Tom N Toms Coffee – Busan

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Tom N Toms Coffee is a South Korean coffee shop with multiple franchises. We saw plenty in Seoul, but we always ended up eating something else. We decided to get breakfast here since it was next to the metro station where we lived in Busan. We got take out so we could bring it on our train back to Seoul. Other than coffee and other beverages and snacks you would find at a coffee shop, they are also famous for their pretzels. Their pretzels are freshly made to order and you can see here the lady is rolling out our pretzels. Since it is freshly made, it does take around 10-15 minutes, so don’t get it if you’re in a hurry. We were almost late for our train!

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This is their menu for pretzels. There are definitely a lot of variety. From sweet to savory, there is something for everyone. You can also make it into a set, which comes with a drink.

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Parmesan Pretzel

K and I decided to share two pretzels. First, we got the Parmesan Pretzel, which we found to be our least favourite out of the two. The pretzel wasn’t a whole, and instead, was cut up into little bites. Tons of Parmesan cheese on it, so the flavour was really good. However, we found the texture wasn’t as soft as the other pretzel. We felt like it was a bit of a rip off compared to the other pretzels, since it was quite plain. Something you could get at a pizza shop too.

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Corn Pretzel

The Corn Pretzel was really good! A pretzel baked with mayo, sweet corn and cheddar cheese. The dough was super soft, and the stringy cheese along with the sweet flavour of the corn was a great match. I would definitely recommend this one! All in all, a great place to visit if you want some coffee and pretzels. A great change from the typical Starbucks menu. The pretzels aren’t cheap though, as they price around CAD$5-$7 each. You could definitely get a bowl of noodles at a Korean restaurant at this price. I guess anything that speaks American or European food in South Korea is pricier. Until next time Busan! Next up, back to Seoul!

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Cheongsapo Suminine (수민이네) – Busan

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When in Busan, you must eat seafood since it is known for fresh seafood. Our friend suggested to try Cheongsapo Suminine (수민이네) after Spa Land. It’s located right off the Haeundae Beach, and we decided to cab there since we were too tired to metro. Our cab drivers knew exactly where it was since the restaurant is actually quite famous for their grilled eel and seafood. We went down a windy road, which we thought was a little sketch. If you’re taking the metro here, you would just need to walk down these smaller streets, since there’s no metro close to the beach. I probably wouldn’t advise to do so late at night. Finally, we arrived, and the restaurant wasn’t anything glamorous. From the outside, it looked a bit run down with tarps around since it was a bit rainy that day.

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We went inside and realized we were stepping on gravel and pebbles. I would advise not to wear anything too nice or high heels here as you’ll have trouble walking here. Plastic green chairs and metal tables, but still a ton of people. This reminded me of those places in Hong Kong where you can eat fresh seafood. We got there at around 9pm, so the place was only half filled. I hear that during peak hours, you may even need to line up here!

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There’s basically only a few items on the menu. 3 types of shellfish, eel, and some side dishes like instant noodle or rice to accompany your seafood. If you’re not into any of this, then this is not the place to be. However, if you love shellfish, you MUST visit this place! I would rate it the best meal I had in South Korea! Anyways, it was pretty funny because we couldn’t communicate with our server, and we weren’t exactly sure what the types of shellfish we were getting. He ended up giving one our friends a tour in the kitchen to show her exactly what it would be. No english names, but we got a gist just by the looks of the shellfish. We started off with 2 servings of the first type of shellfish- scallops. I’m a lover for scallops and I absolutely love getting them in Chinese restaurants. I was excited to see how they would be prepared in Korea! The scallops are seasoned with just a few simple ingredients – butter, onions, and green onions. It also comes with a bowl of enoki mushrooms.

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In Korea, they love to wrap their food, whether if it’s seafood or meat. Korean lettuce wraps are called ssam. Here, we have lettuce on the left and shiso on the right. Shiso leaves have a bit of a minty, herby taste to it. You either like it or you don’t. For me, I preferred the good old lettuce.

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This is ssamjang, which is a thick, spicy paste that you add to your wrap. It’s basically soy bean paste with gochujang (spicy chili paste). Super addicting!

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For 2 servings, it’s actually quite a lot of food. I believe it was 20,000 won for 1 serving of scallops. That’s around CAD$20.

