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Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

When out for a night on the town (or in our apartments) in college, the night would undoubtedly end in some greasy, salty, sugary and/or buttery scavenger hunt. Whether it was found in the oven, at 7-11 or, God forbid, the BK Lounge, it happened far more often than I would care to admit.

I had assumed that Korea, being a nation of practically professional drinkers, would be a part of this late-night shame eating as well. The majority of their street food is battered and deep-fried afterall. But what I’ve found is the exact opposite. I’ve already written about the pork back bone soup that we ate one night. We’ve also eaten galbi, which is just meat that you cook at your table and wrap in lettuce, and the occasional mandu (dumpling) on our way home if we were really hungry. None of these even come close to the artery-invading powers of the King’s Quad stacker (which I am proud to say I have never eaten…don’t worry mom!).

Photo by Anna Waigand

The most surprising late-night snacks we have come upon came about after a kimchibilly, Korea’s version of Rock-a-billy, concert about a week ago. We left the roaring, punk, Elvis-inspired concert to find ourselves in need of another location to hang out and our bellies in need of some grub. We found a nice little place with a white brick interior packed with plenty of 20- or 30-somethings. When we ordered we used the point-and-pray method: point at what another table has and pray that it tastes as good as it looks. What we received tasted as if it had been sent from heaven.

First, we ordered pajong, a savory fried pancake with vegetables and seafood. It was greasy, as all pajong are, but even through the grease it was stuffed with fresh vegetables and squid. I don’t know any late-night snacks in America that include fresh seafood. This makes it a unique find I treasure on my late-night food round-ups.

Delicious, simple and healthy. Photo by Anna Waigand

Second was a fat metal bowl filled with small clams each about one inch wide. There were about 80 clams in all. No soup to go with it. Nothing fried. No batter. Just fresh boiled clams with some soy dipping sauce. Simply put, it was delicious. And you even had to work for your food. It’s hard to beat that amount of deliciousness without adding fats and carbs.

Third, we had my favorite dish of the night: dubu kimchi. This is a three part dish. There is the obvious, kimchi. And this was a delicious kimchi: spicy, tangy, and with a gingery zing. It was slightly sauteed which helped to bring out the spices while keeping just a dab of heat inside the strips of fermented cabbage. This was complemented perfectly with a thick, hot tofu and juicy steamed samgyeopsal (pork belly) slices. The kimchi’s zing was tempered by the simplicity of the hot tofu and pork. It’s a dish I’ve craved everyday since I ate it, which is very shocking to me because, well, I don’t like tofu. But this tofu was warm and soft. It slid down my throat with a heated ease after the spicy-heat of the kimchi. It was like coming home from a cold day out in the snow, slightly warming and just plain old comforting. And let’s not forget, it is as healthy as can be (as long as you don’t eat the huge fat chunks on the samgyeopsal).

Sorry, it went to fast for a pre-eating shot. But trust me, it really was pretty. Photo by Anna Waigand

So next time you’ve had a few mugs of beer, sips of wine, or shots of soju, remember: It doesn’t always have to be greasy, gross, or gosh-darned bad for you to be oh so gut-pleasingly good.

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Lunar New Year’s must have given us good luck because Incheon was just the escape from Seoul and city-life that we were yearning. The first thing that you notice upon arriving at the beach is the swarms of ajummas crowding the street (there is one main drag by the beach) yelling, waving their arms, knocking on passing cars all in an effort to get anyone and everyone into their restaurant. It may sound annoying but it’s really quite friendly. One ajumma even suggested another restaurant when she realized her restaurant didn’t have what we were looking for.

Ajumma ushering in hopeful customers

A hopeful ajumma inviting some passerbys to her restaurant.

At the first restaurant we ate, we picked out a plump red fish about the size of a football. We tried to tell our servers we wanted it cooked, but the roar of the language barrier was just too loud. We were shown our caught fish flopping around in a bucket before they brought it to the kitchen, sliced it up, and brought it back on a heaping mound of glass noodles. As most Korean raw fish seems to be, it was stringy but this one was full of flavor and as fresh as one can get.

Our banchan were, well, almost dead. Half of the banchan were either cooked, like the shrimp, or didn’t need to be, like the mayonnaise with apples and nuts. The other half were barely dead (if dead at all) sliding around and pulsating on the plates, filling our table. We had squirming, skinny red tubes that were chopped up into 1/4 inch pieces. There were bright red and orange sea squirts with a gelatinous film covering them. Sea cucumbers moved almost imperceptibly, but a chopstick shove proved they were, in fact, still kicking. And of course to top it all off, we had octopus tentacles soaked in sesame oil flopping around on the plate like a rave dancer in molasses. They moved around, suctioning onto anything they could. We were wary to try it but the restaurant owner gave them to us as “service”, which is what Koreans say when they are giving you something special for free (it’s a great perk to being a foreigner). Plus, our servers were constantly walking by telling us to eat it. So, peer pressure at work, we bit in.

Live octopus soaking in sesame oil

The boys dipped the tentacles in hot sauce, which seemed to make them very angry. When I took the leap, my little octo-friend decided to latch onto my tongue. It’s a very odd sensation having your food rebel inside your mouth. But after about a minute of chewing and being sure that it would not cling to my throat on the way down, I swallowed. The taste was fine, mostly overpowered by the taste of the oil, but nothing I have craved since. The experience of it was all I needed.

