You can put “soondaegukbap” (rice and soondae soup) in the middle of my name for my love for it. It doesn’t sound appealing nor sexy, but I do love this (what many friends said) weird food. I once posted about Halmoni Joah, my first experience with soondaegukbap, and now it’s Halmae Joah. When I have Halmoni Joah in Jeju Island, Halmae Joah was in Busan.
During my time in South Korea, there were times when I didn’t want to eat anything, but soondaegukbap, everytime my friends and I were having meals in restaurants. That gave them headache. I recall that one night, after drinking time, I gave my friend a hard time for finding a soondaegukbap restaurant in the sea of bars and finger snacks and drinks shops. Meanwhile in Busan, every time I decided to have food outside the hotel, I would go for soondaegukbap.
And there was one day, I run out of the idea on where to eat soondaegukbap. After minutes of confusion, I then decided to stroll around the close neighborhood.
It took almost one hour, before I finally stop in one tiny and humble place, where three ladies sold this signature food of Busan, dwaejigukbap (rice and pork soup) which usually associated with soondaegukbap.
In Busan, taking time just to find a place to have sundaegukbap might sound too much, because the city was infamous for that soup and there were uncountable sundae-dwaejigukbap (순대-돼지국밥) restaurants filling up every corner of the city. However, for me that was also where the struggle laid; when each of the restaurants promoted and claimed it was the best in town.
That was my reason for choosing “Busan Halmae Dwaejigukbap” (부산할매돼지국밥). It was nestled at a corner one of busy streets in Busan, without big promotion of “the best”, but simply tempting enough before my eyes from the outside, at the moment I noticed few old men were happily talking while enjoying their pork soups along with bottles of soju on the table. An alluring sight from the outside restaurant’s blurry glassed window with big Korean letters mentioning the menu provided in that tiny humble restaurant.
When I entered the place, I think both me as a customer and the ladies as sellers were surprised. I expected the untidiness of the restaurant’s display from the outside glance; however I was still surprised by the irregularity placement of anything. In other hand, I guessed the ladies (halmoni-es) were surprised for my unusual customer presence as well as my stiff and broken Korean way of ordering menu.
After minutes of being surprised from both sides and trying to build the communication about my order, in another-minutes later, the ladies took turn to serve me soondaegukbap with its condiments. What I like the most of having the signature dishes of a place is, it’s a signature really for something.
That time wasn’t different. How they served the side dishes was pleasing enough to see. I satisfied even before tasting the soup. A big gap was seen with the same order in Seoul.
In Busan a complete serving of regular soondae-dwaejigukbap often came with fermented tiny salty shrimp (새우젓), spicy garlic chives (부추), green peppers (풋고추), ssamjang (쌈장), garlic (마늘), kimchi (김치), and diced radish kimchi (깍두기). Most of the side dishes were salty. I approved the saltiness because the milky color soup came lesser-flavor (tend to plain).
It depended on the customer on how to create their own preference, which was quite challenging for the first timer customers, but I liked it that way. it’s always satisfying for me. Not only the side dishes were fulfilling, Halmae’s soondaegukbap came in generous portion (as always though), which made another reason to be delightful.
As I enjoyed my big bowl of soondae and pork soup, more customers were coming. Old and young, men and women. None of their tables were served only with the bowls of soup. It all was accompanied by soju, which gave me the idea that in Busan, soondae-dwaejigukbap and soju were meant to serve together. Possibly.
I thought that I should have ordered at least one bottle, even though it could send the atmosphere of loneliness from my table.
I will do it on my next visit. 😀 😀 but for that time, the soup was pretty good.
P.S. When visiting Busan, be ready for the overwhelm serving of green chives, I think it is one of their favorites condiments, especially for soup.