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Our server began to place the first round of scallops on the grill. Another thing to note is that while you may see most modern restaurants use gas, or a hot pot type of grill, they use a traditional charcoal grill here. Literally a lump of charcoal which they bring to your table and place into this pothole. Pretty neat! After grilling these scallops on their shells for a few minutes, he then transfers them into the aluminum bowl with enoki mushrooms in it and cuts the scallop into smaller pieces.

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Then he takes the shells and places it on top of the aluminum to let it cook. Super interesting and a good use of the shells!

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He lifts the shell up, and here we have delicious cooked scallop. So fresh and delicious! Words can’t even describe how good it tasted with those simple ingredients! You can also dip the scallops in this soy sauce which comes with a bit of wasabi. On the side, there were also several small prawns.

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He would have two ways to cook the scallop. You can either leave it on the shell, or have it cut up into pieces and cooked with the enoki mushrooms in the tin foil. He then brought us some scallops that had a spicy sauce already on it. Those were pretty delicious too!

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This was our server, and pretty much our personal server of the night! He’s the owner’s son and was the only one who knew a bit of English and could communicate with us. It was pretty funny since most people were shown how to cook their food once and then were left to do it on their own, but he ended up serving us the whole night – for 2 whole hours! He would stand next to us and cook the whole time! I guess it was because we looked like we had no idea what we were doing… Much thanks to him and he definitely wins for best service in South Korea!

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After our two servings, we were full, but we felt like having a bit more… I mean the two servings were for 5 of us, so we felt like we could have some more. This time, we decided to get the mix of 3 shellfish. This was what most people got anyways. This included the same scallops, but also clams and giant clams. We’ll talk more about these giant clams later on…

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Here we have the clams and a spicy scallop. The clams have much more meat compared to the scallops, but are much tougher in my opinion. These clams are also larger than usual. Not the baby clams you normally get at restaurants. We all agreed that we liked the scallops the most since they were less chewy and more tender.

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Then came these giant clams… I don’t think the picture shows how large these things are… The shell is the size of your hand! What in the world were these things?! We questioned that the whole time at dinner, yet our server couldn’t give us an English term. After doing some googling, we figured they were just a larger species of clams. We thought they were mussels all along because of their shells, but if you look closely at the meat, it really resembles a clam or oyster. The meat itself was quite a lot too, but we found it extremely chewy! It was too tough to chew. Not a fan of it sadly.

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As you can see in the picture, there were also some appetizers that came along, however we didn’t really like them. First, they had a kimchi-like dish, but it wasn’t napa cabbage, but rather a skinny long veggie. I found it a bit odd to taste so I didn’t have anymore. It also came with the Korean green chili peppers and some garlic cloves. Then our server decides to bring us some eel, which is what Suminine is famous for. However, both K and I aren’t huge fans of eel due to the tiny bones. I’m not even sure if we were charged for the eel, but he said it was some special package or some sort. Again, lack of communication. Anyways, since he already began cooking it, it was too rude for us to say no since he had been such a good server.

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The grilled eel surprisingly tasted pretty good in the lettuce wrap with the ssamjang spicy sauce. Still, I wasn’t a huge fan of all those tiny bones! I was so worried I would choke on it if I didn’t chew thoroughly.

All in all, Suminine is a must visit if you’re in the Haeundae area! Excellent service even though they lack English skills, but most of all, delicious and fresh seafood! I believe each person paid only around CAD$20 too so it’s not bad at all for the amount of seafood we got! And that was our last night in Busan. We would leave the next morning. Must sees that we missed were the Haeundae Beach and the Gwangali Beach. I hear they are both beautiful, but we had rainy weather most of the time so it wasn’t worthwhile for us to visit.

 Address: 595-4, Jung2-dong, Haeundae-gu,Busan,South Korea

Shinsegae Centrum City and Spa Land – Busan

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If you love shopping, you must visit the Shinsegae Centrum City Department Store in Haeundae, Busan. The store is listed as the largest shopping complex in the world! With 14 floors and 2 basement floors, it even has a golf driving range! Of course I headed to the basement floor for the food department! Very similar to Lotte Department store, but with way more food! We found Lady M Confections, which is a New York based confectionery. The cakes are absolutely beautiful to look at, but are quite pricey!

