Down by Busan station at the entrance to Shanghai Street lies 홍성방. This rather ordinary looking Chinese restaurant is a secret dumpling paradise that is well worth a visit.
The menu has the usual Korean Chinese standards, but it's the 군만두 (fried dumplings) for 5,000 won that should be the highest priority.
Wait. There's something I have to confess: I have a passion for Chinese dumplings.
When I was a boy, heading to the Paddyfield's restaurant in Oxford for dimsum lunches on a Saturday was the ultimate foodie treat. The promise of crispy, chewy ginger filled meat parcels was almost too much for my young heart to bear.
My dumpling obsession continued with visits to Chinatown in Yokohama when I was a teenager and then Chinese restaurants in London when I was a student; but when I came to Korea things changed.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Korean Chinese dumplings. I love 찐만두 (steamed dumplings) and 물만두 (boiled dumplings) as much as the next man, but 군만두 are almost always disappointing. They look great, but the first bite belies their appearance. Over the years I've come to accept fried dumpling disappointment as par for the course, but things have changed thanks to 홍성방.
So, back to these delicious dumplings. They look exquisite, they're perfectly crispy on the outside, but when you bite into them something special happens. After the initial crunch there is the most satisfying of chews. Thanks to a very special recipe the dumpling skins provides an incredible sensation in your mouth: A brittle stickiness that is enhanced from the fragrant ginger coming from the meaty filling. 5,000 won buys you a little plate of Busan dumpling heaven and you'd be a fool to miss out.
The 찐만두 (5,000 won) are also very good, but they lack the satisfying crunch of the fried dumplings.
The 짜장면 (black bean noodles for 4,000 won) is better than most places, the black bean sauce tastes of home rather than a factory, with hints of honey lying in the dark noodle depths.
However, it is the fried dumplings that are the ultimate draw to this restaurant and thanks to the skills of their Taiwanese chef, they provide (in my opinion) the best damned fried dumplings in the whole of the peninsula.
Plus as an added bonus for Park Chan-wook fans, the restaurant was used as one of the locations for Oldboy. I'm sure Oh Dae-su would recognize these dumplings straight away.
To get to this delicious little place head down to Busan subway station exit 1 and make your way to the entrance of Shanghai street. The restaurant is on the left hand side of the gate. You can call them on 051 467 3682.