Gukbap is a compound noun of guk (soup) and bap (rice). Gukbap has a long history in Korea. Some people say it goes back way before the Joseon Dynasty.
However, it is certain that gukbap was traditionally for poor people who could not afford to eat enough meat. It was a hot meat soup with rice and bean sprouts in it, which people could easily eat with possibly only one or two side dishes, and is quicker to eat than usual meals.
Fast forward to 2019, and it’s still a legendary Korean dish that is arguably one of Busan’s top five most well-known foods.
At the end of the Haeundae bus lines, there is a well-known line of beef gukbap restaurants that have been there for years. Though each claims itself as the original gukbap restaurant in the area, according to many locals, Wonjo Halmae Gukbap is the original.
This restaurant has barely had any off-days since its opening in 1962.
A few minutes after ordering, two kinds of gukbap — sogogi gukbap and seonji ttaro-gukbap (6,500 won. main photo) — came straight from big Korean traditional style pots.
Sogogi gukbap is a usual beef soup. Seonji means ‘animals blood’, and here, it is the blood of cows. Ttaro, which means ‘separately’, implies that if you order ttaro gukbap, the rice and the soup are served separately, which I prefer, and the meal is a meager 500 won more expensive.
Taste-wise, the soup was just spicy enough and served boiling. The bean sprouts were fresh and slightly crunchy, and the tender chunks of meat cooked to perfection. Indeed, the soup was really great, both soothing and stimulating and after a night of drinking, it really hits the spot.
The soup is already pre-seasoned, and there was no need for me to add more seasoning.
A good thing about this restaurant is that it almost never closes; it’s open 24-hours a day, every day.
Before or after drinking, watching a movie, shopping, a day at the beach, or just anytime you feel like it, you can always drop by and enjoy a traditional hot, spicy beef bowl of soup there.
Wonjo Halmae Gukbap (원조 할매 국밥)
Open: 00:00 – 24:00 daily
Address: 27, Gunam-ro 21beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Parking: Free for 30 minutes
Reservation: Not possible
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