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Jun 3, 2011 11:34 AM

H-Mart seafood department

I have been very impressed with the variety and freshness of the fish. I love the fact that you can help yourself to as much crushed ice as you'd like for double-bagging your fish purchase. Trouble is, I haven't heard of, much less eaten, most of the species they sell. The pictorial prep guide is handy for communicating what if any knifework you want (e.g., 2 means scaled, gutted, decapitated, 3 means filleted), because the counter is manned by people speaking little or no English. But there's no way to ask about the flavor of a particular species. I like to bake, broil, or saute fillets or steaks. I do not mind pulling out an intact spine but do not want fish requiring bones to be picked out while eating. I buy bluefish, monkfish, flounder, fluke, tilapia, and squid there. Can anyone recommend any of the less familiar fish? I have been particularly curious about the long, narrow Beltfish, which costs very little.

3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

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  1. I haven't been very adventuresome in their fish department. I did try the whole red snapper, which we liked; I can't for the life of me remember what recipes I used to cook it, though...most likely some Korean thing where you spreadit with a mixture of red pepper paste, garlic, etc. since that's what I've been doing with fish lately. I remember reading that red snapper supposed to taste something like salmon.

    I end up buying plain old haddock fillets a lot because it's very good in a fish soup, as well as fish and vegetable pancakes that my kids really like.

    Re; beltfish, I took a quick look through my Korean cookbooks and didn't see any recipes that called for it specifically. I wonder if it's used to make a side dish?

    One our first trip to Seoul we had a wonderful panchan that i *think* was made from salted Yellow Croaker. I've been meaning to try that fish Korean friend tells me that it's easy to cook, you just have to fry it in a pan. But she also tells me that she doesn't like fish! So I haven't been able to pump her for fishy information as much as I'd like to.

    17 Replies
    1. re: gimlis1mum

      Belt fish is often just sea-salted, pan fried in a little bit of oil and served as bahnchahn to eat with rice. Yellow croaker is often prepared the same way. Sometimes the croaker is lightly dry-cured in salt before frying. Maybe that's what you had?

      1. re: inaplasticcup

        Thanks for the info! I should try the belt fish next time I go. We went into some food halls and markets in Seoul, and I saw lots of fish that I assume were preserved with salt and braided ( for lack of a better word, maybe I should say twisted into a line with yellow cording). I thought that was the yellow croaker, but maybe not.... I'll try the dry-curing thing at home. Thanks again!

      2. re: gimlis1mum

        croakers and porgies are so tasty...much tastier than red snappers and much cheaper too!
        Croakers and porgies are quite expensive in Korea but luckly, they seem to be really cheap here in America though flavors and texture do differ.
        We simply grill them as you would with red snappers. I just stuff them with lemon and thyme..salt them generously, oil and grill them..oh so good.
        I am especiallly a fan of croakers. So flaky, tender, moist and sweet. H mart sometimes have imported salted croakers from Korea which are much more expensive than the fresh ones you see but they do taste better and i like the texture better.

        Belt fish is my dad's favorite. A lot of times, we simply cut them into pieces and grill them salted but another popular dish is to make spicy fish stew out of them with spicy pepper, big chunks of raddish..pepper flakes, scallion....the sweetness of raddish and savory taste of beltfish combo is to die for. This is a very authentic dish that is hard to find even in Korean restaurants.

        1. re: Monica

          I love that beltfish stew and how sweet and almost buttery that cooked radish tastes with some steamed rice - Haven't had it in the longest. Thanks for the reminder!

          Wonder if I can get the Man to like that stuff... I've sold him on most of the Korean food hits (boolgogi, kahlbi, bibimbahp, ssahm, that type of stuff), but this stuff might test his tolerance for pungent and funky.

          1. re: inaplasticcup

            My husband is Jewish and he loves Korean food including live octopus and other funky stuff even alot of koreans can't handle.
            One day, I saw him eating plain rice with leftover kimchi juice in his apt..that's when I decided to marry him. lol

          2. re: Monica

            I always thought it was interesting how porgies were considered "upscale" fish hence expensive in Korea, but the opposite of that here.

            re: beltfish, is that "galchi"? If so I also love it simply salted and grilled. I had a spicy stew version in Cheju Island, but I preferred mackerel with that kind of preparation.

            1. re: uwsister

              My aunt from Korea recently sent 'Jeju Oakdom'..which are like tile fish..oh my god, one of the best tasting fishes I've ever had. Even my 3 years old daughter kept asking for more.
              Yes, Galchi form Jeju island is very famous and tastier than the big ones they have here.
              I don't know why but fishes from Pacific ocean seem to taste better.

              1. re: Monica

                So beltfish is galchi? Sorry, I'm a little slow this morning.

                1. re: uwsister

                  haha, yes, beltfish is galchi! =)

            2. re: Monica

              So beltfish is firm, like halibut or monkfish? In my OP, I should also have asked about texture.

              1. re: greygarious

                Beltfish has kind of a unique texture - it doesn't have the flakes of halibut, nor the mildly elastic texture of cooked monkfish. It's tender and pulls away from the bone almost more feathery than flaky...

              2. re: Monica

                Monica, can I get a more specific recipe for this beltfish stew of which you speak!?!