Clam kalguksu

The next day we treked over to a neighboring snow-covered beach. We wandered into a small restaurant directly on the beach with a central fire and most patrons still wearing their jackets for warmth. We ordered a soup that I can only describe as crave-inducing. It was a simple soup: a bowl half the size of the table filled with broth, noodles, clams, and a sprinkling of zucchini and green onions. The clams gave just the right amount of saltiness to the simple broth. The zucchini and green onions amplified the flavor of the soup and it was all satisfyingly weighed down by the thick, slippery noodles.

Clams grilling over an open fire

That night, Lunar New Year’s night, we decided to treat ourselves to something special: a big, juicy, meaty, fresh king crab. I do think we have never made a decision quite as good as that one in our whole lives. The first course was what we lovingly called a “clam bake” although it was actually more of a clam barbeque. Heaps of fresh clams still hiding in their shells were thrown on the grill in the middle of our table. The real gem of this course is the miniature, disposable aluminum foil pie tin filled with an unidentified, non-spicy red sauce, rice cakes, and, get this, mozzarella cheese. Yes, you heard that right, cheese. This was placed on the grill and, as the clams were bubbling over and being cracked open, the juices were poured into the cheese bake. The result was a straight-forward tin of melted cheesy-goodness. My mouth is watering just from typing about it. Mmmm….

Cheesy, cheesy goodness

Heaven in a little aluminum pan.

Alright, now that I have taken a moment to reminisce with my taste buds, I can continue. The next course was our beautiful king crab. The glorious creature practically covered our whole table. Each leg housed thick, lengthy chunks of crab meat. Each time someone pulled out a slab of meat I was shocked at the size. Greg, who worked at Red Lobster for a few years, could not stop commenting on the enormous amount of meat and the low price of it all. It was truly a glorious occasion.

The King Crab

The head of the crab was hollowed and filled with a cloudy liquid. I later found out from my 6th grade student that we were supposed to mix this with our rice. Apparently, it’s delicious. We missed out on that part because we were unaware of the appropriate way to eat it at the time, but this only gives us one more reason to go back again.

Later that night, we befriended a Korean family. On a snow-covered beach. By a bonfire. With sparklers. And tried roasted octopus.

All in all, I’d say, it was one delicious adventure that I will never forget.

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Walking the wet aisles of Korea’s largest fish market and seeing all the live seafood wiggling hopelessly in tanks is an amazing experience. The smell wasn’t as bad as we’d been told and all my concentration was taken up by the sights around me. There were fish big and small, mounds of shellfish, and all types of sea creatures we couldn’t identify. The best way for you to get to know this amazing market is just to take a visual tour. For all the strange creatures and mass quantities check out our highlights video, and for a closer look check out the photo gallery. Enjoy.

All photos by Anna Waigand. Video editing by Anna Waigand. Videography by Andre Francisco.

Jagalchi Fish Market: Best of Reel from Seoulful Adventures on Vimeo.

The Indoor Market
Jagalchi Market's $47 million building

Jagalchi: Inside the newly renovated market

Shriiiiiimp

One for show, the rest get bagged

More photos after the jump

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The pinks just starting to come out
Photo by Anna Waigand.

Coming from the Midwest, I didn’t always get the freshest of seafood (except for whitefish livers in Bayfield, Wisc.). But the ring of restaurants around the towering Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan offered many opportunities to get fresh seafood whether you wanted it caught that morning, raw or still alive. After being heckled by women with only the most necessary English skills, we settled on a place with English labeled pictures above the doorway. We think the restaurant is named Sharjeong Sharkkomjangeo (살청 살껌정어), but the sign isn’t totally clear.

We decided we weren’t ready to try stir-fried hagfish, but “a shrimp roasted” sounded pretty good. Our waitress placed a heavy pan with a sheet of tinfoil covered in a think layer of coarse salt on our counter-top burner. She let it heat up as she brought us some appetizers including raw conch shell.

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Photo by Anna Waigand.

Neither Anna or I had eaten conch before, but Greg recommended it and our server was insistent. She dug the grey and black animals out of their shells with a tooth pick, dipped them in hot sauce and then, arm outstretched, forced them on us. See Anna’s on-the-spot video review.

Busan: Eating Raw Conch from Seoulful Adventures on Vimeo.

Click for more of the review and another video

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Hagfish: Skinned, slimey and still alive
Photo by Anna Waigand

When I first saw them they were just tubes of raw, pink flesh frantically writhing in a shallow red bowl. No skin, no scales, no head. Just a line of pink flesh with a white lattice of fat woven into it. In a couple of seconds, the slithering turned into an infrequent twitching, and then it joined the pink pile of now dead hagfish.

One narrow street of the Jagalchi Fish Market is where all the hagfish sellers seem to congregate. The method for killing hagfish is just as disgusting as the fish. Each hagfish seller has a board with a round peg that sits in a hole in one end. They take a live hagfish, stick their head under the peg and crush it into the hole. With the fish still moving, they do a couple of quick knife swipes to seperate it from its skin and organs. (Hagfish hides are actually made into leather as it turns out.) The fish are then tossed into a pile of their recently dead friends. To see the process for yourself, check out the video.

Hagfish: God’s Grossest Creatures from Seoulful Adventures on Vimeo.

Video by Andre Francisco. Editing by Anna Waigand.

You probably haven’t heard of hagfish before because almost no one but Koreans eat them. And why don’t they eat them? Maybe because they’re mud dwelling scavengers that burrow their way into nearly-dead fish that fall to the bottom of the sea and then eat their way out, even if the fish are still alive. Or maybe it’s because their other name is the slime eel because their defense mechanism is to produce a mucus that turns into unbelievable quantities of slime when mixed with water. Slime that suffocates other fish who eat them.

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