Korean Eating: Pork Stew and Pig Heads
Some years ago I was introduced to dwaejigukbab (돼지국밥), or pork & rice stew, and haven’t been able to get enough of it since.
There are two places in Hongdae that offer up one of my favorite meals in Korea, but since I was in Busan last week I got to eat the dish where it originated. If you head to Busan and DON’T sup on this Korean southern delicacy… well, can you say you even went to Busan? This meal, I was told, isn’t generally eaten by girls because the smell can be strong, or foreigners, for the same reason. I was hesitant for a millisecond before remembering I was with people I trusted to show me food that was good. This thought has led me astray in the past as what some think is good isn’t to my taste, as was the case with cow blood soup, but that’s a story for another day. That is one soup I will never get used to eating. But luckily in this case, those leading led me to a stew that has become a staple in my diet.
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The guys usually order this with the rice already in it, but I order with the rice on the side so as I can decide how much rice I want to put in. The stew is already heavy and adding the rice makes it a bit too much for me usually. It comes with the pork in a white broth and noodles (and rice). On the table when it is served is a dish of little fermented shrimp, leeks chopped up, red pepper paste, and salt and pepper that you add to taste. There are also white onions, garlic and usually other kinds of kimchi there as well to give you a break from the boiling goodness in the bowl. I usually let the Koreans add to my soup because they really know what they’re doing. I’d make it just fine if I tried, but here’s to them showing me the ropes… every time I eat it.
If you’re doing it yourself then add half a spoonful of the fermented shrimp, a bit of the red pepper paste (the spicier you want, the more you add), and a handful of the leeks to taste. The noodles may also be served in a separate dish and you add those in to your bowl as well. In some restaurants, you may notice that the red pepper paste isn’t served on the table, this is usually because it’s already “hiding” in the soup. What happens is the chef will prep the bowl with the meat, rice and the red pepper paste and then pour the broth over top to serve you. The broth will look white UNTIL you stir it around and then the red pepper paste will be released and spread out making the broth a pink spicy tint.
Outside the particular restaurant in Busan where we ate were pigs heads being washed and hung with care and I wondered what that was all about. I was informed I’d eaten this before. Apparently this is used to make pyun yook (편육).
The skin is taken off and the cartilage and all the good stuff inside is boiled and smooshed together to form something like this…
Once it’s been formed they slice it and serve it with kimchi and other side dishes to be eaten. It was good when I ate it, though I just assumed it was normal parts of a pig smooshed together when I was eating it. Busan is really one of my favorite cities. There is good fish, good meat, beaches, mountains, and just about anything else you could want from a city. If you’re there and looking for some great pork soup goodness head to Seomyun Station (서면역). Take exit 1 to get out of the station and take the first right and then the first left. You’ll see dozens of restaurants serving the same or similar dishes, meaning you really can’t go wrong.