                1. re: lilmomma

                  Here is one recipe I found online.

                  How to cook spicy hairtail at home


                  1 whole hairtail

                  1/2 medium-sized radish cut into large squares.

                  2 cups (500 ml) vegetable or fish stock or water

                  4 tbsp. soy sauce

                  3 tbsp. red chili flakes

                  1 tbsp. chopped garlic

                  1 tbsp. rice wine (optional)

                  1 tbsp. roasted sesame seeds (optional)

                  dash of black pepper (optional)

                  1/2 chopped shallot

                  1. Wash the fish in running water (defrost first if the fish is frozen).

                  2. Chop off the head and tail. Cut into 4-5 pieces.

                  3. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, rice wine, chili and garlic.

                  4. In a pot, boil the radish in the stock over a medium fire for 7 minutes.

                  5. Place the fish on top of the radish, add the sauce and boil on high fire for 10 minutes.

                  6. Add the shallot (and sesame seeds and pepper) on top and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

                  Here is another.


                  I'd add a bit of minced ginger and mirin.

                  1. re: Monica

                    What is hairtail? ANd is it "moo" radish that you are using?

                    1. re: lilmomma

                      hairtail must be a different name for beltfish.

                      yes, those asian radish you can buy from places like H Mart. They are like onion..when cooked, they become very sweet.

                      I'd probably also put a tiny bit of sugar if the radish isn't sweet enough.

                      1. re: Monica

                        FYI, I think that the "salad turnips' that show up in CSA boxes and at Farmer's markets this time of year make a good substitute for Korean radish in braised dishes.

            3. Skate is a wonderful sweet fish; the texture is like silk. it has a single connected piece of thin cartilege that runs inside like in a bird's wing. they would slice a filet off on each side of that. then you just flour and saute it. it's also great in fish soup. takes any kind of sauce you like, or just lemon.....

              4 Replies
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                I neglected to mention that I have cooked skate wing before, though many years ago. I liked the flavor and texture but not the myriad soft bones/cartilage. Not fond of fishing in any form, including for bones while eating!

                1. re: greygarious

                  grey, that's exactly why i was suggesting the fileting from them!

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    I misunderstood - thought you meant that skate wing is "butchered" by cutting on either side of the cartilaginous area, then sold with that area still included. I'll ask if they can remove it. It's been years since I cooked it but as I remember, it pretty much shreds apart once it is sauteed. Without the cartilage to help hold its shape, I'd have thought it impossible to flip. But I will definitely try - thanks.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      not shreddy unless overcooked or cooked improperly. suggestion: flour both sides of @ filet, sautee in evoo hot enough to sizzle when fish is added to pan, cook over med heat few minutes;carefully turn over. finish cooking few minutes. Can pour sauce over to heat just before serving. (I use TrJ or Frontera salsa verde this way w/ skate). Fresh lime and serve.

              2. The H-Marts near me regularly have have sea bass, pollack, mackeral, cod, grouper, pompano, whiting/ling and skate wings......all pretty familiar, but with less bones to pick out.

                Have you tried porgies, croakers or butterfish?

                9 Replies
                1. re: fourunder

                  The HMart in downtown Vancouver is awful-nothing fresh just a pile of freezer burned crud-staff are sullen, resentful and worse.

                  OTOH the frozen New Zealand Mussels are decently priced.

                  1. re: Sam Salmon

                    LOL. You didn't expect a Korean person to be happy to serve you, did you? :P

                  2. re: fourunder

                    Pompano, porgy, croaker, and butterfish are among the ones unfamiliar to me. I can't recall most of the names, other than milkfish and dogfish. By the way, the bluefish (one of my lifelong favorites, and known to be highly perishable) was super-fresh. I had them fillet it, bagged it with ice, and though I did not cook it until 24 hours later, it had no fishy odor whatsoever.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Many cultures realize that meat is sweetest nearest the bone - no less true for fish - so bony fish can be prized in cultures that don't have the same etiquette regarding the removal and disposal of fish bones from the human mouth at the table....

                      One of the easiest ways to learn new fish is to suspend the Western etiquette regarding bone removal when dining on them. At least until you know what you like and how it can best be managed.

                      The other thing, of course, is that in most cultures, it's easy to tell what fish is what because it's generally sold whole (which, btw, gives you much greater ability to judge its freshness); our current predilection for filleted fish is an open invitation to be inveigled.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        So true, akin to the American preference for white chicken meat. As a lover of dark meat, I'm very happy.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Koreans almost never fillet their fish - I'm not sure why.

                          1. re: uwsister

                            If I think about it, a lot of the fish we eat would be rather difficult to fillet.

                            But I think another consideration is probably one of conservation. Keeping the bones in and eating around them, or actually more like pulling the flesh clean off the bones, (which is easier done when the flesh is cooked than raw), just gives you more fish to eat.

                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                              Indeed, that too.

                              Compare that to indigenous North Americans who, with super-abundant fish (especially fresh) and smaller population densities, were able to allocate fish for the fertilization of planting mounds for corn, beans and squash.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                LOL. My (Korean) grandmother did that with our overabundance of mackerel from my parents' fishing trips and let me tell you it was not pretty when the schnauzer dug them up... :|