Hoejip (횟집), means “sashimi house” in Korean. This weekend I was invited out to dinner to enjoy fresh raw fish, or sashimi as we mostly call it in America. In Korea, the fish is sliced a bit thicker than that of the Japanese style, and the fish is known as hoe. Like almost all meals in Korea, the sashimi is served with complementary side dishes.
It was a lot of fun to see and compare the differences in ones dining experience when it comes to enjoying sashimi. We have eaten at a few restaurants in Korea that serve sushi rolls and sashimi, but nothing where it was the full-blown Korean Hoejip.
The restaurant was located very close to the Ganeung subway station. Very small, only housing roughly five tables. Two of the tables were tables with chairs, the rest were dining on a raised platform where the floor was heated for your bum. Thought the space may be small, the restaurant is very plain and very clean. I was told that this particular restaurant was well-known for its freshness and quality of fish. Also, if you didn’t have a reservation for dining chances are that you may not be able to get in most nights.
Koreans often serve raw fish in a different manner. They usually take a very large fish (mostly whitefish) straight from a tank that is displayed out front of the restaurant. A lot of times they let you pick the fish that you would like to eat. They will then prepare it and slice it into translucent slivers, and carefully arrange it on a very big platter of shredded cabbage, which is then placed in the center of the table for everyone to share family style.
Another difference in eating sashimi in South Korea was the way it should be enjoyed. Yes, even a simple dish of sashimi has it’s own traditional way. You take the raw fish wrapped in ggaenip (similar to shiso leaf) and a slice of jalapeño, raw garlic, wasabi, and some rice, roll it up and shove it in your mouth. Of course one does this as gracefully as she can…haha! Yeahhhh…still feels like I’m breaking all the rules every time I do this, and goes against everything I was taught growing up.
Tonight I got to experience a true Korean treat, hoedeopbap. Hoedeopbap is a raw fish mixed with veggies and rice. It’s like bibimbop but without the rice! What’s not to love? It was delicious!
At the end of the meal, the last course served was a spicy soup called meuntang (매운탕). The soup was all of the bony parts that could not be served with the raw fish, (are you ready for this?) to include the fish head. Eek! Keeping my promise to myself, knowing that I’m only going to live once, I ate it too. It was spicy and pretty tasty!
Traditionally you should enjoy soju or some type of Korean alcohol with your meal too. You will look around towards the end of your meal and see all of the red faces, hear the bottles of soju clinking, hear the loud laughter and stories in Korean. In that moment you will know they are completely unwound from the everyday stressors in their life, and are now able to enjoy the deliciously fun moments of their dinner with their friends and family.