Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fish Organ

The other night, Dan and I stopped in at a hole-in-the-wall Korean joint for some spicy soup. He got the dongtae jjigae, pollack soup, while I decided on the boodae jjigae, a soup that sets itself apart from most of its kind thanks to the addition of two American ingredients that date back to the Korean war: spam and hot dogs. I know, I know, that sounds horrifying, but I feel very strongly that Koreans have an aptitude for transforming otherwise inedible meats into dishes that are truly delicious.

Much of the time, the quality of the food at Korean restaurants is inversely proportional to the amount of effort put into the interior decorating. Restaurants with decrepit tables, blank white walls, and stark neon lighting almost invariably produce delicious food, and if the woman waiting on you is a friendly but feisty octogenerian, it bodes especially well. This restaurant had all the promising signs, and it didn't disappoint. For six dollars, our meal included two grilled fish and the best omelet side dish I've ever had. Plus, our elderly server got an entertaining kick out of Dan's penchant for spicy foods and periodically walked by to chuckle to herself. At one point, she even declared "ohhhh, verryyy gooood" in a thick accent while watching Dan slurp his soup.

Halfway through our meal, I was in the middle of an animated story when I noticed that Dan had frozen. Slowly, in a quiet but tense voice, he said "Follow my eyes." I looked down to where a giant, veiny fish organ was perched upon his spoon. I don't know what part of the fish this is, but I understood his alarm, because I experienced the same reaction the first time I found one in my soup--and that one wasn't nearly as monstrous as his. I assured him that it was not unusual for this to be included in his soup, and he lifted it onto an empty dish, where it remained for the rest of the meal (out of my line of sight, as per my request).

I think it goes without saying that there's nothing inherently disgusting or wrong with eating fish organs, but I am fascinated by the fact that people who grow up eating such foods consider them appetizing while people like Dan and I, who are adventurous eaters in many ways, find them revolting. Lately I've been reading about critical windows that appear in the human brain for abilities like music and language, and I almost wonder whether there's a "bizarre foods" critical window as well. I'll have to await further neurological research. In any case, despite my recent triumph over the long-feared Korean blood sausage (not to mention chewy, unidentifiable pig bits), I feel confident that I will never be able to chomp down on veiny, gelatinous fish sac, and Dan wasn't either.


  1. Oh NO! Brooke! that's not a fish organ! Well not the kind you think it is. it's the egg sack. Probably the most expensive part of the fish. (and I say that like it's gonna change your mind about trying it. ha ha ha.) it's actually delicious. not gelatinous but cooked all the way thru. see the little eggs on the open part? It's like that all the way thru.

  2. I hope we didn't insult the people who work there by discarding the most expensive part of the fish, because I'd like to go back. We figured it might be the egg sac, actually, but it's still so huge and gross looking! The thing is, I totally believe it's delicious. But it's monstrous and veiny and straight out of a horror movie. Something about the eggs still attached like that make them look way worse than if they were included in the soup separately, and I just can't get over my hang-up.

  3. I totally hear you. After I posted my comment, I started thinking about what my reaction would be to seeing that if I hadn't grown up being told it was the best part of the fish. The veins are icky looking. If you want to try it one day,try cutting it in smaller pieces with your spoon (you can actually peel that sking part off like you can with sundae)and eating it with the soup broth. I have to warn you tho, it looks the same on the inside as it does on the open part. densely packed fish eggs. OR just invite me along and I'll be more than happy to eat it. LOL