black-bean noodles which they all seem to offer. We went to the Sweet & Sour Cocktail Shop — I have no idea if that’s the actual English name, but this is how Google Translate handles it: “짬뽕 탕수육 전문점”. At any rate, it’s an excellent restaurant near Gwangalli Beach (location), where we tried out the delicious black-bean noodles for the first time, with a side of fried dumplings.


A friend took us to “Galbi Aid” (rough translation of 원조 갈비찜), a great restaurant near the Yeonsanyeok Metro station (location). This neighborhood is home to a lot of big companies, and filled with the kind of places exhausted businessmen like to frequent after a long day of work, like karaoke bars, hostess clubs and no-nonsense restaurants. We had Galbitang, a spicy stew of short-ribs and veggies. After we’d scooped away most of the soup into our bellies, the waitress brought rice, which she mixed into the bowl for a second round, which was just as delicious as the first. [More Pics]

Ikeman Bento (이케맨벤또)
Busan Bento

During our exploration of the Kyungsung University neighborhood, I spotted a sign advertising anime. I’m a comics fan, so eagerly ascended the to the third floor, where I expected to find geeks thumbing through Detective Conan. Instead, I had discovered a Japanese Bento restaurant (location). My initial disappointment quickly disappeared, and we sat down for a meal. You get one main dish surrounded by nine side items in a tic-tac-toe-shaped box. I had smoked salmon, and Juergen went with teriyaki chicken. The food was great, the prices incredible, and the restaurant was kitschy, cute and popular. Highly recommended. [More Pics]

Okkudak Chicken
Perfect Chicken Meal

Our visit to Mr. Pizza might not have been worth writing home about, but soon enough, we found ourselves craving The Unhealth, yet again, and let our noses guide us to Okkudak in Kyungsung (location), where the specialty is fried chicken. Now this was an artery-clogging meal that we could get behind! Garlic-fried chunks of chicken with a heaping side order of cheesy baked sweat potato puree. And beer. And joy.

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June 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm Comments (0)

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.

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Galbi Restaurant
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Japanese Ramens
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May 27, 2012 at 10:45 am Comments (8)
Busan Food Journal, Part Five We're more than halfway through out time in Busan, and still haven't gotten sick of the food. There's a lot more variety to the cuisine than we had expected, especially once you add in the Japanese and Chinese (and Thai and American and Vietnamese and so on) influences. This week, we tried a couple of non-Korean places out, gave in to our pizza addiction, and went against better judgment to sample ginseng wine.
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