Elwood 5566

One Word – Vile!

Posted in fish, Food and Drink, seafood by 노강호 on January 3, 2012

the garden of a traditional Korean restaurant

Even for westerners with eclectic palates who enjoy flitting between the spicy and tantalizing subtleties of Thai, Indian, Mexican and Chinese food, a Korean specialty can chuck a spanner in the works. Of course, most of our knowledge of such cuisines has been doctored and what comprises their menu has been selected to appeal to our tastes. Chinese food in the UK is nearly always Cantonese or Peking and the enormous silk worm cocoon sautéed with scorpion, a cuisine typical of the Gobi region of China, is not likely to appear on the menu of your local takeaway.  I’ve never seen the boiled duck embryo, khai khao, cooked alive and served with the shell intact, in my local Thai restaurant and some of the food I ate in India I doubt appears on any menu outside the country itself.

Korea has a number of foods which cause a foreigner, especially those accustomed to European traditions, to stifle a retch. Dog meat is perhaps the most infamous and is likely to shock us with as much revulsion as Koreans find at the thought of eating rabbit. And if a westerner gags at the idea of sushi they are likely to do far worse if faced with sashimi (known in Korea as ‘hoe’ – 회) against which sushi is positively tame. Anything which crawls, swims, floats, buries itself in the mud or simply hangs about on rocks, is fair game for the sashimi platter where it is usually eaten raw. If raw fish isn’t enough to empty your stomach, there is variety of raw meats, the tamest of which is thinly sliced beef steak but venturing into the Klingon domain are raw tripe and liver. However, a few cooked meats, intestine and boiled lung, are likely to repulse a healthy hunger after which steamed silkworm cocoon or pan-fried grasshopper seem almost civilised.

Over the New Year, I ate at two traditional seafood restaurants. The first specialised in a particular kind of clam and the entire menu, apart from side dishes, focused on this local delicacy. I wasn’t too happy when the hors d’oeuvre arrived; an unceremonious bowl of clams which had been warmed rather than cooked, and hence the shells required prizing open with a tool I’m sure I’ve seen in an electricians tool-bag.  Have you ever been dumped on by a passing pigeon? Once prized open, the clams’ innards were just that; a messy splurge of white and brown pudding that dripped onto the paper table-cloth like diarrhoea. I silently cursed my Korean friend and prepared to stifle the retch reflex that was sure to follow but surprisingly, they were very delicious. The rest of the meal contained clams in one form or another – in pancakes, as sweet and sour, skewered, in a soup, and in the sauce of a bibimbap.

 

painful on the eye but pleasing on the tongue

My evening delight was in an enchanting traditional restaurant in a small outhouse. Here I was served the entire gamut of food at which the European usually cringes. Apart from insects and dog, there was a selection of all the nautical nasties, sea squirt – which resembles an acned, bulbous boil (멍게), ‘dog dick’  (개불 – Urechis unicinctus) – a slimy type of spoon worm which has no English name, a type of shellfish with the texture of slightly meaty, raw cauliflower, raw squid, the unpleasant orphaned testicle thing known as mideodek (미더덕 – styela clava) which many Koreans hate. Other delicacies, less shocking, included raw oyster and I even managed some raw sliced beef. Along with a fine spread of kimchies and as a veteran of Korean food, I managed to eat with apparent pleasure.

more still to come

Then I picked up what looked like raw tuna, which I actually like, and slipped it onto my tongue. I hadn’t even shut my mouth when there was a sensation of something very unpleasant. ‘Can you smell it?’ my friend asked. ‘Ugh,’ I managed to mutter without moving my teeth for fear of stirring whatever was on my tongue. I wanted to swallow it but it had bones, cartilaginous bones which demanded chomping and I could smell what seemed like neat ammonia invading my nasal passage. ‘Urgh!’ I gagged again. I couldn’t spit it out, that really isn’t an option with Koreans and though I scanned the ‘banquet’ fom some friendly food that might speed it into my stomach, everything was both raw and slimy.  It was truly like a mouthful of smelling salts and my eyes were beginning to water. ‘Ugh, ugh! ‘I gagged as I furtively eyed the table from the dish of raw oyster on one plate, the messy sea squirt on another to the slivers of sliced dog dick. In the end I was rescued by a bowl of seaweed soup from which I slurped before swallowing the entire slice of fish, unchomped cartilage as well.

raw ray fish (홍어) – revolting!

