Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Eating in Busan

For some weird reason, I always seem to miss out on Good Food Month due to being away. Normally I get a bit upset for missing all the awesome food but this year, I felt like I went to foodie heaven overseas - namely, Busan. Busan is the seafood capital of Korea and it does not disappoint. Not only do you get super fresh and tasty seafood here, you also get a million side dishes with each meal. Need I say that I LOVE korean side dishes?

Our first stop when we got to Busan was the Jagalchi Fish Markets in the Nampodong area. This place is MASSIVE. Even before you get to the main market building, there are streets full of ahjumma (Korean 'aunties') trying to lure you in to buy their seafood. Most places have these dicey little tables and stools for you to sit on as they prepare your seafood either sashimi, barbequed to stewed. I have to say - the aromas wafting from these stalls and the crazy amounts of seafood teaming in their stalls is quite a temptation.
We ate at the Jagalchi markets twice - once on the street stalls and once on level two of the actual market building. I have to say, I preferred the one at the actual market building more , even though it was a tad more expensive. We had a live Hirame (flounder) sashimied  for around AUD$50 but it came with a crazy table full of side dishes!!! As it was our first meal in Busan, I was completely blown away. You should have seen my face light up when dish after dish after dish was brought out! Loved all of it - particularly the pajeon (spring onion pancake) - super fresh, crisp and crunchy outside and soft insides. YUM! The fish itself was also really delish! Really really sweet. The stall we went to was 'C1' in the 2nd floor of the building.
Just next door to the Jagalchi markets are the PIFF street eat stalls. This is where the Busan International Film Festival used to be but now - it's just teaming with carts of delicious street food. My favourites include the fish cakes and the 'hotteok' (seed stuffed pancake). ZOMG - its deep fried cripsy, sweet with some sugary paste in it, chewy and soft dough, AND tons of sunflower, sesame and other types of seeds. Sweet and savoury and really addictive. Lucky they're only like a dollar each.

Just around the corner from the PIFF food carts is another area in Nampodong filled with eating carts. Ahjummas here try to lure you to eat their Bibim Dongmyeon (cold glass noodles), there this really tasty squid salad, tons of fish cakes and really delicious pajeons (spring onion pancakes). It's also a 'must try' to just eat on the street like the locals - standing up, squished in between people, trying to eat everything without spilling stuff on your shirt (or other people's shirts). Everything is really quite cheap - hubby and I got full on this stuff for less than AUD$10.

After shopping around Nampodong area (and if your still hungry from all that street food), there is also a 'jokbal alley' right there. 'Jokbal' (or pig trotters) are boiled and cooled then sliced. You can opt to have pure meat or you can have it in a salad - which usually is this jelly fish, mustardy, cucumbery mix. It's tasty... but you know, if you had limited stomach space, other things in Busan are more WOW.
If you just happen to be in Busan during a crazy windy storm, there is no need to despair. Just take yourself to Lotte or Shinsegae (biggest department store in the world) and have a massive feast, shopping spree and Spa (SpaLand). It is a crazy experience - not only the food but also the spa in this department store (another must try!).

Foodwise - there are restaurants, food courts and these areas which just sell snacks. We had it all in Shinsegae - really yum  beef rib soup and ginseng chicken soup in the restaurants, browsed all the Asian "international" foods on offer, and stopped off at tons of just small food stores that sold snacks like super delicious green tea icecream (originating from Jeju), these little croquette bread things which was really popular (crispy, deep fried, soft bread with filling eg. curry, cheese, red bean), and mando (who can say no to dumplings?)

As we stayed in Haeundae, the Haeundae Gukbap Alley was easily accessible. Gukbap is this pork soup concoction - often with rice in it, or on the side, or if your odd like me, with noodles. There's two famous shops (even though the whole alley is Gukbap) right next to each other. One is Granny Kimm Hee-Dae's original cauldron gukbap and the other is the Jeontong Haeundae Wonjo Halmae Gukbap (48 year old traditional haeundae granny gukbap). We tried both - I personally preferred the one with the yellow sign. However, the one with the red sign offers Korean Yakult as a side dish (and no one can say no to yakult).

yellow sign shop
red sign shop

If you want seafood dining with a view, it's hard to pass on Millak Raw Fish Town. Housed in an old brown building, there are a good 10 stories filled with seafood-serving restaurants. You can be brave and work with the ahjummas on the ground floor that haggle you to buy their seafood with the promise that someone upstairs will cook it up, or if you're like us, you'd just try your luck at any one of the restaurants upstairs. We picked one on level 6 which had a decent number of happy customers inside.
We ordered this fish stew (AUD$30) and again, it came with a table full of amazingly tasty side dishes, and four (yes FOUR) grilled fishes. It was delicious! Yes, some people think that putting a fresh fish in a chilli stew is a waste - but it's sooo sooo sooo tasty! The fish meat is sweet and it make the spicy stew so yum!

Another place good for dining with a view is at Taejongdae. Most people come here for the park - fantastic view of cliffs, you can go for hikes, there's temples, light houses and even a 'suicide rock'. Whilst we did all that touristy stuff, we were really mainly here for the clam tents. This is a massive row of tents with Ahjummas in each one, flagging you to come in and eat their barbequed shell fish. Yes please! I think that each tent is around the same - we got out meal from this super friendly lady who thought were were noobs and cooked everything for us.

The seafood sits in these buckets of water and I can only assume that everything is still live cos it tastes so good and so fresh. Our lady gave us 3 pots of mussels (even though there's only 2 of us), prawns, a massive platter of shellfish barbequed, dukbokki (rice cake) with shell fish in it, and this rice dish (also with shell fish in it). The sauce is amazing - a combination of onion, garlic, cheese and gochujang, and the seafood is just so sweet. All this for AUD$40 - and an amazing view! Sold!

If you get a bit sick of seafood (if that's even possible), venture to Seomyeon. Yes there is shopping and street food galore here, but there's also a plethora of amazing Korean BBQ places. We were lucky and found one that served really crazily amazing pork belly (Samgyupsal). We were well and truely in a local area as when we asked for a menu - the dude pointed the a wall of korean words. Sign language helps and when there is really only one thing that every table is ordering, the real question is probably just 'how many' you want to order.
This pork belly was EPIC. it was sooo massive. Still originally on the bone, the slices were thick, good portion of fat then meat then fat then meat, and these glorious-looking pork skin pieces that you make into delicious crackling on your bbq. ZOMG. It was melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I want my samgyupsal to always look like this from now on!

I'm not able to put everything we ate down in this blog cos that would take me a year to organise, but if you're looking for an eating adventure, Busan is definitely one place you can eat to your hearts content. I think the most expensive meal we had was around AUD$50 but a lot of the time, it's the cheap street food that is really satisfying. Loved Busan! I will definitely return.

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