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repellant puffer fish dish

First let me say that I love korean food, although I don't branch out a lot, I love kimchee jigae so much that I almost always get that...that said, my husband, a friend and I went to Dae Dong, which is my favorite all around pleasant korean restaurant...my husband is not well versed or even interested in korean food, and even though he's a bit easily grossed out, he insisted on ordering something he felt was "authentic" rather than the bibimbop I suggested, and ordered a dish called something like "sliced marinated pufferfish in spicy sauce." I had a feeling it was a mistake for him, but hey, it's his funeral. After wallowing in my own delish meal, I asked him how his was...he said "not good"...I asked for a taste...he said "this is it" and passed me what looked like a rag covered in thick red sauce (maybe kochu chang)...I tried to eat it, but it appeared to be a thin cross section of a puffer fish, including skin and backbone...raw...look, I'm honestly open to new things, but this even grossed me out. I couldnt' figure out how to eat it. It was mixed with some sliced radish in the aforementioned red sauce...so you could not really see what you were eating, and therefore eat around backbone etc. Anyway, I'm just wondering, is there something I am missing here, or is it something that is strictly a korean nostalgic thing? I can't quite see how it is eaten. Now my husb refuses to ever eat korean again...I don't care, I work a block from K-town and eat there a couple times a week...any feedback?

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  1. i don't know what dish your husband had but i have had the fish you described in a noodle dish at dae dong rest. the description matches the taste very well and it is normal that it is very bony . there really is not much taste to the fish but very popular with koreans . i would describe it as an aquired taste as it is very chewy . fyi the fish itself with kochujang also appears as a panchan in most rest.

    1. There were no noodles with this one. It was kochujang though. The fish was thinly slices but had skin with spines on it, and a lot of bone. I guess you are supposed to eat the spiny skin? I guess it's an acquired taste. I have never come across this before in the panchan...interesting! But never again.

      1. Most Koreans will put the entire piece of fish in their mouth, chew for a minute or so and then spit out only the decimated bones. This is the technique for eating almost anything with reasonably small/soft bones or shells and includes fish heads and some types of crab.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Blackbird

          Thank you, now I understand. I just couldn't imagine the technique for eating it! I wish I had known that then, I certainly would have tried it that way.

        2. Wow, that does sound very interesting. I don't think I would have liked it either, but I would love to see a picture of this dish.

          BTW, as you know there are some wonderful Korean food out there and it's too bad that this exotic dish has scarred your husband. It's like if a Korean who foreign to western cuising had ordered a beef tartar and go grossed out by the raw meat and raw egg yolk on top and swears off western food. Then again, I don't think the raw meat and egg would actually scare them off.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rcheng

            hahahaha!

            there is a korean dish just like you described called yook hwe it also has sliced pears and sesame oil. delish .

            what would scare some koreans would be lamb or goat meat some will refuse to eat it because it is not common at all.

            1. re: ramen girl

              Yes, I was going to say, those very two items would certainly not scare off koreans. But point taken. My husband has actually had korean food with me at least 3 times, now, and it's just not his cup of tea...he doesn't like spicy food to start with. I eat it all the time on my lunch hour, I'm around the corner from K-town, so I really don't care if he joins me.

          2. Pufferfish is a delicacy in Japan and Korea, which is probably why the portion was small. What you describe is consistent with preparations I've seen in S. Korea. The fish is, as the menu describes, "marinated" -- i.e. not cooked -- kind of like a ceviche.

            There are plenty of Korean dishes that are less spicy. Bibimbap is a good one, since you have a choice of how much or how little of the sauce to add, as are any number of noodle and bbq dishes. In fact, there is a restaurant on 32nd St. that specializes in a long cooked, not at all spicy, beef rice noodle soup. It's quite bland in its unaltered state, but comes with coarse salt and scallions that one adds to taste.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Woodside Al

              Actually the portion was not small. There were sliced white radishes and fish in kochujang in a large pile. I actually recommended that he get bibimbop, but I think he thought I was patronizing him! Lol. That's what he gets for not listening. I find that the bbq is just too expensive for my budget. Which restaurant were you referring to that specializes in beef noodle soup?? It sounds interesting.

              1. re: prunefeet

                Gam Mee Ok, 43 W. 32nd St. Get the Sul Long Tang.

                They also serve excellent fresh kim chee. Gratis, of course. If you like spicy stuff and shellfish they also serve a sazae (Japanese word for it, I don't know the Korean) dish with lots of spicy scallions, etc. that's rare in NYC and really good. It's described as "fresh water shell" on the menu, and is served in a portion sized for several people since it's considered drinking food.