I’ve eaten dried ray fish in sauce and really enjoyed it but fresh (홍어) and uncooked it is the most revolting thing I’ve ever eaten; worse than all the crud of the sea, the insects, dog and probably worse than boiled lung – which I don’t ever intend eating! If you want to eat something truly awful, something that makes even live octopus tame, this is your baby.

recuperating

Creative Commons License
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

FURTHER REFERENCES

Food to Put Hair on Your Chest (Bathhouse Ballads Sept 2010)

As Tasty as it Looks (Mideodeok). (Bathhouse Ballads Sept  2010)

Monday Market – Sea Squirt (멍게) (Bathhouse Ballads May 2010)

As Delicious as it Looks! (미더덕)

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on September 11, 2010

The first time I ate midoedeok (미더덕) it was hidden in a bowl of soup and probably bobbling under a slice of kimchi, either way, I didn’t see it.  After wedging it between my teeth I crushed it and was shocked when it spat out a horrid sort of detergent. I almost threw up! I’ve never eaten midoedoek since and if I get any strange soup I dredge the bottom of my bowl looking for it. Don’t accuse me of being politically incorrect, I know plenty of Koreans who hate it.

Animal, vegetable, alien?

For years, I had no idea if it was animal, vegetable, or possibly alien, most likely from the Klingon home world! For a while I believed it may have been some sort of testicle and its texture confirmed this, a hard exterior, smooth and slippy with some dubious inner core, but there was an absence of any tubing and because it resembled a mammalian testicle, I was bewildered because, being not much bigger than an acorn, I couldn’t think what animal owned such a nut. Rams’ bollocks are huge, a pair being as large an weighty as a coconut, and there aren’t many cats in Korea and those silly little handbag dogs Koreans are into, the sort that are too flimsy to walk against the mildest breeze, their balls can’t be much bigger a peanut. So it must come from the sea, I thought. Do fish have bollocks? Or perhaps they belong to the octopus but balls are usually carried in a bag and I’ve never seen an octopus with a knacker sack! Well, my Korean friends seemed to have no idea what they were and were equally as mystified.

Related to the sea squirt (멍개)

Then I discovered, they are related to the sea squirt and that monster of a tumour, the mongke (멍개), which also tastes of detergent. You can see midoedoek in the street markets and supermarkets and you either love them or hate them – a bit like olives really, which is interesting as they are the same shape and size. Unfortunately, they don’t have a common English name so,  should you want to order them from your local fish market back home, you will have to ask for styela clava. Mmmm! Sounds as delicious as it looks which is why they are usually hidden in the bottom of your bowl of seafood soup….

Midoedok (미더덕), Styela Clavca get erect when hungry and look like this!

Fondling them obviously causes arousal. A particularly long styela clava. Why are so many Korean foods phallic?

Creative Commons License
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Monster Prawns – Monday Market

Posted in fish, Food and Drink, Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on July 20, 2010

Despite being inland, Daegu markets provide a tantalizing array of seafood. Cutlass fish is very popular (갈치) though it’s not one of my favourites as I don’t like fish that contain many small bones.

Cutlass Fish (갈지)

Prawns can be mammoth in size and these ones, not including the antennae, were about 7 inches long. The cost  was just over 4000W (£2).

Prawns on a dinner size plate and about 7 inches long. The cost for 5 was just over 4000W (£2).

A succulent snack

Creative Commons License
© Nick Elwood 2010 This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.