[Busan] Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap (본전 돼지국밥)

A Busan specialty, dwaeji gukbap (돼지국밥) is a hearty pork-based soup and rice dish that’s perfect for a rainy day.

There are differing theories on the origins of dwaeji gukbap: Some say it was invented during the Korean War, when impoverished villagers in Gyeongsang-do province decided to boil the pork bones discarded from a nearby US Army Base. Others argue that this dish dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty, when peasants, if gifted with pork and dog meat by the ruling noble class, would be so reluctant to let any part of the animal go to waste that they would find ways to cook everything.

It’s not hard to guess that we’re not talking premium ingredients here. Dwaeji gukbap was invented with the purpose of filling one up for cheap, and consists of pork broth poured onto steaming rice. Slices of pork and finely chopped spring onion top the dish, which the customer gets to season to his or her own liking. Condiments you get to experiment with at Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap include kimchi, saewoojot (fermented shrimp), ssamjang (fermented soy bean paste), raw onions and chilli.

Dwaeji gukbap, 6,000 won.

Located right next to the Busan KTX station, the humble interior of Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap is as no-frills as the food it serves. We were fortunate to have avoided their typical snaking queues (see the pictures here) as we arrived in Busan one rainy morning.

My views on the dish? The broth tasted homely and you could tell that they’d made the effort to coax every bit of flavor from the pork bones. Wasn’t big on the low-grade pork used, but that’s exactly what I’d went in expecting anyway. It was also my first time encountering the very pungent saewoojot (fermented shrimp) as a condiment, and apart from the little pink prawns looking morbidly adorable I thought they added a nice touch of salty umami to the soup.

Having visited a couple of seollongtang (ox-bone broth) eateries, all of which leave the seasoning to their customers, the idea of DIY-seasoning didn’t surprise me anymore. That doesn’t mean I like it, because I’m never sure if I’m doing justice to the soup by throwing in this heaping spoonful of gochujang (chilli paste) or that extra cube of radish kimchi. I erred on the side of caution this time, and my dwaeji gukbap wound up on the bland side of things. It was what I needed fresh off a 2.5 hour long train ride on a cold and gloomy day though.

It’s only just occurred to me now, but with a bewildered stare and some gesturing, I’m sure you can get the friendly eemo to help you out with the seasoning when you pay a visit to Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap. Be sure to time your arrival in Busan at an off-peak hour so you can avoid having to wait in line.

Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap (본전 돼지국밥)
3-8, 214 Joongang Daero
Dong-gu, Busan Gwangyok-shi
(Address in Korean: 부산광역시 동구 중앙대로 214번길 3-8)

Opening hours: 8.00a.m. – 10.00p.m. daily.
Tel. no.: (051) 441-2946

Directions: After exiting from Busan KTX station and facing the plaza/main road, turn right into the alley behind 삼성생명 (Samsung Life) Building. Bonjon Dwaeji Gukbap faces the back door of 삼성생명 (Samsung Life) Building.

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