My time in Korea has somehow turned me onto food I never thought I’d be open-minded enough to enjoy. Blood sausage? Love it. Cold noodles with soy milk broth? Can’t live without it. Such evolution is to be expected with anyone who spends enough time trying new dishes. I never imagined that day would come where I enjoyed eating feet, but crazier things have happened.
I was invited to try 불불이 (Bulbulee) with a friend who wanted to treat me to lunch. Located near the Chonnam Backgate area, I had heard good things about this restaurant before, but never had the company to try it with. Before going, I knew this place specialized in 족발 (jokbal; pig’s trotters). It should be noted that before moving Korea, the idea of eating pig’s feet did not sound appetizing. I used to gag while my family members got together to enjoy what I saw as a mess of skin, meat, and bones. My time in Gwangju has indeed changed my stance, and I was excited to try a place that did it proper.
We arrived just as the place opened, making us the only customers in the restaurant. Though we were early, the owners graciously welcomed us inside and were more than happy to take our order. It was unfortunate to see that there was no English menu, but the menus they had at each table did come with helpful pictures. As expected, the main feature was those pig’s feet that came in different styles and flavors. There was 바베큐족발 (barbecue jokbal; barbecue pig’s trotters), 마늘족발 (maneul jokbal; garlic pig’s trotters), and even 치즈족발 (cheese jokbal; cheese pig’s trotters). A lot of these choices came in small, medium, or large sizes, the smallest offering enough food to feed two people. Other menu items included 쭈꾸미 (jjukkumi; webfoot octopus), 치즈참치김치전 (cheese chamchi kimchi jeon; cheese tuna kimchi pancake), and 잔치국수 (janchi guksu; anchovy noodle soup). It was so hard to make a choice, so we ordered the 불불이커플세트 (Bulbulee couple set), which came with an order of 족발, which we got in both barbecue and spicy, cold noodles, and steamed egg.
After we placed our order, our table was quickly overwhelmed with sides and more dishes than we could handle. For two people, we received a ton of food. Not only did with receive some classic sides and typical vegetables, we also got a bowl of hot and spicy soup, a bowl of seasoned rice and seaweed to make rice balls with, and everything else that came with our order. My personal favorite of the sides were definitely the rice balls, which we had to roll ourselves. They contained carrots, zucchini, pickled radish, and were seasoned with sesame oil, making them tasty in such a simple way. The soup we got was creamy and not too bad, but I was far too focused on other things to pay it much attention.
The cold noodles were also an afterthought, especially since I’ve definitely had better in the past, but the steamed egg, which is one of my favorite side dishes, was cooked just the way I like it. The main star of our table was definitely the 족발. Half of it was standard in the best way, having been cooked with a lovely combination of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice wine before being served dry. The other half was coated with a mildly sweet and mostly spicy pepper sauce that tasted great when eaten with the lettuce we got. It was hard to pick my preference between the two, as they were both delicious in their own ways. I did find myself eating more of the first on its own.
Though it felt like forever, my friend and I managed to make a significant dent in our giant meal, polishing off most of the meat without leaving too much of the sides untouched. While I initially thought that the prices were a little steep, my mind was changed upon seeing just how much food we got with our order. This is a solid spot for anyone who appreciates a lovely take on pork that doesn’t require grilling or having it in a stew. I’ve been told that this place tends to get fairly popular after dark, so come prepared for that if you choose to make dinner plans. I’ll have to bring more people the next time I go back, as there’s a certain kind of disappointment that comes with being defeated by your meal that I struggle with getting over.
Address: 광주광역시 북구 중흥동 275-3 1층 (located around the corner from Starbucks)
Hours: 11:00AM to 12:00AM
Average Price Range: 13,000 to 16,000 per person