The view from the hydrofoil as we approach the Korean mainland.
Busan is definitely a port city.
They also know how to get down with their seafood.
Our first night in town, our hosts took us all to this amazing outdoor (there is no other phrase for it) food village, with simple structures arranged around grassy pathways and bowers of green. The food just kept on coming: peppers in spicy sauce, gelatinous rice cakes, pumpkin stuffed with roast duck, which you would wrap in sesame leaf. They even fermented their own kimchi in huge earthenware pots, in the traditional fashion.
We stayed from dusk to dark.
The next night, our homestay took me, John, and Will out to a deliciously divey seafood join down near the piers. This, they assured us, was the best way to experience the seafood of Busan. I had no mind to object.
It was truly an onslaught, and of the most far-flung and flavourful variety.
Those on the right are skinned sea cucumbers. Those on the left, some sort of anenome I think; our host kept calling them ‘sea skort’. I really wish I were more knowledgeable in this.
In both cases, textures I had never tried and never, ever even contemplated. Crunchy, viscous, slightly salty, and overwhelmingly fresh.
Their homemade kimchi. It is just fabulously diverse and surprising, how everywhere you go everyone has their kimchi and it is always so different.
On the right, chogochu, a spicy vinegar sauce.
Super fresh Korean ‘sashimi’, which is to say, hwe.
And then we got into the cockles.
Just like snails. But from the sea. So fun. The two boys and us three, we couldn’t get enough of it.
Then it was time to smarten up and show our stuff. We had never seen whole scallops like this before, with not just the muscle but all the organs intact. Slurp it up in one big mouthful, juices and all.
Probably one of the more incredible raw bites I’ve been graced to try.
There remained one lone cockle.
The rice at the end. So different than Japanese rice. Slightly more moist, certainly more fragrant, and speckled with small bits of purple – wild rice, maybe, or some other seedpod.
And miyakguk, spicy seaweed soup. John was so excited, it was a staple of his childhood. I could understand why.
The food was rare, but the true highlight of the night was staying up late with the whole family, Korean father, American mother, and two lovely boys, eating and sharing stories.
The father said, as part of one of his stories, “I don’t think marriage can work if you can’t agree on food. It just can’t.” I feel you. I get that.
It didn’t seem like this family had anything to worry about.
The next morning before catching our train north to Seoul, we awoke to another wonderful breakfast. Savoury breakfast is so goshdarn good!!
Lotus root, kimchi, nori, and the most delicious unbelievable small fish, all over rice. And there was more; we made all our own little variations on breakfast bibimbap, as it were, over and over. That is some way to start the day.