Puffer fish in South Korea
September 6, 2012 § 3 Comments
Yes, I’ve eaten puffer fish, and it is delicious. When I was in South Korea to give a lecture in Daejon, I went out one evening with several colleagues to find a nice restaurant. We were frankly tired of Bibambap (a traditional Korean dish offered to foreigners), which was evidently the only food our hotel wanted to serve us. That’s an understatement…oh, my gosh, we were actually exhausted of Bibambap. While Bibambap is extremely delicious, when you eat it for three meals a day, it loses its luster. It is only today, several years later, that I can bring myself to eat it again.
So, tired of Bibambap, my colleagues and I ventured out one evening to find something (anything) to eat that was local and authentic.
We wandered the streets of Daejon, trying to find a restaurant that catered to locals (no Bibambap). Finally, three blocks away from our hotel, we found it. The sign on the window advertised something that my dictionary translated as “exploding fish.” This sounds exciting, we said, and in we went. The restaurant was mostly empty. We were immediately shown to a table and given menus, which were completely incomprehensible. Yes, I did take the time to learn a little Korean before the trip. And no, it was of no use whatsoever, except for knowing how to say please and thank you. Fortunately for us, our waitress was a former graduate student from the University of Texas (our own State!), and she spoke English. She told us that every item on the menu was made from puffer fish (yes, the highly poisonous fish that can kill you if prepared incorrectly). But, she told us that “hardly anyone” has died from eating here, so we’d probably be fine.
Did we stay to enjoy a deadly pufferfish meal? Why yes, yes we did. And it was delicious. The flavor of pufferfish is delicate and slightly sweet. I could say that it tastes like chicken, but that would be a disservice. Pufferfish is delightful. It easily takes on the flavors of its accompanying seasoning. I’d recommend it to you, or even offer some recipes with it. But, I can’t. I frankly have no experience cooking with it whatsoever, and I have no desire to handle a fish that could potentially kill the diner.
I guess you’d best travel to Asia, if you’d like to try it.