Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"They Actually Eat That:" Hongeohoe.

You thought this week would be out of shark-related stuff because I did hakarl last week, didn't you? The good news is you were half-right; I had originally intended to do shark liver oil, then found something grosser, yet still slightly shark-related. The bad news? It is grosser than liver oil, and almost as nasty as hakarl. Oh, and you'll have to learn something, too.

The pink stuff may look like regular fish, but looks are deceiving. Hongeohoe is a Korean dish consisting of fermented Korean skate, which -

Wait. What's a "skate" in this context?

Skates, like stingrays, are related to sharks. They usually dwell in deep waters and can actually taste quite good if prepared correctly. Being cartilaginous fish (i.e. not having real bones), sharks, rays, and skates are all related. (Deepsea chimeras also fall here, but are so distantly related that they are usually given their own family.) Basically, if you imagine a stingray with a sturdier tail and less wing, you've got a skate.

Like hakarl, hongeohoe involves a fermented fish. In this case, the raw skate is wrapped in rice stalks and dung, then allowed to rot for several weeks. It supposedly came about by accident when Korean sailors let the fish rot and found it was still edible, possessing a "stinging" flavor. Yeah, that already sounds pleasant, doesn't it?

Hongeohoe tastes very much like hakarl - or, rather, like ammonia. Sharks urinate through their skin, apparently, so when a shark dies, the urine becomrs ammonia.Ammonia is found in most households as a cleaning fluid and is a frequent by-product of many biological reactions. If you want to try some, please don't try too much. As with hakarl, hongeohoe is very much an acquired taste and is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. 

So, how bad is it? Andrew Zimmern was only able to stomach one piece. Some lucky people have been able to eat three. A wash with rice wine is recommended afterwards. Yes, hongeohoe is indeed the Asian answer to hakarl, even if a shark is not technically involved. Some things remain constant within humanity; apparently fermenting shark/skate is one of those things. (And yes, I know other cultures see cheese as rotten milk.)

1 comment:

  1. The manga "Moyashimon" features this dish in volume 1, chapter 6.