Every meal in Korea is an event and experience, carefully thought out, so I’ll be writing about Korean food and meals a lot as I get to write up the Korean trip. This was the first food experience on our last trip.
We went to Eel Village, in Yong-In, a town a little south of Seoul. In Korean “eel” translates as “long fish”, and this was eel served Korean-style.
Our hosts (Jongsoo Chang and Mi Kwon) for the first weekend in Korea took us here for our first meal in Korea on this trip, and it was a great introduction to Korean cuisine, one of the world’s finest.
This is a local, very casual traditional place that basically serves only eels. Each plain wooden table has a table grill plate over charcoal in the center and a metal chimney that can be raised and lowered. You order your eels, which the guy then fishes out of a large tank right there in the restauant, where they are swimming around. He plops them in a huge bucket and takes them away, and later they re-appear, cleaned and chopped on a rack that’s placed on the hot table grill. You can have them just salted, or with a red pepper sauce.
While you wait, many little plates appear—with kimchi (the famous Korean pickled/fermented vegetable dish), huge slices of pickled radish, lettuce leaves, seaweed in small sheets, fresh chopped ginger, slices of garlic and onion, perilla (shiso) leaves, and various sauces.
The trick is to take a leaf or sheet of seaweed, put on a piece of eel, a couple of radishes or whatever extra you fancy, a bit of sauce, and then wrap it and eat with your fingers.
These eels are much larger than the ones I remember from Japan and served a bit differently, but very tasty. When the eels are finished, each person gets a bowl of either steamed rice, or noodles (we had noodles).
All a lot of fun to experience. And the good thing is that you can pick whichever condiments you want. We tried everything except the spicy kimchi and a red-hot sauce. All washed down by a local fruit wine—actually quite dry and not bad for a wine!
Thanks to Jongsoo and Mi!