Raw Fish Korean-Style
We spent the first night of our road trip with Chang on Geojje Island, just off the south coast of Korea and connected by a bridge. Our hotel (called the Business Hotel) was in the main city of the island, Geoje City, and just down the street from it was our dinner destination.
Every day Chang very carefully planned where we would eat and what we would eat, as he wanted us to sample as much of the wonderful Korean cuisine as possible. He did an amazing job, and I’d say he succeeded, as we tasted and tested a huge array of different dishes.
This evening was to be our special “Raw Fish Dinner”, done in Korean style. It was a great meal and experience and definitely not to be confused with Japan’s sushi and sashimi (which we also love).
The outside of the restaurant is fairly unprepossessing, as is often the case with good quality traditional Korean restaurants. Its name, blazed in neon, translates roughly as “Falling in Love with Fish” Restaurant. We stop at the fish tank outside the door and Chang picks out two smallish fishes swimming around. Inside is a short corridor with individual rooms on either side. We take off our shoes and a waitress leads us to a room, with a low table in the center, surrounded by thin cushions. We sit on the floor and Chang explains how this meal will work. Traditionally, there are four steps.
First, many tasty banchan (side dishes) come to the table and we nibble. There were actually so many that it could almost have been a whole meal!
Then, the raw fish comes, with sauces and green leaves to wrap it in if wished. The presentation is uniquely Korean: the fishes have been sliced very thinly and the pieces are arranged in a circle on a large plate, one fish on the outside, the other fish in the center. Wonderful.
After that, two other smaller fishes appear—these are cooked. Apparently, you should always have cooked fish after the raw. They were both absolutely delicious too.
Finally, the fish bones from the raw fishes are made into a red-hot spicy soup, which the
waitress brings simmering to the table. By then we were pretty full, and for me that soup was just too spicy, so I only had a small sip to complete my experience.
One of our best meals ever, I’d say. Thanks to Chang.