Situated on the southern coast of the Korean peninsula, Busan is a seafood lover’s paradise. From the Jalgachi Fish Market to the shores of Haeundae Beach to the neon drenched downtown area, there are plenty of places to find the freshest seafood. The following are some of the tastiest dishes the city has to offer.
Ganjang Gejang (간장게장)
Ganjang gejang, soy sauce crab, is made by marinating fresh crabs with soy sauce and vinegar for three days, and is served cold. Its tangy pungency can be so addictive that the dish is often referred to as “rice thief” in Korean, the point being that diners eat more rice just so they can have more gejang. To dine like a local, put rice into the crab shell, mix it up with the meat and sauce, and be ready to ask for seconds.
Godeunggeo Gui (고등어구이)
This salty mackerel side dish is one of the most common fish dishes in Korea. Grilled to perfection, the mackerel can be enjoyed on its own or added to rice. In addition to being delicious, it’s also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Although boiled and smashed to the point of unrecognizability, this stew takes its name from the freshwater mudfish (chueo), which also happens to be its main ingredient. Vegetables such as mung bean sprouts, dried radish greens, sweet potato stems and cabbage add to the flavor. But what really sets this soup apart from the others is its unique yet satisfying texture.
Hongeo, or fermented skate, is one of the more bizarre (and smelly) seafood dishes you can try in Busan. Skate don’t urinate like other fish, but pass uric acid through their skin. When the fish is fermented, the uric acid breaks down into a compound that gives off the scent of ammonia. If you can get past the offensive smell, hongeo provides plenty of collagen, which will help give your skin that K-beauty glow.
Jogae Gui (조개구이)
One dining experience not to be missed in Busan is eating jogae gui at a beach side restaurant. The aromas of freshly caught shellfish being grilled slowly over an open flame will get your appetite going. Once they are ready, mix the grilled shellfish into a sauce of melted butter and onions, and add a bit of soy sauce before tucking in. Mmmmm.
Braised angler fish, often called the “beef of the sea,” is the centerpiece of this dish and is served on a bed of dropwort and bean sprouts. The dropwort adds a pop of tartness while the bean sprouts provide a crunchy texture. The potent sauce of chilli powder, chilli paste and chilli peppers is sure to warm you up, even on the coldest of Busan’s winter days.
Saengseon Hwe (생선회)
Sashimi (sliced raw fish) is, without a doubt, one of the most sought after seafood dishes in Busan, and for good reason. Diners can gorge on a vast variety of fresh raw fish, served up with bottomless banchan, or side dishes.
Adventurous eaters visiting Busan should not miss out on sampling sannakji, or live octopus. Chopped up tentacles (which continue to squirm around as you eat them) are served with a variety of sauces for dipping. They can be tricky to pick up with chopsticks, but are sure to provide a dining experience that won’t soon be forgotten. Just be sure to properly chew, as there have been cases in which the tentacles have gotten stuck on the eater’s esophagus, cutting off their air supply. Yikes!
Gaebul (also lovingly referred to as penis fish) is a species of sea worm that boasts a unique phallic appearance and is eaten as an aphrodisiac for men. It also releases an explosive spray of salt water when bitten into. Enough said.
Consumed as either a snack, light meal or side dish, skewered fishcakes are a ubiquitous street food that have been extremely popular since the days of the Japanese occupation. This often underrated delicacy is tasty, quick, filling and cheap. Try it with a serving of tteokbokki, or spicy rice cakes.