Archive for the ‘Hoe dup bap’ Category

Raw fish, Korean-style

June 30, 2009
Kim Deuksin, "강변회음" or "Eating Raw Fish By the River"

"강변회음" or "Eating Raw Fish By the River," Kim Deuksin (1754-1822)

Koreans have been eating raw fish for longer than the Japanese.  I’m not just being a Korean nationalist; it’s true.  It’s not just Wikipedia that says so.  The Oxford Companion to Food agrees that raw, fermented fish originated in the Mekong Delta, spread to China and then eventually to Japan, and everyone knows Korea is on the way from China to Japan.

But Japanese sushi/sashimi is more famous than Korean 회, hoe, and the annoyance I feel about that is nationalistic.  As I served 회덮밥, hoe dup bap to my guests this past Sunday, I found myself calling it a “Korean chirashi” when it’s not anything like chirashi.  I know it doesn’t really matter, but the little kid in me wanted to wail, “Why can’t the Japanese be eating Japanese hoe dup bap?”


Hoe dup bap literally means “raw fish on rice.”  Chirashi is also raw fish on rice.  The two dishes are similar because the cultures have a lot in common—oceans and rice fields—but ultimately, hoe dup bap and chirashi are only as similar as pasta and spaetzle.  Same ingredients, different flavors, different food values.

Chirashi is just barely seasoned—the slight vinegar flavor of sushi rice, the fish maybe touched a bit by soy sauce and wasabi.  The Japanese revere raw fish.  Koreans—I’m not sure what emotion we feel for raw fish, but it’s definitely not reverence.  When we see a bowl of raw fish on rice, we want to drizzle it with sesame oil and then squeeze on a spicy-sweet-and-sour red pepper sauce.

The lack of reverence continues in how the hoe dup bap is eaten.  According to this Chowhound thread, the bowl of chirashi should be left relatively undisturbed.  Korean hoe dup bap, though, is supposed to be mixed up.  Koreans have long-handled spoons for a reason, and even if it’s not so pretty, the rice, the fish, the greens all take on the red tint of the spicy pepper sauce.  Each spoonful should include all the flavors and textures, the smoothness of the fish, the crunch of the vegetables, soft texture of the rice, and of course, the fragrance of sesame oil and red pepper sauce.  It’s another example of the Korean love of things “bibim” or “mixed.”

What I do appreciate in both dishes, though, is the rawness of the flavors.  Even with all that heat and sesame oil, hoe dup bap is one of my favorite things to eat when it’s hot and sticky.  If I’ve been traveling, especially in a country that cooks mainly with cream and butter, the first thing I want to eat when I get home is hoe dup bap.  Hoe dup bap is practically a salad as much as a rice dish, with all the shredded lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, sprouts and perilla leaves.  It’s incredibly cleansing and refreshing at the same time.

Last night was the first time I made it at home, and now that I know how easy it is, it’s going to be my go-to summer dish, especially on those nights that it’s too hot to turn on the stove.  There’s literally nothing to cook except the rice, which can be done with the press of a button if you have a rice cooker.  It’s easy to make for one or for two, or for twelve.

Sashimi-grade fish is available at Japanese stores, and often at Korean groceries as well.  I found mine at Sunrise Mart, a Japanese grocery in the East Village, and then ended up finding and buying another block of tuna at M2M, the more Korean-focused store a few blocks north.  It can get expensive buying sashimi-grade fish, but you don’t need as much as you might for chirashi, since you have so much else going on.


If you don’t have a reputable fishmonger or don’t eat fish, you can substitute tofu.  I made a marinated tofu version for a guest who can’t eat raw fish.  I got the idea from Maangchi, who recommends that you fry the tofu, but I thought leaving it uncooked would better approximate the texture, if not the flavor, of raw fish.  I used the leftovers to make a bowl of “dubu dup bap” for my Monday dinner.  I was surprised, it was quite good.

