Sunday, June 19, 2011

On the Road . . . Korea: Seafood by the Sea

My going away meal in Gangneung was quite an event. Along the beaches, there are tons of little restaurants with large fish tanks outside. At each of these places, you can go in and request what is the equivalent of a chef’s choice tasting. What that means is that they will pull up a smattering and mixed-bag of what they have in their tanks and prepare it. Because it is going almost straight from tank to plate, it is some of the freshest seafood you are going to eat.  
Although I have tried my best to provide you with the Korean names and thorough information about the food that I ate, this is one meal that you are just going to have to settle for enjoying a picture montage.  Several of the fishes were either fishes I couldn’t identify or seafood flavors completely new to me.  So, enjoy the pictures and I’ll fill in when I can  . . 

First Round
Although I never quite figured out what the top dish was (but it was good and that worked for me), the second was a jellyfish that was tangy, sour, and slippery—I loved it.  It was especially good eaten in the sesame leaves that came as a side.  The third plate is a very gummy tteok and filled with red bean paste: a nice offset to the tangy jellyfish.
The other set of dishes featured sashimi, a very spicy gochujang fish concoction that was hot and tangy, and a salad.    The gochujang was my second favorite next to the jellyfish.

Second Round
Second round saw in increase in plate size, amount and food, and was more of a cooked fish round.

This dish was a play-on fish and chips and had a great light fish with a great crunch. 
There was also little sardines that you can eat bones, heads, and all.  I gave that my best shot, but had a mind over matter issues with chewing the bones.  I’ve been so trained to be leery of bones that I couldn’t tell my caution side to calm down. 
This was awesome and just consisted of a bake of mainly corn and imitation crab.  I would love to try duplicating this in my own kitchen because it is a great side and a sassy way to tart up imitation crab.
This was the other whole fish dish that I had before when we went out for sannakji.  For this, you end up cutting it in half and then pulling out the spine as best you can, but you will have bones to wrestle with that are not as edible.
Then, there a great side that I had several other times in Korea and just consists of oil, creamy, crunchy, potato cake—latkes with flair. 

Third Round:

This was the main event and is rather awesome.  This is just a plate of very fresh sashimi from several different kinds of fish.  You aren’t supposed to eat the cellophane noodles and, in fact, they are often reused.  The textures all varied a little with some being a little chewier, some being creamier, and some having a denser texture.  It was fun to eat them with a little gochujang and sesame or lettuce leaves.

The sashimi also came with a side of fried shrimp, hot peppers, and potatoes as well as barbequed fish balls.  Truth be told, the fish balls were probably my top favorite thing that we had.  They had a texture a lot like meatballs but were made feisty with the spicy barbeque sauce.  This is another I’d like to figure out how to do at home. 

. . . Although not my favorite meal, this one was really the most awe inspiring.  I’ve been to steak places in America that let you pick out your cut of meat or seafood places that let you choose your lobster.  Both have a great appeal of ownership and quality.    But it was such a different and incredible thing to walk by so many tanks of fish and know that they were going to be displayed and prepared in a great show of quality, freshness, and restaurant identity.  In telling friends in America about my food adventures, this is the one they are most intrigued by and rightfully so.  It was a great combination of pride in product and pleasure in presentation. 
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  1. Your pictures are definitely making me hungry! Thanks for sharing!

    -Karriann Graf

  2. At first glance, it's looking cooking competition here. Because all the sweet and delicious dishes you have shown here. Seriously mind blowing.


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