BUSAN, South Korea – For many, one of the more jarring parts of adjusting to life in Korea is the unfamiliar food culture and the lack of familiar ingredients and comforting staples. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Busan, however, soon discover that there’s plenty of international variety to track down in this city — from the fragrant Asian markets in Sasang to the ever-growing list of restaurants city-wide that specialize in cuisines from around the world. Wednesday-Saturday of this week, the city’s ex-pats will be celebrating our culinary melting pot side-by-side with the locals at the Busan International Food Expo from 10 AM to 5PM each day at Bexco.
The week’s events will feature cooking competitions (10 AM – 2 PM Thursday and Friday), and of course, making kimchi (Saturday at 1 PM), a Korean traditional tea ceremony accompanied by traditional temple cuisine (Saturday at 4 PM) and much more, including booths featuring foods from a number of countries.
China will be represented by a visiting vegetarian chef, known for his I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-animal-flesh creations from vegetable protein, but there will also be Busan locals serving up nibbles from Turkey, Uzbekistan, India, China, Japan, Nepal and the U.S.
Entry to the Expo is free, but the samples will be 1,000 won or so. Proceeds from the U.S. booth will be donated to Group Peace in Kyungsung. Jessica Glaeser of ATEK will be manning the U.S. booth through the week, churning out chili and cornbread for the masses. On Saturday, Jin Thompson and I will be taking over, whipping up chicken and dumplings as fast as we can chop the mirepoix.
“I’m not really that nervous,” Thompson says, “but I’m afraid of the food — like, making sure we get the portions right and making sure we have enough food for everyone and that it’s all ready on time.” No one seems to know how many guests to expect on any given day, but Joseph Park, director of the sales and marketing team for the Expo, estimates the event will bring in about 200,000 people over four days.
If you’re hankering for a little old-fashioned home cooking, or if you want to take advantage of the opportunity to see more of what Busan’s food scene has to offer, swing by the Expo this week. Don’t forget to visit the ex-pat booth to get the natives’ take on some American staples and to give some words of encouragement to your hard-working cooks.