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Mille Crepe

We decided to try the Mille Crepe, which is their signature cake. This is a must try! Layers of paper-thin handmade crepes with super light pastry cream in between the layers. It’s super light and fluffy and the crepe just melts in your mouth. I’ve never had such a light delicious cake before! It’s also not too sweet. Well worth the CAD$7.

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Next, we found these mochi curled up in leaves. Thought it was pretty interesting looking, so we decided to give it a try.

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Mochi in Leaf

We were surprised that the mochi wasn’t white, but rather a slight grey with green specks in it. We suspect that it may have been mixed with tea leaves. The mochi is filled with red bean paste, which I liked, but I found the mochi to have a strange flavour. Wasn’t very sweet, but rather a little sour. Really odd and not too pleasing to the palette.

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Spa Land

The Shinsegae department store connects to Spa Land, which is the main purpose for our visit. Spa Land is the perfect place to relax after several days of traveling. It has 22 spas with natural spring water being pumped from underground, 13 Jjimjilbangs and saunas, and an open-air foot spa. Jjimjilbangs are public bathhouses that include everything from saunas to massage chairs. At Spa Land, it is only 13,000 won on weekdays for adults and you can stay up to 4 hours.

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Spa Land is huge! After paying at the reception, you will need to remove your shoes and put them in a locker, where you will get a key to the rest of your lockers. You then segregate into your gender’s change room and you can change into the uniform they provide you. Lockers are included to store your belongings. We realized that you need to be completely nude to go into the gender-segregated baths. No swimsuits whatsoever. We weren’t too comfortable with that, so we ended up just going for the saunas.

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Each sauna room are different themed. They are also at different temperatures. A sign is placed outside with the name of the sauna, temperature, and the health benefits it brings. Most of the saunas are around 40 degrees, with ones reaching 70 degrees! There is one that is a cold sauna, called the Ice Room at around 13 degrees.

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Open-air Foot Spa

On the first floor, you can exit to the Open-air Foot Spa. Here, the ceiling is open with some areas being sheltered in case of rain. There are serveral different foot spas with different ingredients in the water. The foot baths are around 30 degrees and are very comforting if  you have walked for a long time. There are also pebble stones on the floor so they provide massaging for your feet.

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Salt Room

After soaking our feet, we headed back indoors to the saunas. The saunas are gender mixed so you can wear your uniforms here. One of our favourite was the Salt Room. It featured blocks of salt as the building blocks of the walls. There are blocks where you can place your head on so that you can lie down. Many people sleep here! At first, I found it really hot and stuffy, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to stay for long. However, when you lie down, I found that you don’t feel as hot anymore. You start to get used to the temperature and you’ll start sweating a lot! This is supposed to help remove your toxins. We found it funny how some people were exercising in the rooms.

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Pyramid Room

This was the Pyramid Room, which featured a 52 degree angle. Apparently this angle is supposed to “collect energies from the universe.” It actually felt quite relaxing here as well since it wasn’t too hot. Not exactly sure how it collects energies though…

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Wave Dream Room

This was the Wave Dream Room, where the centerpiece creates sort of a wave. It’s supposed to help you relax. We didn’t find this one too special.

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Relaxation Room

On the top floor is the Relaxation Room. It’s a huge room filled with inclining chairs and TVs. You can relax on these chairs and watch TV with great privacy. The chairs are side by side but have so much privacy because there’s a board that blocks the other person from seeing you.

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The head rest has a built in speakers so you can hear without using headphones. Most of the shows are in Korean though, so it wasn’t too entertaining for us.

After that, we headed to this area where you can just lie on the floor which is heated. At first, I felt like it wasn’t very sanitary, but I realized there is someone constantly cleaning the floors, so everything is very hygienic here. There is also a snack bar, so we purchased some Baked Eggs. They are cooked in the hottest saunas and remind me of hard-boiled eggs essentially. You also pay for everything additional with your locker key and pay the extra costs when you leave. Other additional costs you may incur are the massage chairs and facials.

Overall, a must try if you have some spare time! Definitely will be revisiting when I visit Busan again!

