Brewer: The Hite, South Korea
Scouting about for a stout with no clout? Shout for Hite Stout.
There are two things wrong with this stout. Firstly, that it’s black; and secondly, that it is not labelled as “lager” anywhere on the bottle. It is beer at its most deceptive. It’s a brewery’s equivalent of a Decepticon that uses your body to transform back into urine.
Whenever people describe fish markets, they highlight the predawn chaos and the movement and flow of fish as the only ordered element amongst the pandemonium. I’ve been guilty of it myself. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul is a bastion of calm. The morning crowds have dispersed along with their creels of seafood but the remaining catch appears as fresh (or in many cases, as alive) as it was hours earlier. The occasional browser wanders amongst the aisles of assorted sea creatures in a noncommittal manner; vendors discuss their day, eat a late lunch and share bottles of soju; some prepare for the smallish after work crowd to pick over their remaining wares. There is no compulsion for the hard sell at this time of the day and commerce seems secondary.
Along the Noryangjin Station side of the market is a raised walkway offering birds-eye views of the fishy tableau, along which nestles a line of Japanese and Korean restaurants that capitalise on their proximity to seafood.
Closest to the walkway on the floor of the market seems to house the greatest concentration of live seafood: crabs, fish, shellfish, octopus and other horrors from the Deep.
Octopus come in all dimensions, ranging from thumb-sized to those capable of battling Neptune for undersea supremacy (above).
On the far side of the market from the station, vendors specialise in Korean fish and shrimp pastes in varying degrees of degradation. The focus seems to be on chilli-hot pastes rather than unadulterated salty rotting fish.
The aisles of market stay damp from the melting ice, frequent hosing down and the slosh of fish in tanks. The above pufferfish were more subdued, but were the first that I’ve seen on sale for the purposes of eating, ever.
Shellfish abound in phenomenal variety with bags of clams packed with seawater to keep them alive.
Location: Opposite Noryanjin Station in Seoul, accessible via the raised walkway from the train station.
Hoddeok is a Winter street food in Korea that is slowly transitioning into year-round fare. In essence, it’s a fried yeast dumpling, flattened to a pancake, with sticky cinnamon sugar centre. From a brief trawl of vendors around Myung-dong, there seemed to be two versions: one fried in a sandwich iron (above) resulting in a crispier outer shell and more consistent disc shape; the other (below), fried and pressed onto a greasy hotplate. Both delicious.
Ingredients – Makes 5
1 1/4 cups plain flour
6 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt
To start the yeast:
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1/4 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 tbsp brown sugar
Mix the yeast, white sugar and water and leave in a warm place to ferment for 15 minutes. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt, milk and yeasty water. Mix well, cover and leave to rise for two hours. Go see a movie or something.
Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together for stuffing. Oil up your hands (if not sufficiently oiled from movie popcorn) and take about 1/5 of the dough, flatten into a thick disk and place a tablespoon of stuffing inside. Seal like a dumpling.
Add oil to frypan and heat. Place your sugar filled dumpling into the oil. When brown, turn over and flatten the dumpling into a disk with a spatula. Cook until browned.
Brewer: The Hite, South Korea
Beer is not good for you. In large enough quantities, it has the invariable tendency to kill you and thus gussying it up as a health food defies explanation. Labeled as the “Stylish beer with fiber”, Korea’s Hite Exfeel-S attempts to market a beer that is just as good on the way in as on the way out, and as far as I could detect, fails on both accounts. According to the press releases, “Exfeel” is meant to be a portmanteau of “excellent feeling” and the “S” is meant to stand for S-line, a strange Korean term for having the perfect hourglass figure rather than a letter to be appended to the start of “Hite”.
Hite says: “Smooth & light premium beer exclusively designed for well-being of young generation.”
I say: By adding an invisible fibre, Hite seems to have rendered the beer almost perfectly flavour-free. Lightly carbonated, no head retention. Golden colour cleverly distinguishes it from water with Braille embossed onto the bottle to help the visually-impaired come to the same conclusion. Perfect argument against low-calorie beer.
Presentation:1600ml plastic bottle
If Coney Island witnessed the birth of the hot dog, Seoul in South Korea saw subsequent generations mutate into a an entirely new genus of animal. An animal coated in a skin of batter and french fries then presented deep-fried on a stick.
After first witnessing this monstrosity on Newley Purnell‘s site, I thought that chasing it down would be difficult. That it would be the type of food that only demented South Korean carnies sold for a scant few days of a State Fair until their consumers ended up in the waiting queue for a heart bypass. The taste is about as obvious as it looks: greasy but still crispy fries glued to a hotdog with a thick, neutral batter.
It turns out that Seoul is packed full of artisan hot dog vendors. Vendors wrap them in bacon, mashed potato, corn batter or what looked to be seaweed then invariably deep fry them. I spotted three french fry-coated hotdog vendors in the narrow alleys of Myeong-dong alone and a few more in the neighbouring Namdaemun Market.
home-made budae jigae
I blame this mutation on the Korean War. When meat was scarce in the years during and after the war, Koreans made do with whatever they could scavenge from the surplus from the US armed forces bases – Spam and hotdogs. To make these items edible for Koreans, the locals mixed them together with the paste gochujang in a makeshift stew named “Budae jjigae” (부대찌개) – literally “base stew”. Over the subsequent fifty years, the locals have grown to love the processed meat-flavored soup and it now graces franchise restaurant menus, the only difference being that the stew now contains actual meat along with the mechanically-separated variety.
There seems to be no particular rules to making the stew, insofar that you need gochujang and hotdogs to start, and then whatever seems to be lying about the average Korean kitchen to continue: kimchi, frozen dumplings, greens, ramen, rice cake, actual meat. 50 years of hotdog flavoured broth has to do strange things to your palate and drive you towards experimenting with hotdogs in an obscene and deep-fried manner.
Try: French Fry Coated Hot Dog on a Stick Recipe