I arrived in Busan, a city of 3.6 million on the south coast, yesterday and went out to try the local cuisine. The Gupo Market is nearby my hotel, so I went out there. A few streets were crowded with pedestrians, flashing lights, and brightly lit signs, so I joined in the crowd and searched for a local-looking restaurant with a lot of people in it.
Finding a small restaurant full of Koreans with pictures of seafood on the outside, I walked in and found a menu on the wall. No pictures, no English, and I didn’t have my phone with me with a translation app. So a perfect real Korean experience.
I picked a dish off the wall at random, garibigu (가리비구), and then the wait staff brought out plates of tomatoes, cucumbers, silkworm larvae, and shells that you have to suck the meat out of. In fact, those pre-meal dishes are call banchan (반찬), which are a variety of appetizers that are served before each meal. I guess they would have had silkworm larvae and shells as the banchan for any main course I ordered. Like I said, I’m giving you a real and raw portrait of Korea! Pre-order my ebook travelogue on Kickstarter to read more.
I have tried bamboo larvae before in Yunnan, and I found it not bad, so much so that I have actually ordered it again since then. Silkworm larvae, however, is much larger and filled with more meat on the inside. The texture was a little bit off-putting. I ate a few of them to get a feel for the taste but didn’t finish.
The meat inside the shells was even worse. It felt slimey. But I’m happy to have tried both of them.
The garibigu, however, was delicious. Garibigu are scallops!
Mitchell Blatt is a travel writer, editor, and columnist who has lived and worked in China for six years. He is an author of two guidebooks, Panda Guides Hong Kong and Panda Guides China. He has been published in National Interest.org, The Korea Times, The Shanghai Daily, Roads & Kingdoms, Vagabond Journey, City Weekend, Silkwinds and The World of Chinese, among other outlets. See examples of his published articles.