22 (Sun) August 2010
-Jamsil, Songpa, Seoul, Korea-
Trip to Ulleung-Do + Dok-Do, Day 3.
After 3 hours on the ferry + 6 hours on the bus, we arrived back in Seoul. Not quite ready to part ways, we set off in search of dinner, walking with all our gear to the bustling neighborhood near Sincheon Station. Everyone, except me, jumped at the idea of eating rotten fish.
Hong-eo hoe (홍어회) is a Korean dish. Though “hoe“ refers to raw fish, it’s not raw – it’s rotten. The fish is skate (hong-eo). The science, history, culture, and even fanaticism behind this so-called “delicacy” are far too complex, deep, and way over my head me, so I won’t attempt to describe it in any detail. The smell of ammonia produced from the fermentation process is so intense that one literally has to hold one’s breath while chewing – because of the cartilagenous nature of skate, a lot of chewing is required – and even for a few seconds after swallowing. That’s one of the draws, supposedly. On the bright side, the ammonia masks the putrid odor of the decomposing flesh of the . And there’s an anesthetic effect, the tongue and throat left numb, but not enough to kill the rancid aftertaste.
For some reason, bossam and hong-eo hoe, plus kimchi, are often served together on the same plate as samhap (삼합) (“triple combination”).
I could barely stand the smell from the end of the table.