Pork Stew and Pig Heads

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 stuff where it came from. Some years ago I was introduced to dwaejigukbab, or pork stew, and haven’t been able to get enough of it since. 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 my taste, as was the case with cow blood soup. 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.

The guys usually order this with the rice already in it, but I order with the rice on the side. The stew is already heavy and adding the rice makes it a bit too much for me to handle. 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 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.

Outside this particular restaurant 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. 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 with. 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. Take exit one 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. If you’re hesitant to choose the best one, do as the Koreans and head to the one with the most patrons. Bon appetite!

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