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.
Hello and welcome to my rather inaccurately named "Week of Fish" (warning - some posts may contain crustaceans or other strange inverterbrates).
Whenever I go to Busan, I usually end up spending a couple of hours at the Haeundae aquarium. So over the next seven days I'd like to bring you my favourite photos of my fishy friends from this latest visit.
First up the beautiful Zebra Moray Eel. Fairly cute compared to some of its cousins...
The basement of "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE" may hold some cheap tasty treats, but it's the ninth floor where more serious eaters lurk. Alongside the Macaroni Market Grill and some pricey Korean restaurants is the Anna Bini Trattoria.
It's a small square shaped restaurant with the Kitchen placed at the centre, so it feels as if you're eating in a delicate glass sided alleyway. It's not unpleasant, but the place does have a slightly odd feel.
The food is not cheap (you're looking at almost 20,000 won for a plate of pasta), but if you have a hankering for Italian nosh and your money is burning a hole in your wallet then you may as well head here.
I opted for the spaghetti alla gorgonzola con filetto di manzo grigliata (sauteed beef and cream spaghetti with gorgonzola cheese) for 19.500 won as well as a plate of fritti misto (deep fried seafood) for 15,800 won.
While waiting for the dishes to arrive, we were served a rather odd bread hot plate. A selection of different breads with the addition of a small potato and a slice of purple corn. It's certainly not something I've seen before in an Italian restaurant, but the odd combination worked well and the parsley dipping oil provided was delicious.
The crispy insects and inverterbrates of the sea came out first and were perfectly cooked and delightfully crispy on the outside. A modest portion for the price, but tasty enough.
Next, the main event. Overcooked beef can often be a let down with this dish, but the bite sized morsels of steak were still beautifully bloody and the rich gorgonzola cream sauce was far better than most Korean Italian offerings. Plenty of mushrooms, plenty of steak, a well made plate of pasta that's bound to satisfy.
Not everything about the restaurant is perfect, some of their english translations could lead to great confusion...
To get the Anna Bini Trattoria head to the Shinsaegae Department Store at Centum City Station in Busan and go up to the ninth floor. You can call them on 051 745 1953 or visit their website here.
Down by Centum City Subway Station in Busan is a building that is officially recognized by Guinness World Records as "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE". 신세계 샌텀시티 is massive, but the phrase "department store" may be a little misleading.
It is in fact a collection of shops, restaurants, perfume counters, alongside an ice rink, cinema, luxury spa and art gallery, shoved into a very large and rather ugly modern building. However, don't let that put you off, for in the basement of "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE" is a fabulous and reasonably priced food court that is worth visiting if you happen to be watching a film, looking for perfume or training to be the next Kim Yuna...
In one corner of the basement lies Vecchia & Nuovo, a tiny cafe dedicated to providing, pizzas, pastas and salads to hungry shoppers. If you look carefully at their counter you'll spot an extra special treat: Jambalaya Rice for 7,500 won per portion.
It's not haute cuisine, it's not pretty and it's certainly not Michelin starred, but the portions are large, the quality is good and you'll be treated to a spicy little mixture of sausage, shrimp and rice (with bacon, green beans and potatoes thrown in as a bonus). It's a hearty meal that will fill you up and get you ready for the hours of shopping/film watching/skating/sweating that you have planned.
To get to Vecchia & Nuovo head to the Shinsaegae Department Store at Centum City Station in Busan and go down to the first floor basement. You can call them on 051 745 2185.
Well after a strange and sweaty summer our production of The Little Dragon is finished and I'm off on holiday. I'll be posting about my exploits in Busan (including baby hammerhead sharks, disco jellyfish and the best damn fried dumplings on the peninsula) once I'm back in the arms of dear old Blighty.
For now I leave you with a dear friend and her newspaper...
Last Thursday I had a craving for lamb and found myself drawn to Itaewon's Samarkand. It's the sister restaurant of Dongdaemun's very own Uzbek palace of delights and it has pretty much the same menu.
If you're looking for inexpensive sheepy goodness then this authentic place is a good bet. For only 3,000 won you can sample a "Samsa" a delicious lamb pastry, with other dishes such as borsch and stewed lamb ranging from around 5,000 to 8,000 won.
To get to Samarkand head to Itaewon and walk up to the fire station; turn right, go up the hill and turn left just after the foreign food mart. Samarkand is a little further up on the left hand side. If you hit the mosque then you've gone too far.
It has been a very hectic summer and I've been doing far too many things so I'd like to apologize for the brevity of my posts.
After this weekend I'll have a little bit of a break, so there'll hopefully be some interesting stuff coming (boribap in Gwangju and strange animal sculptures at the Sejong Cultural Centre; along with raw fish, seasides and other things from Busan), plus I'm heading off to the UK for three weeks with a short sojourn in Paris. So you should expect Paul Ajosshi to be taking on a slightly stiffer upper lip with a side of Camembert in September...
A rather tasty bowl of "spaghetti al ragu bianco": minced pork and chicken in a cream sauce. 18,000 won at CasAntonio in Itaewon. Visit their website here or head down to Itaewon and take the road opposite the fire station. CasAntontio is on the right hand side next to Helios.
I have been hearing about The Pizza Peel for a while now. They opened back in May and the idea of reasonably priced well made pizza is always appealing. I knew that they were somewhere around McDonalds in Itaewon, but had never stumbled upon them until today.
The restaurant is small and simple. No frills, no whistles, no bells, just a beautiful looking pizza oven and a Canadian chef waiting to take your order. The menu is straightforward: a variety of pizzas with the option to choose your own toppings if you wish. I decided to go for the Supreme at 15,000 won.
The small open kitchen allows you to watch chef David Laukner at work and the gas fired pizza oven cooks your meal very quickly. Exactly two minutes in the extreme heat and your dough based dish is ready to be served.
The food, like the decor, is not fancy, but it does taste good. A crispy thin crust with plenty of flavourful toppings, this is good pizza and unlike most franchises in Korea you won't find rivers of grease left on your plate.
The Pizza Peel offers a great alternative to expensive Italian joints and greasy franchises like Pizza School. To get there head towards Noksapyeong from Itaewon station and turn left just past Rotiboy. The restaurant is on the right hand side of the alley. You can visit their facebook page here or call them on 02 795 3283.