Blowfish cuisine: hangover cure or deadly delicacy
△ A bowl of bokguk can be the perfect dish after a night out, but make sure to visit a licensed restaurant, there are a few specialty locations in Busan.
Busan, Korea's largest port city, is full of fresh seafood. One delicacy loved by locals and tourists alike is bokguk (blowfish soup), a deliciously unique local dish. Also known as fugu or pufferfish, blowfish has been a gourmet dish since ancient times. Bones of blowfish were found amongst Neolithic ruins in Gimhae, indicating blowfish may have been eaten in Busan around this time.
△ All fried up blowfish looks harmless.
△ Bogeosuyuk is often served up with many side dishes.
△ Bogeo jjim is not just spicy, it's dangerous.
■ Blowfish serves up quality nutrients and flavor
The light taste and chewy texture of blowfish meat are low in fat and rich in protein, making it practical for weight management. It contains many minerals that are good for the body, such as B vitamins and pota-ssium. Niacin, a B vitamin present in blowfish, helps keep the body's nervous system and skin healthy. Additionally, the methionine and taurine in blowfish meat makes it ideal for hangover relief.
Though many recipes utilize this intriguing animal, the most common blowfish dish in Busan is simply blowfish soup. The soup consists of bean sprouts, parsley, a unique spicy-sweet red chili pepper sauce or vinegar-mixed soy sauce and of course, blowfish. The original flavor of the soup is quite bland, so ingredients such as vinegar are often added to liven up the dish. Another popular dish is bogeo twigim (fried blowfish cutlet), soft blowfish covered in crispy tempura. There is bogeosuyuk (boiled blowfish slices) for a more authentic blowfish taste, usually served with mushrooms and bean sprouts in a pot. For those who like a little spice, give bogeo jjim (spicy stewed blowfish) a try. The dish adds a spicy red chili pepper paste to blowfish and vegetables and is known for its pairing, ideally with soju.
■ Busan's popular blowfish restaurants
Blowfish is not an ingredient that can be prepared carelessly due to the poison in some of the animals' organs, which can be deadly to humans. To serve this dangerous del-ectable, chefs must attend specific training and earn a license. Here are some vetted restaurants where you can enjoy bokguk and other blowfish cuisines with confidence.
◆ Geumsu Bokguk Blowfish soup (금수복국)
Opened in 1970, Geumsu Bokguk is the oldest and most famous bokguk restaurant in Busan. In add-ition to bokguk, they serve other blowfish dishes such as sliced raw blowfish and blowfish bulgogi. Including the main restaurant, located in front of the Haeundae-gu Office, three other branches are in Dongnae, Centum and Oncheonjang.
◎ Address: 23, Jungdong 1-ro 43beon-gil, Haeundae-gu
◎ Phone: 051-742-3600 (main br-anch)
◎ Recommendations: Bokuk and raw blowfish
◆ Chowon Bokguk Blowfish soup (초원복국)
Located near the back gate of Pukyong National University is a local restaurant beloved by locals, Chowon Bokguk. Visitors can enjoy a course meal that includes blowfish soup, boiled blowfish slices, deep-fried blowfish, and steamed blowfish.
◎ Address: 30, Hwangnyeong-daero 492beon-gil, Nam-gu
◎ Phone: 051 -628-3935
◎ Recommendations: Blowfish set
◆ Original Grandma's Bokguk Blowfish soup (원조할매복국)
Mipo, located at the eastern end of Haeundae Beach, is home to many seafood restaurants. Famous in Mipo for its blowfish cuisine, Original Grandma's Bokguk is one of only 38 local restaurants selected by Busan City to serve blowfish and has done so for over 30 years. There, customers can enjoy various blowfish dishes. One of their signature items is kkeopdegi muchim (blanched blowfish skin with a unique spicy-sweet red chili pepper sauce).
◎ Address: 1, Dalmaji-gil 62beon-gil, Haeundae-gu
◎ Phone: 051-742-2789
◎ Recommendations: Steamed blowfish and blowfish meat