Address: 35, Senteomnam-daero, Haeun Daegu, Busan

Soft Queen Bee & other Food at Lotte Department (Gwangbok Store) – Busan

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Koran Oden

If you get off at Nampo station and take exit 10, you’ll be connected to the Lotte Department store. There are various Lotte’s in Busan, let alone Seoul, and this location was called the Gwangbok Store. Lotte Department store is the major department store in Korea. They sell everything from fashion, to books, to computers and gadgets. A one stop destination with international and local brands. Well, other than clothing and technology, they also sell food! At the bottom floor of the department is a floor dedicated to food! Restaurants, little small pop up shops and even a supermarket. Of course we headed straight there! Not only do they sell Korean food, but even Japanese, American, Italian and much more! We ended up trying some Korean Oden at one of the stalls. It came with two fish-like balls, and two fish cakes. I like how they add a bit of carrot, peas, and green onion in their balls, so it’s different from Chinese fish balls. The oden broth was light and flavourful. Very yummy!

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Tteokbokki

J got the Tteokbokki, which is spicy Korean rice cake. I find that in Korea, the rice cake is cooked to a much softer texture, but still remains the chewiness and stickiness. Much better than the ones in Vancouver. It also came with some slices of fish cake, which are my all time favourite. The sauce was surprisingly not too spicy, but had a hint of sweetness to it. Great to share!

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At another stall, we found honeycomb ice cream, which is the new trend in Korea. The stall was called Soft Queen Bee. I believe they have a bunch of other stores around South Korea. Honey with milk ice cream is what everyone talks about in Korea. Almost all ice cream shops sell this now.

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Their menu only has 6 flavours. The base is the milk ice cream, with honey added to it. Then you can choose different toppings, such as caramel or the actual honeycomb. It’s a bit pricey at around CAD$5 for a small cup.

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Honey Cube Cream Bee

I chose the Honey Cube Cream Bee. The milky ice cream is drizzled with honey and topped with an actual honeycomb. I’ve never had a honeycomb before so it was pretty neat! I bit into the honeycomb and left it on my tongue. All the honey will come out and what’s left is the comb. I found it sort of odd. It was kind of like wax or plastic left. I really didn’t like the plastic texture left, but I loved the part when the honey came out. The ice cream itself is very creamy and strong in milk flavour. Mixed with the honey, it’s like smooth cream in your mouth. Really good! I think I would opt for just honey and the milk ice cream next time, since I didn’t really enjoy the honeycomb itself.

Overall, Lotte Department has an assortment of food to choose from. It’s a great place to even just grab some snacks. Lots of bakeries and cake shops too! A must see if you have never been to a department store with one floor dedicated to food!

Dwaeji Gukbap, Jagalchi Market, BIFF – Busan

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Garlic chives, kimchi, garlic, green peppers, onions, radish kimchi fermented baby shrimp, noodles

Our second day in Busan would also be our last full day, so we headed out early to try and hit up most of the tourist spots. For breakfast/lunch, we wanted to try the famous Dwaeji Gukbap, which is also known as pork soup and rice. Busan prides itself to have the best of this soup and there is even a street in the Seomyeon district that is filled with shops selling this soup. We headed there and just chose a shop. After placing our order, they brought us a huge dish. At first, I thought they were appetizers to eat, but we later figured out that you should put this into the pork soup. We didn’t end up throwing all these things in, since we weren’t sure. We did however throw the fermented baby shrimp in, which was quite interesting. It brings a bit of saltiness to the soup.

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Dwaeji Gukbap

And the Dwaeji Gukbap arrived! The broth is a milky colour due to hours of boiling pork bone. You’ll find slices of pork shank and green onions in it. The soup is light but full of flavour. Super homey and is perfect on a rainy day. You are also supposed to put your rice in, but we didn’t know until later. Even just by drinking the soup on its own was absolutely delicious. I would say it’s one of my favourite Korean dishes! A must try in Busan!

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Gamjatang

We also added a Gamjatang, which is a very popular Korean dish. I’ve tried it in Vancouver as well, but I found the broth to taste a little different here. Gamjatang is a soup made of pork spine, vegetables, green onions, and hot peppers. It comes sizzling on a hot pot to keep the soup hot. The soup is quite spicy, and is absolutely delicious with rice. It came with potatoes, enoki mushroom and other green veggies. The pork spines have bone marrow in it which is supposed to be really good for you. There’s surprsingly quite a lot of meat hanging on the bones, so you actually get very full. However, I still favour the Dwaeji Gukbap over this one.

