Cycle 3 – Item 189
12 (Thu) July 2012
Hamo Shabu Shabu
at Ju Rak
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with KHJ, PHY
Ju Rak is a Japanese restaurant. Specializes in seafood.
According to the information splashed on the walls of the restaurant, hamo is a delicacy in Japan. A species of salt water eel, the animal is referred to in English by the most menacing name “daggertooth pike conger” and in Latin as “Muraenesox cinereus,” which sounds like a Harry Potter villain. It’s valued for promoting various health effects, like sexual stamina in men. (Funny that aphrodisiacs in the West purport to enhance libido, while Eastern aphrodisiacs are about ensuring that the desires can be carried out.)
At Ju Rak, the hamo was served in the ostensibly Japanese style of shabu shabu but otherwise with Korean fixings. In a pot of boiling stock, we were instructed first to parboil a perilla leaf for exactly 1 second and place it flat on the serving plate, followed by a few scapes of buchu for 2 seconds, then a piece of eel for 3 seconds, which curled itself around the buchu when placed in the water just so. Add a piece of gat kimchi, a famously pungent variety made from mustard greens, roll into a bundle, and scarf in a single bite. The hamo itself, much leaner than fresh water eel, didn’t taste much like anything, especially with the perilla and kimchi. It’s so Korean to take a delicate seafood and bury it under overpowering toppings. Overall, the dish was pleasantly light and refreshing, more of an appetizer than a main. At 60,000 won for a large set, which appeared to comprise one full fish, it was quite a pricey appetizer.
(See also FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)