Hoe dup bap (for one)
1.5-2 cups of cooked white rice
¾ cup of raw fish cut into one-inch cubes, about a quarter pound—I used an assortment of tuna, salmon and hamachi or yellowtail
1 teaspoon of fish roe
handful of shredded lettuce, like romaine or green leaf
¼ cup of julienned carrots
¼ cup of julienned cucumbers (try Persian if you can’t find Korean, something fairly seedless)
3-4 perilla leaves, cut into thin strips (optional)
sprouts (radish or pea, anything thin and crunchy with bright green tops)
a couple of thin strips of roasted seaweed
drizzle of sesame oil (about 1 teaspoon)
chojang, or spicy sauce, to taste

1.    Place the rice in the bottom of the bowl.
2.    Add the lettuce, the julienned carrots and cucumbers, the perilla leaves, and sprouts.  The perilla leaves are optional, as they can only be found in Korean and Japanese grocery stores, but they’re so good and fragrant if you can find them.
3.    Top with the raw fish.  Sprinkle the fish roe on top of the fish.
4.    Garnish with a few thin strips of roasted seaweed, drizzle with sesame oil, and add chojang to taste.

Chojang or spicy red pepper sauce
3 tablespoons gochujang, or red pepper paste
2 tablespoons vinegar (white wine, rice or brown rice)
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix thoroughly and taste.  Depending on your brand of gochujang, you might want to add more or less vinegar and sugar.  It should be much thinner than gochujang, though not as thin as a hot sauce, as easily pourable as sriracha sauce.  I’m planning to play around with the chojang recipe a bit, as there are some interesting variations I’ve found in different sources, but it’s totally serviceable if you are craving a simple, fresh Korean raw fish dinner now.

Variation: Replace the raw fish with cubes of marinated, uncooked tofu.  I cut up a package of firm tofu and marinated it in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and lemon juice.


Finally, Korean food

October 1, 2007

Isn’t it just beautiful?

Culture shock

September 27, 2007

Coming home was a horror. I’d been looking forward to going back to NY for days, maybe even weeks, but it was awful. As I tried to board my plane from Oaxaca to Houston, security forced me to leave my molcajete behind because it was in my carry-on and it was too late to put in in the luggage I had already checked. But I managed to be Zen and get on board, reminding myself how crowded my kitchen is with gadgets, except that two hours later, I arrived at an American airport where everyone was decidedly not Zen. The girl in front of me in line at immigration made a constant stream of loud, unpleasant noises about how she was going to miss her flight. The sense of self-importance was frighteningly, recognizably American. When I went to the cash register to buy my NY Times, the clerk looked at me like I had just given her yet another reason to hate her life. I sat down in my seat on a crowded plane for the Houston-NY leg, and the elderly woman next to me barely mustered a response to my hello, my English translation for the “buenos dias” I’ve gotten so used to saying to anybody and everybody. (To be fair, she was quite nice to me later, but I’d gotten so used to the Mexican way of assuming everyone is nice, instead of waiting to see.)

It got worse. For our “dinner/snack,” Continental served “pizza” and a “salad.” I am not putting those words in quotes to be cute. There was something seriously demented about the “food.” The pizza, which was supposed to be steak and cheese, also declared that it was “Made with Ranch Dressing.” And they’re bragging about this? It made the bready slice of Papa Johns pizza I had gotten before the flight seem like the finest Neopolitan pizza in retrospect.

I considered eating the salad, trying to garner at least some nutritional benefit, but as I looked at plastic container filled with pieces of iceberg lettuce and a few sad shreds of carrot at the bottom, I realized I would lose more than I gained by putting the creamy dressing on it. I was better off eating the little Kit-Kat bar for the calcium in the chocolate.

The worst thing about it is that everyone else ate their snack, all of it. They were hungry, I’m sure, and maybe they didn’t even notice how bad it was. I almost felt like rising up, like a labor organizer, “Demand your rights to decent food! We don’t have to put up with this!”

But I didn’t. Welcome home.