Busan

Trip to Busan: Serious foodie’s guide

“So your kids must be studying at the school in USA.”

Curious taxi drivers in Busan cut us off in conversation every time when my two kids chatted each other in English. In a country where there’s a national interest(closer to an obsession) with language-learning, their (endless) chitchat was enough to draw taxi drivers’ attention. When explaining that we’re actually living in Hong Kong, a flurry of questions keep continuing. “Isn’t Hong Kong a part of China? Is English the official language of Hong Kong, not Chinese?”

Well, how can I explain (or do I need to explain) things like, international schools, our kids’ experience prior to HK, status of Hong Kong as SAR (Special Administrative Region) and somewhat not-so-simple relationship with China during such a short ride? Although inquisitive, Busan’s taxi drivers are super-gentle and extremely soft-speaking, so don’t feel uncomfortable in case you encounter something like this.

It appears that the relaxing atmosphere of this beautiful port city even made taxi drivers mellow-tempered, indeed a rare characteristic found in the big cities. True, during the last 4 weeks of summer in Busan, I’ve never felt freer and more excited, owing to leisurely ambience and mind-blowing food.

If you are a serious foodie or adventurous enough to taste exotic food that you’ve never imagined possible, this post is just right for you. From spicy cockle dish, abalone porridge to live octopus, the list goes on and on. As for the diversity and excitement offered by food in Busan, sky’s the limit!

1. Poong Won Jang (풍원장 꼬막정찬): 1409 U 1-dong, Haeundae-gu

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Poong Won Jang is one of my favorite restaurants in Busan, serving cockle set meal only. It matters little whether you are a fan of cockle or not, as made-to-order seafood miso soup and delectable side dishes served along with the main dish are too good to resist, all at the unbelievable price of KRW15,000(HKD100, USD12). Its prime waterfront location adjacent to famous “Movie/cartoon street” makes this place popular destination for locals and travelers alike.

2. Obok Seaweed (오복미역): 28 Gunam-ro, Haeundae-gu

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“How lazy does a housewife need to be to order Seaweed soup in a restaurant?” As a no-frills everyday dish (aka birthday soup), seaweed soup has  never seriously  been regarded as a “proper menu” by itself. But Obok Seaweed is an exception and all it serves are seaweed soups, beef/clam/sole fish seaweed soups. Take one spoon of its hours’-long simmered seaweed stock, and its deep flavor and chunky ingredient will make you nod why it makes sense to pay for seaweed soup alone.

3. Mitaki(미타키): 139, Dalmaji-gil, haeundae-gu

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If I have to choose only one place to eat in Busan, this is it. Eating lunch Kaiseki while overlooking unrestricted “Haeundae beach” view is a sheer luxury. Restaurant is divided into two floors, one specializing in Kaiseki meal, the other for Teppanyaki course, and it is one of the biggest regrets that I didn’t try Teppanyaki here. If you are longing for Japanese style sashimi(숙성회) instead of Korean style fresh fish(활어), look no further than Mitaki and the whole experience will make your Busan stay absolutely memorable.

4. Millennium fresh fish house (밀레니엄 횟집): 5/F, Millennium Plaza, 110-51, Minrak-dong, Suyoung-gu

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Welcome to Busan. You’ve just stepped into the heart of the local charm, meaning you ‘ve reached where locals frequent to shop for daily sashimi and fish. 5th floor seafood restaurant offers 7 course dinner feast, including fresh abalone and live octopus smothered with seaweed and sesame oil, all at the price of KRW35,000(HKD240, USD30). Considering how expensive sashimi/sushi dinner costs in HK, this is a steal and quality is also second to none.

5. Bium wine bar (비움와인바): 1459 U-dong,  Haeundae-gu

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Bium is probably the most memorable wine bars in Busan, full of characters and taste. Ex-paradise hotel sommelier Mr. Kang surely knows about wine and food. Bium literally means “making empty (to fill up again)” and it is the place to make yourself empty to recharge your batteries whenever you need a rest or companion (whether wine or whisky). “Signature cheese and fruit platter” will be a good match to whatever alcohol you will choose.

6. Cheonji Halmaejip (천지 할매집): 119-3 Yeonhwa-ri, Gijang-eup, Gijang

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Driving about 30 min from central Busan, you will find another local beauty “Gijang” district where tourists are hardly seen. Best quality Uni in Busan can be found here in “Gijang market“, a local chef’s most beloved place. “Abalone porridge pot” is the food for your soul and its vivid dark green color and chunky abalone slices show what “Abalone porridge” is supposed to look(taste) like.

7. Italy Pocha(이태리 포차): 247 Gobun-ro, Yeonsan-9dong, Yeonje-gu

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Italy pocha is an exquisite combination of “Italian restaurant” and “Korean style casual pub” and chances are its nondescript exterior will easily fool you. But don’t underestimate this owner/chef trained at some of Korea’s top Italian restaurants, who creates awesome family-style dishes for taste bud and visual pleasure. Honestly, everything I tried was excellent, with mushroom & shrimp salad/spicy tomato seafood pasta/Tiramisu being another good combination of the meal.

Now, get the hang of the food in Busan? Next, let’s go back to Hong Kong and indulge in more gastronomical pleasure in the world’s fastest-paced city!

 

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