Of the many delights in Korean cuisine, the fresh fish found at the markets is one of my favorites. You can vicariously live the life of a fisherman, (well, not really) by choosing your fish and having them filet it in front of you. Keep in mind it will be wriggling and (silently) screaming. Have you ever heard a fish scream? It's like gasping, so give thanks for the life that has become your meal.
The fish market is ground level, below the restaurant that will prepare your meal. After selecting your fish (we bought three different kinds), you saunter upstairs, remove your shoes, and select a table. Enough fish to feed one person is $10, although in my mind, that is too much food. We purchased 3 different types of fish. Unfortunately ,I forgot to ask the woman selling the fish to name it for us. For $30, we had enough for 4 people!
Upstairs, the "table charge" is $3 per person, which includes preparation of sides and service. Additionally, we ordered a large pot of fish soup for $7 and sides of rice ($1/bowl). The owner brought a table top burner, and the soup was heated and cooked right in front of us!
We had Waaaay too much food! My Director has told me that if you are Korean, you must have rice with every meal; otherwise, you will remain hungry! You could eat a metaphorical whole cow, and still be hungry unless you get some rice with your cow. No joke. I love rice, so it's no problem. I found that I always want rice with my meals now. I'm Korean!
Because the owner remembered me (hard not to remember the only blonde in town :-) ), he also brought us an additional dish of sea creatures: fresh oysters, sea squirts, and sea cucumbers! The oysters are huge and have a flavor unique to Korean oysters. How can I describe it? I can't. They are remarkably fresh and delicious though! The sea squirts are slimy little critters and taste of pure ocean---really, it's like you are eating the ocean-- that's the best way to explain the flavor! They grossed Lara out, which was kind of funny, as that led to a whole commentary on slimy things which I will refrain from repeating here. The cucumbers were tasty but rather chewy and I preferred the raw fish and oysters.
To eat hweh (raw fish) Korean-styleproperly, you cup a leaf of red leaf lettuce or sesame seed leaf in your palm, select a mouthful of fish with your chopsticks, and then smear gochujang or doenjang on the fish. There are also slices of fresh garlic and peppers to add to the mound in your hand. Then, like the ultimate Korean taco, fold and (rather ungracefully), stuff your face. I've tried biting half of the fish-filled leaf, but part of the fish seems to stay connected and ends up sliding down my chin. Since Korean manners are slightly different, now I just fill my mouth as they do, really full! And you get to talk with your mouthful here, I love it! (More on Korean etiquette later!)
As usual, the food is delicious, the people are so helpful and friendly, and eating is a wonderful experience. I don't understand the nutritional science or physics behind Korean food, but somehow you are able to eat a vast quantity of food, feel full at the end of the meal, and yet as soon as you are up and walking, the fullness diminishes and you are left feeling sated and energized; just the right amount of full. It seems that whenever I dine out, I feel a healthy sense of rejuvenation, as though my meal has increased my well-being. Sometimes I feel overfull, but that sensation diminishes within a few minutes. [It's quite different from the experience of eating too much American food, where you just feel sick for hours after a heavy meal--hey, we're Americans, we are a country of gluttons.] I think it has to do with the fact that America poisons all of its food supplies and sources with chemicals, drugs, and pesticides. Korea will have NONE of that nasty business. You'd never catch a Korean cow standing in several feet of its own wastes, and people would RIOT in the streets if you tried to give them milk from cows that had been shot up with antibiotics, or genetically modify their rice or produce.
Koreans are smart in so many ways!
Lara, Jack, and I had an enjoyable lunch; our bellies filled with delicious food and laughter. Next time: shellfish!
...can't get enough Korean Food!!! :-))