BUSAN, South Korea – I remember being 14-years-old and watching a show on the Discovery Channel about Okinawa. The people in the show were diving into piles of squid and clams and other sea aliens that I didn’t know the names of. It was cool when I was watching, but later that night, I definitely had some Fear Factor-style nightmares of choking down slimy monkfish.
Flash forward to present-day in Busan. Who would have thought that one of the coolest things to do in this city was to eat the stuff that kept me up at night all those years ago?
clam tents are a good place to find weird and delicious seafood. After a long-ish bus ride to the end of Yeong-do (Taejongdae terminus), walk along the parking lot overlooking a pebble beach, and scope out the tents. Feel like the prettiest girl at the ball as all the ladies who work the tents shout, “Hey you! Come on! Here,” coaxing you into their tent. Don’t stress about the selection process: all tents are pretty much the same. They have no menus either; our particular lady told us “memory,” gesturing towards the buckets of seafood out in front.
To order, try miming what you want (or speak some Korean if you’ve got the skills), and the ladies will take care of the portions. I think clams (?? – jo-gae) and mussels (?? – hong-hap) are the best choices. There are also prawns (?? – sae-oo), some smaller shellfish, as well as Gaebul, the pink, sea penis-looking things, if you’re feeling saucy.
There are no prices posted, but both times I’ve gone, it’s been about the same. For five people, mussels, clams, beer and soju should run 80-100k, depending on how much you drink. Not bad, considering the large portions and exceptional freshness on offer — divers are about 50 meters away from the diners, plucking the shellfish out of the ocean. The tables are covered with colorful umbrellas that are lit from underneath as the sun goes down, creating a beautiful scene to enjoy while you munch.
Taejongdae is also a scenic park with beautiful ocean views, so you can hike off your dinner after you gorge yourself on bivalves. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, take a small train around Taejongdae, or ferry over to the small rock islands off the coast. Even if you just come for dinner, a meal along Taejongdae’s pebble beach is a singular experience that’s not to be missed.
Getting there: FROM JAGALCHI/NAMPO: Jagalchi metro station exit 10, take bus 8. Ride to the end of the line (TaeJongDae). Walk down the path between Family Mart and the bathroom toward Pebble Beach.
You can read more about good spots in Busan at the Busan High Five Awesome! web site here.