Throw a pile of shaved ice on top of milk, cover it in red beans, and sprinkle a bit of green tea powder on the top. Doesn’t that sound like a delicious treat? No?! Well, somehow… it is. Patbingsu (팥빙수) is one of South Korea’s favorite desserts, and way more delectable than it sounds.
As we were saying goodbye, the instructor continued to praise our skills. “You did so very good! Very talented at pouring tea, the traditional Korean way!” We sheepishly accepted her acclaim, but I knew what she was really thinking. “Get these clumsy oafs out of my sight, so that I can finally start laughing my ass off!”
Of all the technological marvels we’ve seen in ultra-modern South Korea, only one has completely wedged its way into our hearts: the Yogi-Yo button. Found on tables in many of Busan’s restaurants, it is utter, blissful genius. Press it, and your waiter appears like magic. Leave it unpressed, and you’re left alone.
Along with soju, makgeolli (막걸리) is one of the most popular beverages in Busan. The milky-white drink is made of rice and wheat, and only slightly more alcoholic than beer. We visited a factory in the mountain village of Geumseong-dong to learn first-hand how it’s made.
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’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.
During our initial exploration of the Pusan National University neighborhood in the north of Busan, we happened upon a strange cultural landmark: the Charlie Brown Cafe. Dedicated to all things Peanuts, this coffee house provides stressed-out college kids the chance to escape into a simpler world.
The largest fish market in South Korea is found in downtown Busan, next to the busy shopping area of Nampo-dong and adjacent to the Lotte Aqua Mall. That it occupies such a valuable, central location speaks to how important the fish trade has always been to the city.
Are more than one haiku called haiki? I don’t think so, but I’m too drunk on soju to really care. Imo, another bottle, please! And you might want a few, too, before reading my haiku. (Is more than one bottle of soju called soji?)
We hadn’t expected to have such a great day out in the northern neighborhood of Oncheon-dong. After discovering a popular open-air foot spa, we walked back toward the subway through a boisterous food and goods market. Maybe it’s the collegial atmosphere generated by the closeness of the stands, but people working in these markets always seem to be happier than their counterparts behind the cash register of a grocery store.