3.067 Broiled Songeo in Sukiyaki Sauce

3.067

12 (Mon) March 2012

Broiled Songeo in Sukiyaki Sauce

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ

E-Mart labelled the fish as “songeo (송어),” which is trout, even though it was displayed in the salmon section.  The red color of the flesh suggests rainbow trout, though the texture was firm and chunky, more like salmon, unlike the flakier rainbow trout that I’ve had in the States.

In a culture with an historically hermetic and rigidly conservative culinary tradition, markets here tend to be restrictive in the foods that they put on the shelves, especially fresh products, like fish and meat and vegetables, which don’t allow much margin of error for the store in case the customers aren’t quick to broaden their horizons; a vicious cycle, the customers tend to go with the tried and true, unwilling to venture into unfamiliar territory.

The first major retailer to break free of this pattern – other than small specialty shops catering to the expat community or high end department stores with imported food sections catering to affluent and well-traveled locals – was Costco.  For example, while cheese in Korea still remains limited largely to processed cheese slices, Costco maintains an extensive and unrivaled selection of cheeses from around the world.  I’ve seen customers pick up a package of, say, gruyere, look at it quizzically, shrug, and toss it in their cart -exactly the kind of open-minded shopping attitude that management was likely hoping to foster by creating a previously nonexistent cheese market for the masses.  And the overwhelming lines just to get into the parking lot strongly indicate that such a business model can work.

Whether influenced by Costco’s apparent success, E-Mart has also been taking baby steps towards offering a more diverse selection of products.  I began to notice a few years ago, when the pasta choices went from a single brand of spaghetti to 5 brands of spaghetti and then to linguine and fettuccine and penne and more.  Japanese ramen soon followed.  Foreign condiments, like sukiyaki sauce.  Suddenly, the produce aisle had fresh basil and rosemary.  And now, song-eo, which isn’t even imported and may alone not seem like that big of a deal, but it represents a radical departure from the dozen or so fish that have enjoyed exclusive popularity for so long.  I look forward to seeing what’s next.

(See also FOODS)

(See also PLACES)

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