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.
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.
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.
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]
This recommendation after we had asked for something different in Busan. Yong Ggum (??) 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]
We make at least one waeguk faux pas per meal, but were hitting well above average while eating Shabu Shabu at Chaeseondang (??? – 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]
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]