20 (Thu) January 2011
at Chamchi Land
-Geumgok, Bundang, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Korea-
with AUSOM colleagues
As previously mentioned, chamchi hoe (tuna sashimi) is vaguely Japanese in origin yet wholly Korean in practice.
For starters, the menu at such restaurants, which tend to serve tuna exclusively, offers only all-you-can-eat set meals. The fish keeps coming until the customer has had enough. Prices range from 15,000 won (cheap), 25,000 (basic), 35,000 (special), 50,000 (extra special), 75,000 (deluxe), each differing in the quality of fish, all else being pretty much the same.
At Chamchi Land, we usually order the basic, sometimes the special on special occasions. Tonight, treating my closest colleagues at the university, I splurged on the special.
In terms of the food, one major difference is the way of eating the fish. While soy sauce and wasabi are available in the Japanese fashion, the preferred method involves dipping a slice of tuna in sesame oil and salt, topping it with radish sprouts, and wrapping everything in a sheet of dried laver (i.e., seaweed). This is so commonplace that some seaweed brands feature a photo of tuna sashimi on the packaging. On a side note, it’s funny that the laver is always provided in single-serving packages containing about small five sheets (ostensibly intended for quick, convenient consumption on the go); by the end of the meal, the table is strewn with piles of discarded cellophane.
The next difference are the side dishes, which begin and continue and never end through the end of the meal. Every restaurant offers some variation of most or all of the following sides: miso soup, tuna porridge, steamed egg casserole, spicy tuna neck/head/bone stew, grilled tuna, a spicy salad, and the ubiquitous hot plate of buttered corn – all refillable. The restaurant benefits by filling the customers up with things other than costly tuna. Good side dishes enhance the experience for the customers. A win-win.
The meal typically finishes with a small, individual rice or noodle dish, such as udon or a fish roe hand roll or al bab.
At this restaurant, being a regular, I usually custom order a tuna roll (teka maki).