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Mackerel, Korea`s long-loved dish

Posted July. 16, 2015 07:25,   


Recipe of a mackerel stew: Lay out ripe kimchi on the pot`s bottom and then take mackerel out of the can and pour it into the pot. Put in one spoon of fermented soy bean paste, garlic and scallions, and then boil them altogether. When the pot liquor becomes juicy, put in thick red pepper powder and then the food is ready to eat.

Chef and businessman Baek Jong-won who is nicknamed "Housewife Baek" introduced his recipe for a mackerel stew in a recent cable TV program, which is gaining huge popularity among young people. Reflecting the popularity, one online shopping mall sold 14 times the number of mackerel cans compared to the same period last year.

Mackerels have a blue-green back, and are a flavorful, firm-fleshed fish. They are one of the "super foods" containing unsaturated fatty acid and DHA that are good for brain development and prevention of adult disease. In Korea, mackerel is cooked and served as stew and soup, and it can also be made in an oven by baking it. Mackerel is a long-loved dish in a typical Korean household. Though not existent now, the narrow streets in the central Seoul of Jongno used to be full of scent and smoke of mackerel grills at lunch and dinner time. Grilled mackerels are a perfect match with makgeolli, a Korean traditional wine.

The once cheap and common fish has seen its status change. Amid declining mackerel catch in Korea`s coastal waters, Norwegian frozen mackerels are fast dominating dinner tables. Korean mackerels are shrinking in size while their prices are rising. According to joint fish market in Busan, total sales of mackerels from June to early July increased 81.3 percent year-on-year, but average wholesale price in June was at its highest in five years. Abnormally high temperature and illegal overfishing were the main culprit.

From his poem "Salted Mackerel," poet Park Hoo-ki reflects the meaning of life from salted mackerels. Mackerels are also often used in Korean pop songs. Young people like singer Lucid Paul`s lyrical music "Mackerel" and Norajo`s cheerful song "Mackerel." The 7080s, or those who spent their young days in the 1970s and 1980s, will go for singer Kim Chang-hwan`s song "Mother and Mackerel," whose lyrics go: "Opened the refrigerator door in the middle of the night/ I see a mackerel, salted, in one corner." This song is best enjoyed by humming the lyrics. Okay, today`s dinner menu is going to be mackerel.