Souping it up in Souptown

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South KoreaOne of the specialties in Busan is a soup called dwaeji gukbap — pork and rice soup.  There’s a whole stretch of road in the Seomyeon area of town that features nothing but one restaurant after another that specializes in the dish, so yeah, it’s a big deal here.

I picked one pretty much at random (I did have a recommendation, but the signs were all in Korean, so I had no idea which was which), and went in to get my soup on.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

They love including pictures in their menus here, which is a boon for clueless travelers like me, because I can just point to what I want to eat.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

The soup is an elaborate affair, coming with several bowls of condiments (and the requisite kimchi, of course).  It’s a bit bland at first, but once you start adding the various pastes, vinegars, and add-ons, the soup really comes alive.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

It’s incredibly hearty, too, with a ridiculous amount of very tender, thinly-sliced pork, and a heaping amount of rice.  It’s a really satisfying lunch.

How Desperate are you?

ToiletMany of the toilets in this part of the world, particularly in China — even the ones in touristy places like museums or the airport — are of the squat variety.  If you’ve never encountered one of these things, it’s basically a porcelain hole in the ground.

Proponents will tell you that squatting is actually a more natural position than sitting to do your business, and maybe that’s right, but I just can’t do it.  There are so many ways it could go wrong.

I actually came close to being desperate enough to use one at one point– but then I had a grim, Dead Zone-esque premonition in which I lost my balance mid-squat and fell over, and that was that.

Delicious (Not Seafood) Stew

Stew in Busan, South KoreaAfter visiting the Jagalchi Market, I was walking along the nearby vendor-festooned alley looking for something seafoody to eat.  When you visit a country’s largest fish market, you’ve pretty much gotta eat some seafood.  It would be weird if you didn’t.

I eventually found a stand with a few benches set up that had three big vats of stew they were serving up.  There were a couple of ladies eating something that looked quite hearty with noodles, so I sat down, pointed at their bowls, and I was off to the races.

Stew in Busan, South Korea

The owner of the stand got a bowl, filled it with some noodles, topped it up with stew from one of the bubbling pots, then finished off the bowl with a heaping spoonful of some kind of chili paste, and another spoonful of minced garlic.  She added a bit more broth on top, and then handed me the bowl.

Given the proximity to the Jagalchi Market, I had assumed this was going to be a seafood stew of some sort. It was not.  My disappointment quickly faded away, however, when I realized how delicious it was.

The stew was filled with huge chunks of ultra-tender beef brisket, blood cake, leeks, and the aforementioned noodles, all in an intensely flavourful, sweat-inducingly spicy broth.  It was so good.  And for only 4000 won (less than five bucks Canadian), it was a pretty amazing deal.

Something’s Fishy

Jagalchi Market in Busan, South KoreaYou know as soon as you climb up the stairs of the subway station that you’re in the right place — the smell of seafood is everywhere around Jagalchi Market, South Korea’s largest seafood market.

Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea

And the inside is an impressive sight, featuring row after row of vendors selling every type of edible aquatic creature that you can imagine.

Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea

And then you walk out of the building on the other side, and you see where all that food comes from.

Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea

And in case you haven’t had enough seafood yet, there’s a road next to the market that’s crammed with more vendors — it must go on for almost a kilometre.  It’s kind of a crazy amount of seafood.

Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea

Straight to the Street (Food)

Street food in Busan, South KoreaYou know how I know I like Busan? I hadn’t even checked into my hotel yet, and I had already seen several street food vendors dispensing tasty treats.

I passed one vendor selling these cakey-looking things with an egg on top — it looked good and smelled sweet, and I couldn’t resist.  I didn’t even know what it was, but I knew that I had to eat it.

Street food in Busan, South Korea

I mean, the hotel wasn’t going anywhere, so why not?

It was quite tasty — it’s kind of like a very sweet piece of fresh cornbread, only with an egg on top and a little bit of a ketchup-like sauce.  I could have done without that sauce, though it did add a bit of a savoury kick to cut the sweetness.