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After lunch we headed to the Nampo-dong area. Nampo is famous for shopping, but nearby, you will also find BIFF or Busan International Film Festival. The festival is held in October and is one of the largest film festivals in Asia.

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Obviously the festival wasn’t happening when we were there, but you can still see something similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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There are also various food stalls with long line ups. Food looked pretty good! We were all still full from lunch though.

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Also within walking distance is the Jagalchi Market. It is the largest seafood market in Korea and is a top tourist spot in Busan. There are many restaurants here who will cook your seafood right away for you.

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There is an outdoor market area as well as an indoor one. We took a peak in the indoor market and the floor was all wet and it smelled really fishy. We didn’t feel like going in, so we headed over to the outdoor market. The stalls sell a variety of seafood, from shellfish to prawns, crab, and fresh fish.

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I think the most impressive part of the market were these huge octopi. Pretty much every stall sold octopus. They are ginormous! I believe you can also eat raw octopus here. They are supposed to suck on your tongue and lips, so you need to chew very quickly! I saw some that had been cut into bits already, but they are still squirming! Crazy… As a foodie, I should’ve probably tried it, but I just couldn’t… However, my Korean friends said they are really good and a delicacy!

Overall, Nampo is definitely worth checking out! Plus, you can check out BIFF and Jagalchi Market at the same time!

Mubanna Chondak (무봤나 촌닭): Korean Fried Chicken – Busan

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After lunch in Myeong-dong, we headed to Seoul Station, where we would take the KTX train to Busan. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and is the fifth largest seaport in the world! It’s famous for the beaches and seafood! If you want to travel to Busan from Seoul, you can get the KR Pass as a foreigner. You can get unlimited travel from 1 to 10 days, depending on the pass you buy. It’s a much cheaper deal. For us, we purchased the 3 day unlimited pass, and used it for a round trip. You also get a discount if you’re younger than 25 or are traveling with more than 2 people. Purchase it online before you go, and you can select any time after your reservation date. It took around 2 hours to arrive, but since we left Seoul late, we arrived early evening. We stayed in the Haeundae area, which is famous for the beach. We walked around the area and found a bunch of bars. We ended up looking for fried chicken, since we always see it in Korean dramas. The restaurant was called Mubanna Chondak and is a chain restaurant in Busan.

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Kimchi and Tofu

It was really difficult to communicate in Busan, since they seemed to know less English. The server was still very friendly and tried his best to recommend us food. After ordering, he brought us complimentary appetizers. There was a size of kimchi, which I found spicier than usual. There was also tofu with sesame seeds on it. The tofu really has no flavour, but K loved it.

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Spicy Octopus

Next, we tried the Spicy Octopus. It came on a grill on top of a hot pot stove. There were around 10 tiny octopi! After one bite, we all realized how spicy it was! Super spicy! Not to the point where I couldn’t feel my taste buds anymore, but one where I wanted to keep drinking water. The octopus was so tender though! The sauce was also really delicious. A definite recommend!

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Boneless Chicken in Chili Pepper Paste Sauce

The server recommended us to get the Boneless Chicken in Chili Pepper Paste Sauce. He said it’s one of the more popular dishes. Again, it’s in a chili pepper paste sauce, so very spicy. Definitely not as spicy as the octopus though. It’s a mix of chicken that isn’t fried or battered, and is mixed with rice cake, corn, peas and comes with a side of noodles. You’re supposed to mix the noodles with the chicken, which I found quite interesting. We loved the rice cake mixed in and wish there was more. Sadly, we were looking for fried chicken, so we were a bit disappointed that we didn’t have the real fried chicken we always see. He also ended up putting down 2 orders of this, as he couldn’t understand what we wanted. Oh well. Tons of leftover though!

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The chicken also comes with a cabbage salad that is topped with ketchup and mayo. This was definitely needed as our food was quite spicy!

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Steamed Egg

Lastly, we also got a Steamed Egg, which is filled with green onions. Not bad, and was something to help calm our palettes down.

Overall, the food was actually pretty good here! It’s quite casual and almost seems like a fast food restaurant. I believe you can also choose the spice level for the food. We had asked for mild, but it’s still pretty spicy… I guess Koreans can really take their spice!