One of the favorite things we ate was ttukbokki, of course. You know how much I grumbled about a dearth of half-way decent ttukbokki here in LA. Well, we went to Hongdaeipku and conquered this super crowded spot that served excellent ttubokki, cooked tableside -- rice cakes cooked in a garlicky and spicy sauce with ramyun noodles, hard boiled egg, scallions and perilla leaves. It has a long name, 또 보겠지 떡볶이집, or 또떡 (ttottuk) for short, that roughly translates to "Ttukbokki place that you'll probably see again." Behold this beauty. What made it even better: thick fries smothered with a healthy dose of garlic mayo we got on the side. It looks gnarly but it's actually the bomb. I still dream about this.
I threw this one in for its photogenic qualities and plain awesomeness. It was a potato pancake topped with smoked salmon and sturgeon slices with a dollop of creme fraiche (I used whipped cream because creme is harder to find in Korea) and caviar. It was a crowd-pleasing appetizer to our meal.
The rice came in a stone pot with all these beans and pumpkin that are good for you. Delicious.
I was a happy camper. 'Nuf said. Ok, I'll just say I mourn the less than serviceable bowls of jjajangmyun all across America.
The piece de resistance, however, was this slow roasted pork that was charred on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. The heavily seasoned crispy skin complemented the mild meat so well. Wrap that baby in a lettuce leaf and you got yourself a great pairing. Went well with red wine too.
Check out the sizzling action here.
After the meat, they served gondeurae rice, rice mixed with a green that is also extremely nutritious. I have to apologize that I misplaced the card for this one but it's in Bundang near Jeongjadong.
Hello, Pusan! We ran into this port city's most famous bakery, Ops, and went to town. It was as crowded as you'd imagine and we bought everything from fish egg baguette to red bean manju (a take on the Japanese sweet potato pastry -- a lot of Japanese influences because of its proximity) and giant cream puffs. It didn't disappoint. We were going to have a taste before dinner and ended up totaling half of our purchase and most of the following day's snacks. Sure, it's hit or miss as far as what you pick. For instance, I wouldn't get the croissants. But those red bean thingies and the cream puffs were addictive. Worth the insane lines at the cashiers.
We were lucky to be staying near a whole slew of solid, relatively non-touristy spots despite the fact that it was in Haewoondae Beach, the city's most famous and usually most crowded area. Our first dinner was at 그때 그집, that translates to That House a While Back or at That Time known for local specialties such as grilled fish and lots of seaweed varieties.
This is parae, a type of seaweed that's finer and softer than regular sea kelp -- slightly tangy from the vinegar and sweet.Samjin Eomook, one of the oldest fish cake shops in Pusan (since 1953 -- that's when the Korean War reached an armistice). I was bummed that I wasn't able to visit the actual shop but was heartened to see a small shop in the train station (by the way, the US needs to join civilization and get bullet trains). Given how many different kinds of fish cakes were displayed in this tiny store, I can only imagine how vast of a selection the original location has. Fish cake wrapped in a shiso leaf, squares of fish cake dotted with finely chopped bell peppers and of course, since we're in Pusan, seaweed fish cakes. Browse and see what kind you would get. I tried many and liked the one with burdock root and seaweed. Never thought I've have gourmet fish cakes.
I had the best dessert at Bicena, a high-end Korean restaurant in Itaewon. It was mulberry tea (뽕잎차) ice cream topped with a candied walnut. I wasn't as familiar with mulberry tea but it was similar to green tea only a bit more intense. It was a winning pairing with the crunchy texture of walnut.
It also had doraji, another root that is hard to find here and that I love. It was seasoned lightly, the ivory strips on the lower left side of the above image. All in all, a fantastic culinary journey, as always. I will miss the flavors and textures dearly and will try to replicate some of them in my kitchen. Will share any successes.