Cycle 13 – Item 94
9 (Sat) April 2022
Just Regular Eomuk
-Gijang, Gijang, Busan, Gyeongsangbuk, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Spring Break Holiday in Busan (Day 3)
In Busan. My first time ever. Our first family trip in 2 years and 5 months (previously to UAE in 2019 (see 10.301 Fish Harra)).
I did zero restaurant research for the trip, leaving everything up to W.
Sirangdae is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in eomuk.
As documented in many previous GMTD posts, Japanese-style fish cakes are widely popular in Korea, so ubiquitous that Koreans don’t think of as Japanese in origin. They’re traditionally called “odeng,” misnomerically derived from Japanese “oden nabe.” Nowadays, in line with the trend to remove Japanese root words from food names, fishcakes are officially called “eo (fish) + muk (cake).” Ironically, they’re sometimes called “Busan eomuk” (see for example 4.049 Busak Eomuk), as if that’s where they originated, though Busan is where fishcakes were originally brought in from Japan.
Sometime in the mid-90s, I seem to recall food carts on the streets introducing a new style of odeng (as they were still called back then), sold as skewers sitting in a spicy broth, usually alongside skewers in the standard mild broth. The fishcakes themselves were the cheap kind, pressed into thin sheets, containing mostly filler, barely tasting like anything. The broth was primarily water seasoned with MSG. The spicy ones were called “Busan odeng” (as noted above, “Busan eomuk” now refers more broadly to all fishcakes), as I recall.
Eager to try “Busan odeng” at the source, I’ve been disappointed by my findings thus far. At Goraesa yesterday, the fishcakes comprised new-fangled formulations with fancy ingredients (e.g., lobster, abalone, truffle), some gifts sets priced in excess of 100,000 won per box. Walking around Haeundae, I didn’t see a single place selling fishcakes, at least not out in the open, like “Busan odeng” of memory. Today, at Sirangdae, the fishcakes were offered in 3 varieties: in spicy broth + in mild broth + in ddeokbokk sauce – just as I remembered; but, when I asked the proprietor to confirm that these were indeed “Busan odeng,” she had no idea what I was talking about – “Huh? They’re just regular eomuk.” I am left to wonder whether “Busan odeng” has since died out, or if it was ever a real thing, perhaps a fad marketing gimmick limited to vendors in Seoul.
Anyway, the fishcakes tasted fine, as meh as the ones in Seoul.
Haedong Yonggungsa is a Buddhist temple. Built in 1376.
Although I wasn’t visiting for spiritual reasons, I found the whole place to be rather secular and over-commercialized. Lots of activities and gimmicks and photo ops, all demanding or kindly requesting donations.
Wonjo Gaya Mil Myeon is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in mil myeon.
The destination for lunch was the galbi restaurant that we didn’t go to last night because of the long waitlist (107 parties). Today, we arrived 30 minutes in advance of opening. The waitlist was already 171 parties.
By W’s quick calculation, based on pure conjecture, she estimated that the restaurant grosses about 100,000,000 million won per day (about $100,000) – I say more.
Intending to head home early and grab something along the way, we saw the sign for mil myeon just before the expressway on-ramp. W did a quick phone check to confirm that the restaurant had a decent rating. It did, so we stopped for lunch.
The mil myeon was good. The noodles were comparable to those at Haeundae Mil Myeon. Rather than a slice of solid pork, however, the meat here was shredded, which was dispersed in bits into every bite. The broth had a touch of soy sauce, giving it a slightly more savory taste. Overall, it was the best dish of the trip.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)